In Vegetal Mutation, the visitor finds a tiny video camera mounted on a pole set before a tall, leafy plant. Nearby is a touch-sensitive computer screen attached rather incongruously to a large terra-cotta pot—designed by the artist—which resembles an ancient artifact. Placing a finger on a leaf image on the screen, the viewer activates another video projected on one wall in which the structure and contours of the leaf are transposed into a mesmerizing, psychedelic-colored series of morphing fractal images. According to the artist, the images represent a detailed analysis of the plant’s cellular structure.
A group of organic objects in Nature Reliefs—a sponge, a cactus, a conch shell—is placed in shallow pans of water set on a table. Touching the items triggers electrodes that send signals to a computer, which in turn gauges the pressure and heat of the touch, and transposes it into a colorful and frantically morphing series of abstract video images projected on a large screen.
Perhaps the most haunting installation of all is Mutable Sounds. Feeling their way into a completely dark room with only tiny pin-lights in the floor as a guide, visitors arrive at a small circular enclosure with shelves of objects all around. One can grasp faintly illuminated items such as branches or piles of small stones. Thanks to some unseen electronic rigging of phonic sensors, rubbing the stones together, for instance, causes the room to fill with loud amplifications and reverberating mutations of the subtle sounds the action would normally emit. Also surprising are the bunches of sticks embedded in one area of the floor that, when stepped on, instigate an echoing clatter. Of all the installations, this one seems to engage the body fully in the way the artist intends.
In the most ambitious works of his nearly 45-year career, “Bioma”and PAV, the artist offers a unique experience of nature within the context of art. Remaining steadfast to the idealism of his youth as well as the innovative spirit of Arte Povera, but with the addition of electronic-age implements, Gilardi succeeds in merging art and life.
Currently On View Early works by the artist in “Che fare? Arte Povera: The Historical Years,” at the Kunstmuseum Lichtenstein in Vaduz [May 5-Sept. 9]. “The Lesson of the Things,” a Piero Gilardi survey, opens at the Centre de Création Contemporain (C.C.C.), Tours, France [June 26-Nov. 1].
1 See Arte Poveraby Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, New York and London, Phaidon, 1999, p. 49, for more information on this key exhibition. 2 This and other Gilardi comments are from the author’s conversations with the artist in Turin, Nov. 7, 2009. 3 See Piero Gilardi: Interdipendenze/Interdependence, Angela Vettesse, ed., Milan, Silvana Editoriale, 2006, p. 28.