‘The Waiting’ by Monica Bonvicini plays with the notion of fears and expectations

The Waiting, an installation by Italian artist Monica Bonvicini at La Ribaute, indicts the urban design to talk about the inherent prejudice of patriarchal and socio-culture structures.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Sep 17, 2022

The term ‘waiting’ inevitably ensues a feeling induced with hope: the in-between space is looking for completion as soon as the waiting period would be over. The bouts of disquiet and longing, accompanied by the stage of waiting, accentuate the stage of contemplation punctuated by the acts of introspection and conversation. The Italian artist Monica Bonvicini, with her extensive art practice has continued to explore the idea of waiting while drawing upon the relationship between architecture, power structures, gender and space. The latest site-specific permanent installation The Waiting, by the visual artist at La Ribaute, Anselm Kiefer Foundation in France, plays with the emotions of fears and expectations, curiosity and hesitance, which raises questions about the importance of making art while reflecting upon the limitations and possibilities of an art language. 

The Waiting, 2022, Stainless steel, stainless steel chains, handcuffs,  Monica Bonvicini  | Monica Bonvicini, The Waiting | STIRworld
The Waiting, 2022, Stainless steel, stainless steel chains, handcuffs, Monica Bonvicini Image: Copyright Monica Bonvicini and VG-Bildkunst, Bonn 2022; Courtesy of Eschaton - Anselm Kiefer Foundation

With the art installation The Waiting, the viewer encounters a railing structure made of stainless steel. Poised at the centre of the space, the railing is a reminiscence of the architectural set-up often deployed at airports, transitory stations, and cash counters in the banks. The waiting queues disciplined within these structures inadvertently hint at the power and social matrix. To translate the dynamics of domination and suppression played out at the places of the surveillance, Bonvicini with the immersive installation has the bars bent, a pair of handcuffs dangle with the chain. With minimal props, the installation artist sustains to evoke the sentiments of love and violence.   

Installation View of Monica Bonvicini’s The Waiting | Monica Bonvicini, The Waiting | STIRworld
Installation view of Monica Bonvicini’s The Waiting Image: Copyright Monica Bonvicini and VG-Bildkunst, Bonn 2022; Courtesy of Eschaton - Anselm Kiefer Foundation

The large scale art installation acutely draws attention to the idea of yearning and fulfilment. The discipline of culture has repeatedly reinforced this idea as a cyclic one - from which we cannot escape. In an interview with STIR, Bonvicini talks about the presence of the concept of waiting in her practice, “Since the 1990s I have been interested in the threshold between art and architecture, especially by its internal processes and phases. In my opinion, everything is inspired by architecture on some level, in the sense of structure. It is always present, whether we want it or not. With The Waiting, I wanted to explore feelings of longing, conflict, escape and disobedience, starting from the power behind disciplinary micro-architecture all around us.”

Wide view of the installation  | Monica Bonvicini, The Waiting | STIRworld
Wide view of the installation Image: Copyright Monica Bonvicini and VG-Bildkunst, Bonn 2022; Courtesy of Eschaton - Anselm Kiefer Foundation

The sculptural installation is carefully positioned over a staircase into the floor. It hints at the possibility of finding an underground tunnel, which could serve as both entry and exit points. Bonvicini never fails to facilitate an opportunity to build a dialogue between the viewer, the architecture of the installation and the artwork. The Waiting rightly urges the viewers to speculate on what follows next, as the half-broken sculpture stands equipped with handcuffs. Bonvicini gives a peek into what it takes to make the sculptures, “First there were a lot of drawings, painting, photo, and writing. When I started working on sculptures, on themes specific to architecture, I began to use its materials: plasterboard, bricks, glass and metal. As if you want to tell a story you have to understand what words - or materials - to use.”

Visitor’s interaction with the work  | Monica Bonvicini, The Waiting | STIRworld
Visitors interacting with the work Image: Copyright Monica Bonvicini and VG-Bildkunst, Bonn 2022; Courtesy of Eschaton - Anselm Kiefer Foundation

Bonvicini with her conceptual art practice has consistently used the construction materials to talk about faulty urban design and planning which are often attentive to the myopic vision of the patriarchal and socio-cultural conventions. In a similar vein, The Waiting is a conceptual continuation of two of her historical pieces: Stairway to Hell and SCALE OF THINGS (to come). Even if the titles of artistic installation call upon the magnanimity of the design, Bonvicini does not refrain from debunking the promise of scale and ease synonymous with the architecture of urban cities. In doing so she also persuades the viewers to gauge the scale of social shifts, knowingly or unknowingly, that are brought about in the course of these urban changes. 

Artist’s Portrait | Monica Bonvicini, The Waiting | STIRworld
Artist Monica Bonvicini Image: Copyright Nguyen Phuong Thao; Courtesy of Studio Monica Bonvicini

These installations look at the proposition of perfection extended by urban development and design, yet remain a step away from the logic of achievement. Bonvicini observes, “I can consider The Waiting as a conceptual continuation of these pieces: Stairway to Hell and SCALE OF THINGS (to come). They both address false market promises and faulty urban planning scenarios; I invited the audience to think not only about the scale of physical architecture but also the scale of social changes, effectuated by the liberal urban design, as the consequence that is, almost always, ignored.”

It is the presence of the viewers which activates the connotation of the installation. Yet, Bonvicini is not inclined to offer an absolute meaning, “In art and life, there is always an entrance, and an exit. And sometimes, you just don't know which is which”.

Video documentation of The Waiting, 2022 Video: Copyright Monica Bonvicini and VG-Bildkunst, Bonn 2022; Courtesy of Eschaton - Anselm Kiefer Foundation

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