Over Yonder brings together the works produced during the last months spent at the Royal College of Art in London and the new series of works, conceived and produced during the artist-in-residence at qwatz in Rome, inspired by the 1985 album by Italian songwriter Franco Battiato titled “Mondi lontanissimi”, where journey represents the central theme, both across the Earth and the space, and therefore the meeting with other new “possible” landscapes. In this regard, the main source of inspiration, on which the artist also draws for the title of the exhibition, is The Wild Blue Yonder, a 2005 film directed by Werner Herzog that narrates a typically science-fiction story, but shot in a mock-documentary style and making full use of archive images to which a new and different meaning is attributed. This is exactly what Strappato does in his work, triggering off short circuits between the signifier and the signified. It is from this need to go beyond the mere recognition of the object or of the image that the artist takes the expression over yonder, which sometimes is used in place of the more common over there, but with a slightly different meaning, as it refers to the location of a thing that cannot be seen readily by the speaker. Herzog represents an essential reference for Strappato, so much that a quotation of the German director opens the statement of the artist: We are surrounded by worn-out images, and we deserve new ones. Perhaps I seek certain utopian things, space for human honor and respect, landscapes not yet offended, planets that do not exist yet, dreamed landscapes. Very few people seek these images today which correspond to the time we live, pictures that can make you understand yourself, your position today, our status of civilization. I am one of the ones who try to find those images.
Strappato is constantly researching images to be used as words, images that represent the landscape in all its possible forms. The work and thought underlying Over Yonder have opened up new iconographic horizons, allowing him an exploration of the universe according to a personal science-fiction mythology that feed on those who, like Franco Battiato, have already made this mysterious, transcendental cultured, Dante-inspired journey, though in a musical context but with the same capacity to evoke images. Herein lies the reference, to the limit of appropriation, to the album Mondi lontanissimi, with Strappato shares the yearning for research, fascination with the unknown, the new, the unfamiliar, the exotic, in a word the fascination with the inconnu.
Over Yonder is a succession of explicit references and intellectual cross-references to experiences of visions related to the journey, even interplanetary, confirming a tendency for abstraction that leads us to mental or only dreamed landscapes. To see, today more than ever before, means also seeing though technology, cables, mechanical arms, audio and video devices are left in plain sight by Strappato, which then become integral parts of the artworks. The reference to the surfaces of these devices (smartphones, iPads, TV screens, monitors) recurs also when it is aimed to evoke thresholds to cross towards the infinite or digitally created sunsets. Thereby the black mirrors are created, reflecting those devices when they are turned off or in stand-by. Their aspect ratio is usually 16:9, which has become the most common format in the production and distribution of images and that are often arranged vertically on a monitor in order to highlight the passage from the traditional horizontal panoramic picture frame to that of the mobile phone or of the scrolling down of the Web pages.
Strappato’s research has evolved as he attaches more importance not only to the landscape as content, but also to the formalisation of the work of art, showing great openness to the use of the materials and a with a keen sense of aesthetics supported by unpredicted references to art history. Thus, besides the algid perfection of the mirroring surfaces, of the hi-tech devices, of the refined frames, the artist uses spray paint, the transformation of broken–down old office file cabinets in bodies evoking as many classic sculptures, as well as the three-dimensional reification of the abstract concept of files through the use of Jesmonite.
Over Yonder by Marco Strappato
The Gallery Apart, Rome
Through February 13
photos: Giorgio Benni