artist / participant
Fondazione Prada is presenting Questioning Pictures, a new exhibition project by Stefano Graziani, at its Osservatorio venue in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. Curated by Francesco Zanot, the exhibition includes a new body of works commissioned by Fondazione Prada that explores photography as a tool for narration, cataloguing and reinterpretation.
Stefano Graziani investigates archival and conservation systems in museums like the CCA (Canadian Centre for Architecture) in Montreal; John Soane’s Museum in London; the Kunstmuseum in Basel, Switzerland; Museum Insel Hombroich in Neuss, Germany; the Museo di Castelvecchio in Verona, Italy; and the Plaster Cast Gallery at Museo Canova in Possagno, Italy, focusing on the ambivalent relationship between photography and museum object. Photography navigates an ambiguous territory in Graziani’s work: on one hand he documents diverse materials like drawings and architectural models, books, photographs and paintings; on the other he embarks on an interpretative path through the careful use of light and camera angles, as well as the inclusion of disturbing elements in his shots. His photographs not only shed light on museum collections and archives usually denied to visitors, but reactivate them according to entirely subjective logic and perspectives.
As Francesco Zanot emphasizes, "Questioning Pictures is a sort of crash test designed to assess the museum's ability to resist external attacks and increase its permeability in proportion. Graziani transforms the invisible into something visible, preventing these terms from being subsequently reversed, and thus sheds light on one of the primary mechanisms through which museums generate and control their power. The regulations that museums impose on reproducing materials in their collections fulfill the same role. Graziani systematically evades them, carrying out an act of civil disobedience by adopting an ethical and formal rigor reminiscent of the photographs of Walker Evans and Lewis Baltz."
The exhibition set up was designed by the studio OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen as a system of colorful, modular screens laid out across the two levels of the Osservatorio, creating unexpected visual and semantic combinations between the photographs and the objects represented. This heterogeneous collection of objects and artworks is united through Graziani’s thinking, as the artist transforms them into disorienting and unexpected still lifes.
In this project photography functions as a conveyer belt, collector and transmission vehicle that can reconnect and combine works that are far apart in space and time, and that are often impossible to physically transfer from one place to another. It also operates as a tool that—through subtle deviations, minimal alterations and personal interpretations—unhinges traditional archival and cataloguing systems in order to grant new visibility, and therefore new life, to the documents, materials and artworks conserved in museum collections. Graziani injects “visual and interpretative viruses” into these archives, accomplishing a feat of “hacking” that triggers a potentially infinite chain of new analyses and enigmas.