incontrare Christian Martinelli begegnen
Duration: 07.10.2023 - 28.01.2024
Artists: Christian Martinelli
Curators: Ursula Schnitzer, Anna Zinelli
From 7 October 2023 to 28 January 2024, Kunst Meran/o Arte will be presenting the solo exhibition entitled incontrare Christian Martinelli [Meet Christian Martinelli], curated by Ursula Schnitzer and Anna Zinelli, complemented by the section La possibilità d’azione di un lascito d’artista [The Possibility of Action of an Artist’s Legacy] curated by BAU – the Institute for Contemporary Arts and Ecology (Simone Mair and Lisa Mazza).
A self-taught artist and photographer, Christian Martinelli filed reportages from all over the world (from Eastern Europe to South America and Haiti), devoting himself in parallel to a series of photographic projects that focused on the themes of travel, memory, vulnerability and the relationship between people and nature.
The retrospective proposes to “meet” Christian Martinelli – not only through an important selection of his works, but also through photographic instruments and objects that belonged to him and that he himself often constructed. Technical experimentation and the practical dimension in fact always accompanied his career, as can be seen in the video (2020) and photos (2021) of his Meran/o home, shown in the first part of the exhibition. The “Villa Dolores” was not only a place where Christian Martinelli lived and worked, but a genuine photographic atelier, a workshop and exhibition venue in constant transformation, and a focal point for meetings and exchanges that animated the cultural life of the city.
The Kunst Meran/o Arte team were also invited to this space in order to pursue a collaboration that had started before with previous initiatives, such as the group exhibition Same Same but different (curated by Laura Barreca and Christiane Rekade, 2018) or the public art project KOPFhoch (curated by Ursula Schnitzer, 2020). This meeting at the artist’s atelier, which had to be postponed several times owing to his worsening health, unfortunately never materialised. The choice of the two curators was therefore a way to start from this very place, with its strong connotations, one that they approached with discretion and caution, seeking to recreate in part its atmosphere and integrating into the exhibition some of those elements – also captured in numerous photographs – that were central to his life.
At the heart of the exhibition we encounter one of the best known and most important core areas of his research: the series Confini [Frontiers] (2014-2022), realised with the “Cube”. Conceived along with Andrea Pizzini and Andrea Salvà in 2009, this instrument is in fact a giant camera, eight cubic metres in size, consisting of mirror walls and capable of directly producing positive – and thus unique – images of very high quality, similar to paintings. With this essentially one-off instrument, Christian Martinelli circumnavigated the entire Italian coastline, poetically recounting its “frontiers” in a series of almost abstract shots in which strips of land and sea are repeated.
The exhibition not only presents a wide selection of these works, but also the Cube itself in its installation variant, designed for exhibition purposes; as well as a video in which we meet the artist, who tells us how he conceived and developed this work: “I liked the idea of symbolically lightening the photographer’s presence and creating an object capable of reflecting the images and at the same time capturing them”.
In addition to the Frontiers series, other works made with the Cube, such as still lives, nudes and portraits, will also be on display. At the same time, other projects are being exhibited, many spanning several years and giving us a way of working based upon processes in the making rather than upon the interest in single shots. This is the case for Stories (1998-2022), which, as the artist states, “investigates the value of memory”, accompanying the lives of 14 people for over 20 years and thus addressing such themes as illness, love, birth, abandonment and death.
Two other core areas of his work revolve around the theme of travel: in Wo willst du hin [Where do you want to go]? (2003-2010), a series consisting of several photos and a video accompanied by music from Marcello Fera, a red bag crosses the skies of some of the world’s most diverse places, from China to Kenya. There are also the images of the one hundred clouds that make up Infinito (2003-2010) and give us what curator Valerio Dehò has called a “metaphysical reportage” in which “time is almost absent precisely because space seems to renounce being a definite point of reference”.
Also presented will be some of the works that the artist was working on before his death, as well as some of his most intimate: album (2008-2022) is based upon a series of photographs found of other people that becomes a fictitious album of memories, a childhood similar to what could have been his own, of which essentially no documentation exists. Or again in Matrimonio [Marriage] (2009-2022): Christian Martinelli took a series of original photographs from his parents’ 1967 wedding and reworked them with passepartouts, isolating his mother’s figure by alienating her from the other persons.
The homage to Christian Martinelli is completed by a final section that flanks the “classic” exhibition route: a darkroom largely set up using his equipment, including enlargers, lenses, basins, timers and focometers. This special part of the exhibition is no mere “staging” of his space and working methods, but a place that can be activated and used on certain occasions to resume the didactic and workshop activity that was always a constant in his work.
Furthermore, the third floor of Kunst Meran/o Arte offers a space for reflection in which visitors can immerse themselves, inviting them to address the subject of the artistic legacy. What is meant by this expression? And how can we care for it? These issues will be explored in the section entitled La possibilità d’azione di un lascito d’artista [The Possibility of Action of an Artist’s Legacy] through a selection of works, working materials and publications from the legacy of the artist and photographer Christian Martinelli, as well as by means of a series of public events. This space is curated by BAU, the Institute for Contemporary Arts and Ecology (Simone Mair and Lisa Mazza).
With this exhibition, Kunst Meran/o Arte intends to pursue both a line of research into the language of photography, one that has characterised its exhibition programme from the very outset, as well as its vocation of broadening awareness of artists working in the local area. In the past, indeed, a series of exhibitions have been staged on the great names of international photography, such as Robert Mapplethorpe (2004), Man Ray (2005), Boris Mikhailov (2007), Elliot Erwin (2011), Cindy Sherman (2013), Ugo Mulas (2014) and Francesca Woodman (2015). At the same time, there has been no lack of research into the local context, involving historical figures such as Karl Erhart, Oswald Kofler or Hansgeorg Hölzl (2012), or more recent research such as that on Elisabeth Hölzl (2022). The decision to give space to a photographer originally from Meran/o is therefore aimed at promoting and enhancing people’s knowledge of his work, which is for the first time presented in such a broad form.
In addition to various workshops dedicated to analogue photography, which can in particular be experienced in the darkroom, the workshop series “Alla ricerca di tracce / Spurensuche [Searching for traces]” will see the reactivation of the “Gallery Van”, Christian Martinelli’s little caravan used for courses and photographic exhibitions in the most diverse of contexts, such as among Sardinian shepherds. Also called the “Public Gallery”, this was for Martinelli a “travelling project with site-specific exhibitions aimed at bringing photography to inaccessible spaces”. Taken to the borders of South Tyrol, the caravan will once again become a temporary space for photography courses, a darkroom and a gallery.
Festival SONORA 706, orizzonti
In parallel with the exhibition, between 12 and 27 October the contemporary music festival SONORA 706 entitled orizzonti [horizons] will dedicate its seventh edition to Christian Martinelli.
In addition to a number of pieces in the first programme that directly relate to the artist’s works, the festival’s five dates – to be held in Meran/o at the Puccini Theatre, the Pavillon des Fleurs and at Kunst Meran/o Arte – investigate possible horizons among the infinite amount potentially offered through the experience of each individual. It will draw inspiration from this, both from the horizons photographed by Martinelli and from the artist’s ability to inhabit a particularly large portion of the world during his varied existence.