For her first presentation in Argentina, Italian artist Luisa Rabbia presents two works in Fundación PROA, gallery 3. Curates in collaboration with Beatrice Merz, the exhibition evolves around two central works, consisting of a video and a wall installation,
With traveling as the main theme, the works take us through an intimate, imaginary and surreal journey.
The result is a sort of diary, a narrative that develops through a net of drawings: endless roots, fragments of the artist’s work and clips from her previous videos that are all like blood vessels of a life journey.
This project is a journey in the mid of life, where one day somehow follows the other, between sunrise and sunset; perhaps it’s part of a greater journey that starts with birth and ends with death…” (Luisa Rabbia)
The video Travels with Isabella, Travel Scrapbooks 1883/2008 was conceived during the artist’s residency at
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Luisa Rabbia was inspired by the photographs collected by
Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924), during her journey through China in 1883, to create an entrancing animated trail: a scenario of images from ancient China on which she composes her personal diary made of drawings, video footage from her previous works and works from the museum collection.
In the installation The following day, no one died, placed on one of the large walls of Fundación PROA,
the porcelain marks interact with her father’s ECG as if extending the past into the present, to let that distant moment in time live on, the script of life…
A conversation: Beatrice Merz and Luisa Rabbia
Beatrice Merz The exhibition (…) intertwines your world formed of loneliness, psychological insecurity, of memories with images taken from the lives of others. The result is a sort of diary, a narrative consisting of a web of drawings: infinite roots, snapshots of works and pieces of previous videos. All arteries of a path of life…
(…) For you, is drawing a point of departure or arrival?
Luisa Rabbia It is a point of arrival because it seems to collect and embrace all my previous research. It is a starting point, because it is a technique that expands, both in its meanings and in the different media it involves. But it is also a point of passage that records everything that appears in a span of time. Drawing is like a script that translates words into images, but very often it is like writing without knowing exactly what you're talking about because drawing is born in an instinctive manner, in a more or less extended period of time.
BM You made the video Travels with Isabella. Travel Scrapbooks 1883-2008 during your residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Inspired by the photo albums of the collector, Isabella Stewart Gardner, which she put together during her travels to China in 1883, you have produced a fascinating animated journey in which images of ancient China become the backdrop for your diary made up of drawings, excerpts of other videos and works from the museum collection. The result is a fantastic narrative between the contemporary imagination of the artist and of historic China, between past and present, between the intertwined lives of two women. (…) What value has time and place in your work? What does the combination of time and geographically distant mean?
LR In Travels with Isabella, different times and places come together in a journey in memory that runs without any chronological order. I think this is the way in which we remember: although we make a note of dates and times, closing one’s eyes, past events come together, mingle, change order. What remains is their taste, indistinct. It almost seems that, once passed, things become a whole. That whole which is then the result of our present because we are made of everything that happened before.
(…) Albert Einstein said: "People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction, between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion". I encountered this phrase when I was totally immersed in The following Day, No One Died and found a dialogue within myself; I was living it, not just theorising it.
It fascinates me to think that through drawing, line by line, register those little seconds that seem to exist, but are those that make up the hours, days, years. I am interested in the connection between things, look in time, work places, thoughts, human actions.
It fascinates me to think that through drawing, line by line, I register those little seconds that seem inexistent, but which make up the hours, days, years. I am interested in the connection between things, in searching for these in time, in places, in thoughts, in human actions.
BM The succession of pictures in the video from right to left without a break makes me think of a score or better, a story, without punctuation, like an ancient oriental book. Is there any literary reference? And how did you choose the music?
LR The scrapbook of Isabella Stewart Gardner was also accompanied by a second journal of writings, describing her days. Some of my images were inspired by her remarks: the scrapbook, for example, opens with a reference to the four elements and in the video we find water, fire, earth and wind. But, in general, I have preferred to keep the story more open and abstract, not using the scripts that tended to be too specific about times and places.
In Travels with Isabella I was able to work by merging several art forms. For the soundtrack, Fa Ventilato1 music started from the museum’s archive, to create a track that I could, to simplify, divide into three parts: the beginning and end are respectively a piece of music by Schubert (Gute Nacht) and Beethoven (The Moonlight Serenade) adapted, merged and processed with new electronic music. The central part is a bridge between the two melodies. It begins when the man's eyes in the photograph are closed and the journey becomes more internal. The sounds of Fa Ventilato are minimalist and contemporary, and accompany and stress changing moods, while the journey unfolds. It is a story of life, not told with real and personal events, but through sensations. Until the end.
BM In The Following Day, No One Died, the lines on the porcelain interact with a giant picture of the electrocardiogram of your father. The main character, unlike many of your other works, is no longer a stranger here, but a person very dear to you. What brought you to this choice and what you were looking for? Tell me about the evolutionary process of this work.
LR In this work I started from a personal experience to analyse a moment that belongs to the life of every human being: the moment of loss of someone we love. It is a work that speaks of acceptance, processing, and finishes in an image that I hope encapsulates life, even though born from the pain caused by a loss.
My contribution in this work interacts with the lines of my father’s heartbeat, recorded in an electrocardiogram two years before his death. My mother had written "everything ok!" on the medical records. When I held that paper in my hands I wanted to be able to extend that moment to the present. After all, if you think every day about something, if you interact every day with that thing, somehow it is still present and if present, continues to live.
The arteries/trees that interact with my father’s electrocardiogram are of porcelain, drawn with a pen for enamel.
Porcelain lends itself to a dialogue with time: both because it allows me to carry out large-scale projects that involve me for a long period of time, and for the quality of the material itself. I usually pour it over very large surfaces of plaster as if he were painting and drawing the shape of that which I want to depict. When it starts to dry, the porcelain will crack naturally like earth in the sun, thus initiating its own relationship with the outside world and with the passage of time.
In my vision, The Following Day, No One Died, it does not end with its 8.50 meters width, but continues outside the large windows that stretch along the wall of the Fondazione. I saw the sky, life and light from outside entering in the same manner in which the heartbeat in the electrocardiogram came out, becoming one with the sky and the time.
The electrocardiogram shows us how the heart draws, beat after beat, its own existence, if it has access to pen and paper. Inside the Fondazione, the pulse appears for a moment, only to disappear just outside.
1. Altstätten (Switzerland), 1967. Resident in New York.
Luisa Rabbia, born in Italy in 1970. Lives and Works in Brooklyn, New York.
Received her Master in the Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti in Turin, Italy.
Her solo exhibitions have in held in: Massimo Audiello Gallery, New York; Giorgio Persano Gallery, Turín, and carried out a special project commissioned by Arte All ´arte IX y X, curated by Associazione Arte Continua, in San Gimignano.
In 2008, completed the project Travels with Isabella. Travel Scrapbooks 1883/2008 for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. In 2009 exhibtied Traveling under the same sky in Fondazione Merz, Torino. That same year presented Travels with Isabella. Scrapbooks 2883/2008 in Donazione Querini, Stampalia, Venice.
For more information on the artista and her work, click here.
Camila Jurado and the Exhibition production department
Instituto Italiano de Cultura
Italian Embassy in Argentina
Tenaris / Ternium