Interwiew “The Fear Society” 53 Venice Biennale Pavilion of Urgency, Murcia, Spain.


Interview between

Bartolomeo Pietromarchi and goldiechiari

May 2009

Bartolomeo Pietromarchi:

goldiechiari explores the boundaries of our individual and societal preconceptions, adopting a provocative approach that lives on the thin line separating irony and parody, unsettling works and visual and semantic “détournement”. Through a process of sublimation, their work revolves around basic assumptions and spurs us to reflect on the hypocrisies that often lie beneath shared, socially accepted values. Examples include: the sex toys in Cosmic Love (2008), where the devices of pleasure are made so abstract that they become organic shapes floating in cosmic space in an idyllic vision in which these objects, normally concealed out of public decency are freed from the meaning of what they represent in society, in a timeless and spaceless aesthetic sublimation; Ninfee [Water Lilies] (2003), evoking Monet’s famous paintings, though here the flowers are made with colored plastic bags floating on the putrid bank of a polluted river; and a performer and Dump Queen (2008) doing a 1940s song in the setting of a vast city dump. Their piece Confine immaginato [Imagined Boundary] (2006) is an audio installation that turns on when visitors enter the museum, recreating the Italian anthem “Fratelli d’Italia” with gushes of water and toilet flushes. It was here that the artistic duo began to explore the symbols of a collective identity that determine belonging to a nation, widely considered absolute, untouchable: the flag, the national anthem, the founding fathers and the like…


To question the acquired values that we have accepted non-critically because they are part of the history of anation. How did Confine immaginato come to be?


A book that gave us a lot of inspiration for the audio installation shown at “Group Therapy” in Bolzano was Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities from 1983. Anderson wrote, “In an anthropological spirit, then, I propose the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community – and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign. It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion”. What interested us about Anderson’s theory and the school that studies nationalism and the concept of nation from this perspective is the historical nature, the transience and the lack of naturalism of these concepts. In Qu’est-ce qu’une nation? From 1882, Ernest Renan describes this “imagining ourselves” as: “Or l’essence d’une nation est que tous les individus aient beaucoup de choses en commun, et aussi que tous aient oublié bien des choses” (The essence of a nation is that all the individuals have many things in common, and also that they have all forgotten many things). Confine immaginato is a noisy metaphor for the national border. The Museion museum’s door is rendered an imaginary threshold on which a nationality device is triggered. We thought of the toilet flush and the gush of water because it is something of the home that we all have and we hear again and again all day. The work’s playful, humorous aspect underscores the constructed, bureaucratic aspect of nationality. The piece was envisioned for Bolzano because it is a border area where national identity has always been a cause of conflict. The same reasons that led us to exhibit the piece in Bolzano caused the State Attorney’s Office to ban the work. Confine immaginato caused an uproar in defense of the symbols of nationality. It seems that this issue can’t be questioned and has to stay stuck in its apparent ahistoricism, untouchably sacred.


You fittingly quoted Ernest Renan and his idea that the symbols of a nation are based on collective memory as well as what the social body removes from this memory, on what a community would rather forget but that acts as a collective trauma that resurfaces at certain times like a wound that hasn’t healed. In an inverse process from imagined community, it has been called “a negative community” that works by subtraction (Esposito, 2002). What are you preparing for the show in Venice?


The installation for the “The Fear Society” reflects this aspect of collective forgetting. For the piece, we created a partial genealogy of violent historic events from 1969 to 1980 that were part of Italy’s “strategy of tension”, to be cut into the bark of a tree. There were two basic principles that guided our selection: the period of time between the Piazza Fontana attack and the Bologna Station attack in 1980 and the violence of the State and the military based on the self-preservation of the status quo and power through terror. The dates and places of the events are cut into the trunk and branches, using the characters of dynastic genealogies. These incisions are the wounds that could affect the tree’s very survival. The piece’s title is Genealogia di damnatio memoriae [Genealogy of damnatio memoriae]. The Latin phrase describes a type of sentence used in ancient Rome in which the condemned person was punished by erasing all the remembrances and mementos of the person. This partial genealogy does not intend to be a historic reconstruction. Using a familiar device like a genealogical tree lets us represent the attacks and murders as a common bloodline in that it brings us together in the memory and oblivion of these events.


The concept of the show revolves around the idea of the “society of fear”, a strategy, which increases the perception of danger in a society, adopted by the powers that be and the media to justify actions and laws restricting personal freedom with tools, such as control or overreaching into the private sphere. This is a global phenomenon of contemporary advanced societies. Here in Italy, as your work shows us, this is something that we have been cultivating for years, that has already planted its roots and even has a genealogy…


The work we are presenting concentrates on the fear of change and social transformation as a result of the tool of creating terror and violence. We find it interesting how this political practice repeats throughout history. We concentrate on Italy’s past, which from the 1950s to 1989 was an important strategic site, making it a political laboratory of the national and supranational maneuvers of the American military and the Mediterranean area. This gives us a privileged point of observation over the present. The proliferation of the state of emergency and widespread fear in Western societies allows the restriction of personal freedoms and the justification of repressive laws, such as the “Special Laws” in Italy of 1978 and 1979 and the “Patriot Act” in 2001 in the United States. Slavoj Zizek describes modern society as dominated by a paranoid fear, a politics “… which renounces the very constitutive dimension of the political, since it resorts to fear as its ultimate mobilizing principle: fear of immigrants, fear of crime, fear of godless sexual depravity, fear of the excessive State itself (with too high taxation), fear of ecological catastrophes (which is why Political Correctness is the exemplary liberal form of the politics of fear) – such a (post) politics always relies on the manipulation of a paranoid ochlos – the frightening rallying of frightened men”.


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