Curated by Wunderkammern

Critical essay by Benedetta Cestelli Guidi and Simona Antonacci

By means of the photographic series La principessa sul pisello by Vannicola, together with paintings, videos and performances by Bellobono, Characters investigates the role of the protagonists in a story and History, using the lens of contemporary art.

‘Protagonists’ fade away, turning into ‘Characters’ and vice versa. Fame becomes relative. Actors and extras are all everyday heroes, whereas the story plays a minor role. The personages in great world history and those in everyday micro-stories are comparable: equality or standardisation? Where does the role end and individual identity begin?

A photographer and also director, costume and set designer, Valentina Vannicola presents the work inspired by La principessa sul pisello (The princess and the pea), the classic fairytale reinterpreted from a contemporary standpoint. Her photographs, which follow in the tradition of staged photography, portray real sets constructed in line with the dynamics of film-making; on show, together with the entire work consisting of 7 large-size prints, there will also be the installation which the artist created for one of her shots. In Valentina Vannicola’s work, the photographic shot is the final act in an amazing process of transfiguration by means of which the artist reinterprets the literary text, reinventing its ending. The performers in her picture stories are her fellow citizens, ordinary people who, for the span of the performance, become characters from the great classics of European literature. In her evocative images, the fanciful literary narrative is transformed and viewed from a new angle, both alienating and surreal.

Biologically similar, fated to be different. The works by Angelo Bellobono, presented in this exhibition through paintings, videos and performances, raise questions about the thorny paradox of destiny. The series of portraits inspired by John Stuart Mill’s On liberty depict both well-known figures from intellectual and political circles, and also people with an identity that is nomadic and constantly undergoing definition, like the African and Asian immigrants with whom the artist collaborates in his works. These are not single works, but rather a structured transversal project, in continual evolution, regarding the question of why we are born physically similar, yet inevitably and immediately become different; or the reasons why some people are free to choose their own identity, yet others are forced to submit to one.

On the 7th October 2011, Angelo Bellobono presented his project and then there was the ice, with a performance against the backdrop of an installation that had been set up in the underground spaces of Wunderkammern: “The identity of a planet, the identity of one person and many people, the world’s archives are a block of ice which is melting and leaving deeply scorched burns …”.