9 May to 24 September 2017

Gianni Pettena Applausi, 1968 Valigia light box (vintage) Courtesy of the artist

Gianni Pettena Applausi, 1968 Valigia light box (vintage) Courtesy of the artist

Fondazione Prada will present in its Milan venue “TV 70: Francesco Vezzoli guarda la Rai” (TV 70: Francesco Vezzoli Watches Rai), a project conceived by artist Francesco Vezzoli and developed in collaboration with Rai, Italy’s national broadcasting company. In between individual experiences and collective narratives, the exhibition translates the artist’s gaze into a visual experience that explores 1970s TV production.

Italian public TV is interpreted by the artist as a driving force for social and political change in a country in transition from the radicalness of the 1960s to the hedonism of the 1980s, as well as a powerful machine for cultural and identity creation. During that decade, Rai revised its pedagogical mission and distinguished itself for the high cultural quality of its productions, such as the collaborations with film directors Bernardo Bertolucci, Federico Fellini, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani. Divided between formal austerity and experimental vocation, 1970s television amplified the development of collective imagination into a plurality of landscapes and individual perspectives, anticipating the narratives which characterized the commercial television of the following decade. TV became a specific medium, and its shows went through a progressive transformation: they first shifted from culture to information, and subsequently from information to communication.

“TV 70” has been conceived as a sequence of visual and semantic juxtapositions taking place in the Nord gallery, in the Podium and in the Sud gallery at Fondazione Prada. The design of the show, realized by M/M (Paris) – Mathias Augustyniak and Michael Amzalag – is based on the merging of spatial and temporal dimensions in a set-up which combines traditional museum exhibition standards with the screening of moving images, in alternating conditions of light and darkness. The sequence of immaterial documents from the Teche Rai archives combined with the materiality of paintings, sculptures and installations – selected thanks to the curatorial support of Cristiana Perrella and the scientific consultancy of Massimo Bernardini and Marco Senaldi – will develop in three separate sections, and analyze the relationships between Italian public television with visual art, politics and entertainment.

The first section, “Arte e Televisione” (Art and Television), introduced by Paesaggi TV (1970) by Mario Schifano, will reflect on the artistic employment of the TV medium. Shows like Io e… and Come nasce un’opera d’arte turned artists (such as Alighiero Boetti, Alberto Burri, Giorgio de Chirico, Renato Guttuso and Michelangelo Pistoletto), filmed or interviewed as they were creating their works, into public personas and protagonists of popular culture. TV took art over by employing a duplicity of approaches, all founded on two different theoretical angles: television as a “medium” (as conceived by Rudolf Arnheim and Marshall McLuhan) or, alternatively, as a space for communication overturning (as in Guy Debord’s Situationist perspective). This duality generated, on one side, Giulio Paolini’s experimentations, such as the set designs for the Rai adaptations of theatre and literature classics like A Doll’s House and Don Quixote, and the subversive, disconcerting use of television as depicted in Fabio Mauri’s work Il televisore che piange (1972) on the other.

The second section, “Politica e Televisione” (Politics and Television), will analyze the fragmentary and obsessive nature of 1970s political messages through the screening of excerpts from news programs of the time. These testify the general climate during those “Years of Lead” (anni di piombo), which were marked by state massacres, terrorist attacks, tension strategies and social protests. The exhibition will take into consideration the codes of visual communication with the series of 12 collages on paper Non capiterà mai più (1969) by Nanni Balestrini, which manipulates and demolishes mass languages, and Ketty La Rocca’s video Le Mani (1973), that articulates a new female lexicon. Between the end of the 1960s and the early 1970s, Carla Accardi questioned artistic practice as a male prerogative, and elaborated an anti-institutional language that erased the boundaries between the private and public spheres, between intimacy and sharing. Her works in sicofoil will be presented in the exhibition along with excerpts from TV shows like Processo per Stupro and Si dice donna, and footage from demonstrations of feminist groups active during that decade.

The third section, “Intrattenimento e Televisione” (Entertainment and Television), will be introduced by Giosetta Fioroni’s installation La spia ottica (1968), which focuses on the female body as an object of gaze and desire for the observer, as well as an active and selfaware subject. This part of the exhibition will explore the unsteady confines between sexual liberation and the exploitation of the female body, between political affirmation and individual rebellion. Francesco Vezzoli interprets these dynamics through an articulated vision encompassing TV shows such as Milleluci, Stryx, C’era due volte and Sotto il divano, and works by women artists like Tomaso Binga (Bianca Menna), Lisetta Carmi, Elisabetta Catalano and Paola Mattioli.

“TV 70” will come to an end at the Fondazione’s Cinema with the screening of a selection of TV excerpts edited by Vezzoli. By including the icons that marked his childhood and adolescence within the TV flow featuring different genres and styles, the artist will transform archive footage into a living substance, and his personal, intimate memory into a shared narration. The Cinema will also host Gianni Pettena’s installation Applausi (1968), an ironic invitation for visitors simultaneously experiencing the double and ambiguous condition of television and exhibition audiences.

The exhibition “TV 70: Francesco Vezzoli guarda la Rai” will be completed by an illustrated publication edited by Fondazione Prada that will include essays by international art critics and theorists, scholars and television professionals (Maria Pia Ammirati, Lucia Annunziata, Massimo Bernardini, Klaus Biesenbach, Nicolas Bourriaud, Simon Castets, Germano Celant, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Nicholas Cullinan, Carlo Freccero, Flavia Frigeri, Lauren Mackler, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Cecilia Penati, Raffaella Perna, Cristiana Perrella, Letizia Ragaglia, Marco Senaldi, Lynn B. Spiegel, Linda Yablonsky), addressing the themes highlighted in the exhibition project.

Concept grafico della mostra “TV 70” realizzato da M\M (Paris) / Graphic and exhibition concept of “TV 70” by M\M (Paris)
Courtesy M\M (Paris)