solo exhibition at Gelateria Sogni di Ghiaccio, Bologna
Curation and text by Condylura (Paolo Gabriotti, Davide Visintainer)
beloved continues a dialogue begun in 2021 between the artist Paolo Bufalini (Rome, 1994) and the curatorial/editorial duo Condylura around the notion of excavation. Drawing on his own and the partner’s memories and biographical materials, the exhibition presents different declinations of the deep in the affective and temporal, informatic and mineral fields, contrasting the sentimentality of the subjects with the extractive logic it enacts.
Alongside two new productions made for the exhibition, beloved presents an unseen photographic work, born from the collaboration with Marcello Galvani and part of the project Land of Nod, dedicated to the hybridization between digital production and physical space. The project is curated by Treti Galaxie, who contributes to the exhibition with a text in curatorial dialogue: From the dream experiments collection.
The productions on display cross installation, analog and digital photography, found object and sculpture, mediums that the artist uses as instruments of speculation and reification. The works suggest a direct relationship between extraction on the level of the artistic process, both material and of value, and on a more analytical level, interrogating criticalities related to the present time, particularly the relationship with technology, yet from a personal, emotionally invested perspective. An element made explicit by the exhibition environment itself, marked by a few light points and treated in dark tones, evoking the entrance to a remote place: an intimate space – whether psychic or oneiric – but also a rocky gorge or an underground warehouse.
The Sleeper (life-size) is a 1:1 scale photographic portrait of the artist’s partner caught sleeping in their bed. The exposure of an already intimate and vulnerable moment enters into a suggestive relationship with an additional form of invasiveness. The photograph indeed conceals a second portrait in the form of a data report, The Sleep, created through a biomedical device – the sensor-equipped bodysuit that is partially revealed in the photo – through which the artist recorded the parameters of her partner’s breathing, heartbeat, and body movements during a night’s sleep. By treasuring an act of appropriation of sensitive data, the photograph seems to take on a virtual three-dimensionality, traversing portraiture from the view camera to biometrics, re-proposing the theme of the machinic image as a capture of the soul.
The confrontation with the logic of the machine is a recurring perspective in Paolo Bufalini’s work, which is filtered in beloved by dynamics of feeling and memory, both personal and datafied. The image of the ‘beloved one’ returns in the refrigerator unit filled with cans of energy drinks, on which is printed a childhood photograph of her in a carnival mask. Tricksters takes the form of a monolithic lightbox that holds at low temperatures the viral multiplication of this crowd of harlequins, emitting a carnal light into the environment. If The Sleeper refers back to the world of data collection, the ergonomic invasion of devices, and the existence of sensitive information circulating outside the horizon of perception, Tricksters seems to call into question the purposes that the same collection of sensitive data has: to the profiling and fragmentation into categories of the subject, its transformation into a reservoir of expendable value follows. The refrigerator thus becomes a hyper-personalized advertising display to enhance one’s performance to a taurine caricature of the self.
The last work in the exhibition is the sculptural group Untitled, a composition of forty-five multiform tins, presented on the wall in the form of a diptych. The work originates from a childhood memory of the artist, a ritual of molybdomancy – the divination of the shapes assumed by molten metal thrown into cold water – that has become a New Year’s tradition in various northern European countries. A family game to be played with children, as in the artist’s memory. The theme of divination, of questioning the future, associated with the promises of technology, also returns frequently in Paolo Bufalini’s production. Several works feature the crystal ball, which the artist conceives as the medieval version of an interactive screen, a possible icon of a time when techno-futuristic and seemingly rationalist narratives conceal a strong component of magical
and mystical thinking, from entrepreneur gurus to predictive algorithms. While tin may evoke a more material image of excavation, it is also one of the most widely used metals for soldering electronic components. Similarly to the sphere, the choice of the diptych seems to echo a medieval motif, the ancient illustrated layout, inviting the viewer to study a kind of codex or encyclopedia of mineralogical prophecies.
The tin concretions – random forms generated by the hot-cold clash evoked throughout the whole exhibition – recall a figure of becoming, seemingly contrary to the mathematical clarity of computer code. Yet the invitation to a practice of reading by an association of images, in which the phenomenon of pareidolia – the recognition of known patterns from random shapes, as in the reading of clouds – takes place, also refers back to computer vision, to artificial intelligence software such as Google Deep Dream and Dall-E.
From the photograph that captures a part of the soul as a kind of Horcrux, to the cold room that contains the reproductive power of a meme, up to the metalized viscera interrogated by a priest- algorithm, the space of Gelateria Sogni di Ghiaccio is turned into a camera obscura, where at the extraction of the profound is discovered to be fixed a technical internalization of the world.
beloved has been realized thanks to the support of:
Settori Musei Civici Bologna I MAMbo - Ixart - OmniArtVerse - FAB Foundation
and in collaboration with: Treti Galaxie e Ass. BOCA
Graphic design: Studio Visivo (Marco Casella, Mattia Pajè)
1-3 exhibition views
4-7 The Sleeper (life-size), 2022, inkjet print on baryta paper Canson II 103,5x130x4,5cm
8-11 Tricksters, 2023, refrigerator, 239 customized energy drink cans, 196x120x70cm
12-15 Untitled, 2023, tin, 110x100x7cm
16 Graphic design
Ph: Manuel Montesano