05 May 2020
Even art is “staying at home” in the Coronavirus era. At a time when half the world’s population is forced to hunker down inside their own four walls, home has become the real tangible universe. It is from there (or rather from here) that we work, shop and socialise with friends. It is from there too that new thoughts, fantasies, imaginings, fears and hopes are born.
In response to this obligatory imprisonment, the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi launched the Viaggi da Camera project on 27th March. More than an exhibition, it is an invitation to the selected artists to throw open the doors of their domestic and private spaces, their real and imaginary rooms. The foundation’s website and social media have thus become daily dispensers of original images, video and texts, put together by the artists to narrate their domestic realities. Every day a new work will be added to the palimpsest in progress, which was inspired by the novel Journeys Around My Room, written in 1790 by the Sardinian army official Xavier De Maistre, while confined to his home for 42 days as a consequence of a duel with a fellow soldier.
Xavier De Maistre describes his room as an “elongated square with a perimeter of thirty-six paces, the walls very close together” and expects to “cross it often widthways and lengthways or diagonally without following any particular rules or method … My spirit is thus open to ideas, to tastes, to feelings of all kinds; it greedily gathers up everything that presents itself! … There is nothing, I believe, as enticing as following up the traces of one’s own ideas, like a hunter chasing its prey, without seeming to take any particular route …” A room, therefore, like a meadow in which one can move absolutely freely and in which every object becomes a trigger for digressions, anecdotes and philosophical observations.
Figurative artists have always been fascinated by rooms, inviting us into their domestic spaces, i.e. the reflections of their intimate lives. Think of Vincent Van Gogh and his bedroom in Arles, Henri Matisse and his red room, which exudes domestic serenity, Giorgio Morandi locked in his studio in the midst of World War II, and Marisa Merz, who exhorted us from her home in Turin to look at the world with eyes shut, which according to her were “extraordinarily open.”
Viaggi da Camera started off with a picture by Carlo Benvenuto: a china teacup decorated a floral motif balanced on a table, an apposite metaphor for the current situation. This was followed, day after day, by Maurizio Cattelan’s lizard trapped inside a drawing of a labyrinth; Grazia Varisco’s balcony – the only permissible distance at the moment – on which an apple becomes food for a greedy blackbird, allowing her to avoid imaginary queues at the supermarket; Giuseppe Penone’s mirror that duplicates the sky and the wood in which it is situated, a reminder of far-off nature, while Massimo Grimaldi’s jolly cartoon-animations add a touch of good humour. To follow the project, just click on the link to the foundation’s website. The project was so successful that it was thrown open to the public after the first week, meaning that anyone can now post their own “journey around their room” on the social networks.
The many invited artists (and the invitations are still flowing) include famous names as well as emerging artists on the Italian arts scene: from Irma Blank, to Monica Bonvicini, Letizia Cariello, Maurizio Cattelan, Alberto Garutti, Genuardi/Ruta, Emilio Isgrò, Luisa Lambri, Marcello Maloberti, the Masbedo duo, Giuseppe Penone, Diego Perrone, Gabriele Picco, Paola Pivi, Marinella Senatore, Patrick Tuttofuoco, Grazia Varisco, Nico Vascellari, Francesco Vezzoli, Nanda Vigo and Luca Vitone.
At a time of enforced isolation such as this, Viaggi da Camera is geared to inspire us into not staying mentally closeted within our four walls, but to initiate new journeys inside the confines of our own rooms in search of untapped realms of our imaginations and new vanishing points. It is also intended to overlay our daily emotions with those of the artists, in a play of visions and exchange designed to supplant our compulsory detachment from other people, but not from ourselves, creating a more human and intimate kind of imprisonment. Let’s leave the last word to Xavier De Maistre, who at the end of his confinement wrote: “Wonderful land of the imagination! Granted to men by the most generous of beings to console them in the face of reality! … They forbade me to journey round a city, a place; but immensity and eternity remained at my disposal … Why, oh why would they not let me finish my journey! I was relegated to my room – a wonderful place, which encompasses all the commodities and all the abundance in the world? One might just as well incarcerate a mouse in a granary.”
Viaggi da camera /Chamber Journeys
Fondazione Nicola Trussardi