PLEASE COME BACK. The world as prison? at MAXXI, Rome

The exhibition, curated by Hou Hanru and Luigia Lonardelliwill be shedding light on the problems relating to the control typical of contemporary society. The exponential development of digital technologies, the advent of the social networks, the use of Big Data, have progressively and inexorably changed our society which is witnessing the collapse of the philosophies of social and urban sharing and the establishment of  new regimes that in the name of security are stripping us, with our consent, of every intimate and personal space.

PLEASE COME BACK starts out from these considerations and seeks an answer to the question: what would we like back in our lives from the paradise lost of the modern age?

The exhibition takes its title from the work of the same name by the collective Claire Fontaine, born out the artists’ thinking about the society at large as a space of imprisonment and our uncanny position in it. On this basis, PLEASE COME BACK takes as its investigative focus the condition of  contemporary society under the control of the power system, explored in both its physical dimension and in its metaphorical meaning.

The first section – Behind the walls – features artists who have had direct experience of prison, because they have been detained, they have made it the subject of their work or because they grew up in environments in characterised by the looming presence of prison. They include Berna Reale with a video telling the story of the light of the Olympic torch within Brazilian prisons, Harun Farocki who uses films from the surveillance cameras of the Corcoran maximum security prison in California and Gianfranco Baruchello with his interviews with prisoners in the Rebibbia Civitavecchia jails.

In Outside the walls we find the works of those artists who have reflected on the prisons we cannot see, on the surveillance regimes capable of transforming the contemporary cities into true “open prisons”. Among them are Superstudio which with their Continuous Monument had prophetically imagined a model of global urbanization alternative to nature, Mikhael Subotzky, who is presenting video materials supplied by the Johannesburg police; Lin Yilin who with his performance reproduces an example of privation of liberty to test the reactions of the citizens of a Chinese city Haikou or in Paris and Rä Di Martino who transforms Bolzano into the backdrop for a scene with mock tanks.

In the third section – Beyond the walls – the protagonist is the theme of surveillance as a “dominant organizational practice”, an all-pervasive phenomenon throughout our following 11 September 2001. Among the works presented in this area, the practice of “war on terror” becomes the protagonist in Jenny Holzer’s investigation, Simon Denny’s project is inspired by the Snowden revelations, Jananne Al-Ani reproduces the perspective of the drones exploring various Middle Eastern sites, while in his visionary work Zhang Yue prefigures future wars or a plan for the destruction of the United States.

The exhibition includes AES+F, Jananne Al-Ani, Gianfranco Baruchello, Elisabetta Benassi, Rossella Biscotti, Mohamed Bourouissa, Chen Chieh-Jen, Simon Denny, Rä di Martino, Harun Farocki, Omer Fast, Claire Fontaine, Carlos Garaicoa, Dora García, Jenny Holzer, Gulsun Karamustafa, Rem Koolhaas, H.H. Lim, Lin Yilin, Jill Magid, Trevor Paglen, Berna Reale, Shen Ruijun, Mikhael Subotzky, Superstudio and Zhang Yue.

PLEASE COME BACK. The world as prison?
Curated by Hou Hanru and Luigia Lonardelli
MAXXI, Rome
Through May 21