‘Nothing is Lost. Art and Matter in Transformation’ explores art and alchemy

STIR speaks with curator Anna Daneri to discuss the approach to developing the showcase which has been designed to be an “exhibition-cum-laboratory".

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Mar 19, 2022

The exhibition Nothing is Lost. Art and Matter in Transformation at the GAMeC - Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo, Italy, curated by Anna Daneri and Lorenzo Giusti, was the second chapter of the Trilogy of Matter. This long-term project began in October 2018, with the art exhibition Black Hole. Art and Materiality from Informal to Invisible. The project has been developed through close conversations with art historians, curators, philosophers, and scientists to address the transversal discussion around the theme of matter. The showcase, as per an official press release, resulted from “a dialogue with the history of scientific discoveries and drawing a comparison with the development of aesthetic theories.”

Installation view of Nothing is Lost. Art and Matter in Transformation, Gerda Steiner & Jörg Lenzlinger, Accelerated Spirits, 2021| Nothing is Lost. Art and Matter in Transformation | STIRworld
Installation view of Nothing is Lost. Art and Matter in Transformation, Gerda Steiner & Jörg Lenzlinger, Accelerated Spirits, 2021 Image: Antonio Maniscalco, Courtesy of GAMeC - Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo

The title of the exhibition has been borrowed from the French chemist Antoine Laurent de Lavoisier's popular maxim Nothing is Lost. According to the law of chemistry, the matter is neither created nor destroyed. The second exhibition in the program Trilogy of Matter was dedicated to the work of artists who have drawn influence from the essence of the elements to see its transformation. The exhibition exuded the sensorial experience around the works on display that have been on loan from the international collections, both public and private. It's four sections—Fire, Earth, Water, and Air—are the elements found in the environment. These elements correspond to the act of transformations: fire-burning state; earth-solid state; water-liquid state; and air-gaseous state. 

Installation view of Nothing is Lost. Art and Matter in Transformation, Leandro Erlich, The Cloud, 2016 | Nothing is Lost. Art and Matter in Transformation | STIRworld
Installation view of Nothing is Lost. Art and Matter in Transformation, Leandro Erlich, The Cloud, 2016 Image: Antonio Maniscalco, Courtesy of GAMeC - Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo

In an interview with STIR, the curator of the exhibition Anna Daneri talked about the curatorial approach to developing the trilogy, “The intention was of creating both an interdisciplinary dialogue between arts and sciences, and a historical one highlighting the common threads linking artistic researches of different periods. Specific of Nothing is Lost. Art and Matter in Transformation focused on artist practices that from Surrealism to contemporary times investigate the passages of states of matter and the relation with alchemy and chemistry. All presented works resonate strongly with the idea of experimentation and impermanence, showing works that are the results of matter transformations or presenting them continuously, creating the sense of an open laboratory, affecting our senses synaesthetically.” 

Installation View of Nothing is Lost. Art and Matter in Transformation, Rebecca Horn, Brennender Busch, 2001 | Nothing is Lost. Art and Matter in Transformation | STIRworld
Installation view of Nothing is Lost. Art and Matter in Transformation, Rebecca Horn, Brennender Busch, 2001 Image: Antonio Maniscalco, Courtesy of GAMeC - Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo

To mention, the visual artists include: Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Leonora Carrington epitomised the idea of the transformation of matter in their works at the peak of Surrealism and Dada; the neo-Avant-Garde's Yves Klein, Otto Piene, Robert Smithson, Hans Haacke; the poetics of Arte Povera put forward by Pier Paolo Calzolari and Paolo Icaro; the sculptural art and installations by Rebecca Horn, Liliane Lijn; and contemporary artists Olafur Eliasson, Wolfgang Tillmans, Cyprien Gaillard, Otobong Nkanga, and Erika Verzutti, to name a few. As part of the exhibition, the Swedish-born artist Nina Canell presented a new environmental installation specially designed to examine the interface between the organic and inorganic dimensions, amid living and inert materials. For these artists, the journey towards the exhibition was nothing less than a reflection on the things of matter, its metamorphosis and the continuum of time. 

Nina Canell Drag-Out, 2021, Synthetic rubber, synthetic polymer; Silurian Slurs, 2021, Concrete mixers | Nothing is Lost. Art and Matter in Transformation | STIRworld
Nina Canell Drag-Out, 2021, Synthetic rubber, synthetic polymer; Silurian Slurs, 2021, Concrete mixers Image: Antonio Maniscalco, Courtesy of GAMeC - Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo

Lavoisier’s work intended to address a wide audience rather than confining it to the world of scientists. His scientific bent of mind rightly resonates with the environmental issues concerning the current times.  Nothing is Lost, designed to be an exhibition-cum-laboratory, has been aimed to lay emphasis on the material nature of our world with the artistic language. Talking about the exhibition as a means to express the urgency to restore the lost harmony in nature, Daneri says, “We refer to matter as commoning abiotic and biotic realms, in a vision of the world that is becoming less and less anthropocentric, mutating Donna Haraway theories of human and nonhuman, inextricably linked in tentacular practices. For instance: Nina Canell’s Muscle Memory, a site-specific installation conceived for the show and produced in the frame of Meru Art*Science Research Program, consists of 12 tons of shells that are slowly transforming into sand through our walking, making us aware of the natural processes that link organic and inorganic, and that is strongly affected by the exploitation of natural resources (for concrete overproduction, in this case) and for the acidification of the oceans.”

Anna Daneri | Nothing is Lost. Art and Matter in Transformation | STIRworld
Anna Daneri Image: Erik Gandini, Courtesy of GAMeC - Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo

The art curators of this exhibition did not intend to give lessons, but to contribute to creating a ‘transformative’ experience. Daneri adds, “The works of artists (many women artists) who, in different times, investigated the matter for its symbolic but always very material dimensions, echoing with ecosystems presently at strong risk.” Without labelling the exhibition as a code on the matters of concern, Daneri concludes, “We would like to offer a ‘trip’ into the matter, that starts with one of the first coloured movies of history of cinema by Frères Lumière, translating on film the extreme choreographic experiments with chemicals by extraordinary Loïe Fuller, and it is open to the future since Nothing is lost.”

Lorenzo Giusti | Nothing is Lost. Art and Matter in Transformation | STIRworld
Lorenzo Giusti Image: Lorenzo Palmieri, Courtesy of: GAMeC - Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo
01 mins watch Trailer of the exhibition, Nothing is Lost. Art and Matter in Transformation | Nothing is Lost. Art and Matter in Transformation | STIRworld
Trailer of the exhibition, Nothing is Lost. Art and Matter in Transformation Video: Courtesy of GAMeC - Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo

The exhibition Nothing is Lost. Art and Matter in Transformation was on display at the Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo till February 13, 2022.

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