press release

Opening 27 November 2015, 6pm - 9pm

In collaboration with Noah Stolz and the Stella Maris Archive

The work of Marco Poloni spans cinema, photography, text and installation. In 2014 the artist established an agency to bring together fifteen years of work, “The Analogue Island Bureau.” The agency seeks to build an index of plots, problems and tropes of the Mediterranean Sea. This archive documents and reformulates a number of geopolitical scripts and narratives of this area, focusing on relations between social invisibility and power, subjectivity and ideology.

Poloni's most recent work, “Codename: Osvaldo” comprises a number of case studies, two of which are currently juxtaposed at Galerie Campagne Première to form a large-scale constellation. “Codename: Osvaldo” fans out from a biographical thread, that of the charismatic and complex figure of Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. Millionaire and Guevarist revolutionary, Feltrinelli founded the eponymous publishing house in Milan in 1954 and was active in the European anti-imperialist movements of the 60s and 70s under the battle name of compañero Osvaldo. In his work, Poloni approaches Feltrinelli as a shadow line of a rhizomatic narrative about repressed chapters of the construction of Italian national identity.

In the first case study, “The Pistol of Monika Ertl,” Poloni narrates the killing in 1971 of Roberto Quintanilla, the General Consul of Bolivia in Hamburg, by a young German woman, Monika Ertl. As head of the Bolivian secret police, Quintanilla had captured Che Guevara in the Bolivian jungle in October 1967, and commanded his summary execution. For the revolutionary underground, Quintanilla had to be eliminated. Monika Ertl, daughter of cinematographer and photographer Hans Ertl, the director of photography for Leni Riefenstahl’s controversial 1938 documentary film Olympia, settled with her family at La Paz at the end of WW2. In the late 60s Monika joined the Bolivian Liberation Army, and received her military training in Chile and Cuba. The revolver she used to terminate Quintanilla was given to her by Feltrinelli.

The second case study is the atlas of photographs, texts, films and objects titled “The Orgosolo Laboratory Project,” which was co-authored with Swiss curator Noah Stolz. The work is a visual examination of the events that took place in the late 60s in the village of Orgosolo in central Sardinia. In November 1968 the population dissolved the City Council and established a Popular Assembly in its place – the so-called “four days of the Republic of Orgosolo,” a unique case of self-government in the entire history of postwar Italy. In June 1969 the population of Orgosolo was able to block a war game in nearby Pratobello, defeating the Italian State and taking a stand against a case of Italian internal colonialism. Visual traces to these events are the many propagandist wall graffiti in Orgosolo, whose pictorial language borrows strongly from the South American tradition of murales, the posters belonging to the shared imaginary of post-1968 militancy, and the many militant booklets published and distributed in the area by Feltrinelli.

Not only the subject matter of “Codename: Osvaldo” has overtones of crime film and literature, Poloni's and Stolz' constellation is also formally reminiscent of forensic methodologies: the table and the walls covered with photographs and textual fragments seem like mind maps recording the state and progress of an investigation, while a slide projection suggests the presentation of evidence in court. However, contrary to what the formal setting suggests, the work does not seem to follow a logical system. Images belonging to different genres – police, press, ethnography, history and fashion – and outlandish objects seem randomly positioned on the walls and in space, relieving this experimental assemblage of any apparent function other than self-referential.

In this way, the assemblage becomes a comment about visual culture. Photographic records, being plausible documents, are able to produce collective narratives. But they also leave crucial parts out. In “Codename: Osvaldo” the images don't allow themselves to be sequenced in an indexical chain productive of narrative meaning. They rather amount to a stream of consciousness that highlights specific moments left out by collective narratives.

The gallery thus becomes a laboratory project which goes beyond addressing historical events, becoming a reflection on the loose connectivity of the revolutionary galaxy of that period and on our fragmentary knowledge of it, as well as on the structure of personal and prosthetic memory.

Text: Nina Lucia Groß