Ludovico Pratesi on Italian Video Today

It is fascinating to see Macy Gallery transformed each month into a new exhibition. But as I step inside it again this afternoon, I notice something remarkably different. The lights are dimmed, and the typical artwork framed and hung from wires has been replaced with moving images. Video art works, projected onto the clean white walls of the gallery, are like paintings made of light. They give the viewer the sense of looking at a painting, one that changes right before your eyes allowing compelling stories to unfold. The exhibition is Italian Video Today – Double Identity, curated by Ludovico Pratesi and Shara Wasserman, and features the work of eighteen contemporary Italian artists who use video as their main form of expression.

In yesterday’s gallery talk with the curator, Pratesi spoke passionately about the exhibition and how each film captures the artist’s sense of identity in a country that is struggling to find its own. Arranged in three groups that focus on people, places and stories, the artists use video art to create a dialogue between the subject and the audience about the issues that Italians face today. The films are beautiful, sad, moving, and at times, ironic, dealing with topics that range from memory and history to immigration and the struggles of sexual minorities. As he spoke about each work, Pratesi revealed that Italian people today are caught in an ambiguity between living in the past and moving forward into the future.

In one film, called Forever Overhead, we see a diver standing and preparing, poised at the edge of the board, high above the pool below. As he contemplates his dive, the motion of the film slows and we feel suspended, held in time and space. When he finally takes the leap and plunges into the water, his body disappears as though plunging into the unknown. For Italians, Pratesi explains, history is more important than the present. They are suspended in space, time and history. Moving forward is moving into the unknown and although they know they have to change, they don’t know where to begin.

Forever Overhead invokes a melancholy, which Pratesi says is typical of Italian artists today. This melancholy is further developed in another film, called Totó nudo, in which the well-known Italian character Totó, falls asleep in a deserted snowy wood, far from the glorious past he once knew. It is a metaphor of an Italian person today, Pratesi says, one who feels far-removed from his past but left without any cues to understanding his future.

Pratesi’s exhibition presents the work of young Italian artists today who through trying to understand the complex condition of their own identity and their own place in the world, reveal a country that is caught between a heavy past, a difficult present and an unclear future.

Italian Video Today: Double Identity
Until November 23, 2011
Macy Gallery

Featured artists: Meris Angioletti, Elisabetta Benassi, Rossella Biscotti, Botto & Bruno Gianluca e Massimiliano De Serio, Lara Favaretto, Alessandro Gagliardo, Goldi & Chiari, Domenico Mangano, Diego Perrone, Giulia Piscitelli, Giulio Squillaciotti, Nico Vascellari, and Zimmerfrei.