I had the occasion to visit Louisiana Museum this November, and it was a great experience, as usual. Louisiana gives you the idea of entering another dimension, full of harmony in colors, space, and thoughts.
The exhibitions offered in Louisiana are many, both modern and classic art. I am generally not a big fan of traditional art exhibitions. To me, a crucial function that art covers is leaving the freedom to the viewer to interpret it as the viewer thinks. It is something that I feel I can’t do with many classic art exhibitions. I often feel like someone else has already written the interpretation, a sort of closed circle. I want to share my personal experience with the readers, both to trigger curiosity and to put on paper – or on-screen – all my feelings about that. I don’t want this article to explain the exhibition that should substitute the visit to the museum itself.
The exhibition of Da Corte gave me a mix of different feelings. The first one was, for sure, discomfort. The exhibition develops on two different levels. The first is what I have intended as a youth, but also as a dream dimension. This latter is represented by the sculpture of a man lying, as if dead, inside a red cylinder. The man was so well sculpted that he seemed extremely real. I’ve found myself staring at the figure for more than five minutes, trying to catch every detail with that infinite precision. The man is lying with his leg and arms wholly abandoned as if he was dead. The sensation of discomfort comes actually from the fact that the man looks like he’s dead or asleep. The spectator is made to feel that they become an insulting person that stares at an unaware person. The spectator takes a right to peek at the intimacy of its death/sleep. I felt uncomfortable being in close contact with a figure that was extremely realistically human.
Around the figure, an alternating pattern of vivid colors, all bound to many figures of the exhibition, gives lightness to the scene. Among them, many references to pop culture, like Garfield or Disney characters, are all surrounded by a very colorful atmosphere. A bright environment represents the first level that clashes with the condition of the dead man. This aspect might represent a dream if we want to see him like a sleeping person. The man is just sleeping and dreaming of a world made of capitalistic references, signaling the presence of these elements in his subconscious – and, therefore, in his life.
The exhibition continues at the same level, with big screens projecting fast frames and melancholy and slow music playing in the background. Everything is faded but, at the same time, very vivid. Just like it is in a dream. Another very present element is birds, black geese, to be more specific. They are spread everywhere in the first part of the exhibition. I felt confused and curious to trace a link between pop culture figures and birds until I realized that the key might stay in their neutral color. They represent the reality that the sleeping man needs to keep close, differently from the other figures that are more surreal and far from everyday reality, both in colors and shape.
The second level is drastically different. First, the dominant color is black, and the prevailing emotion is a feeling of constriction to me. The first experience is entering a very tight tunnel. When I visited Louisiana, it was a Saturday afternoon of a cold November. To many, it was the perfect day to visit Louisiana. While for the rest of the exhibition, this crowded condition made the experience a bit unpleasant, in this case, it highlighted the emotions that, I think, De Costa aimed to trigger. The spectator finds himself in a very narrow space, surrounded by high walls and showcases that enclose many objects of everyday life. The sensation I experienced was, at first, of physical claustrophobia and, secondly, melancholy. All those objects reminded me of something I couldn’t explain. It was like the artist went back on my roof and picked the thing he found closer to his preference. I felt constricted, but at the same time, I didn’t want to leave. I felt close to those objects, so meaningless, but at the same time full of meaning. In the end, however, it was just plastic, and they were a small but significant product of capitalism.
Eventually, the spectator enters a dark room, lit by some LED lights only. The sense I immediately felt was not discomfort, as previously, nor vibrancy, but a profound sense of melancholy. The spectator sees a house made of LEDs with fire around the windows. The outside is red and orange, while the inside is a glacial and cold blue. What’s more surprising is that there is a man inside the house. He is seated, helpless, and it looks like he’s silently waiting for the end to come. All around him were many different small objects.
I remember having the same sensation I had when I saw the young man upstairs. I couldn’t stop peeking inside his house, analyzing every corner and trying to understand his expression and possible thoughts. In doing so, I was violating his personal space. Would I ever do that with a real human being? Using two wax sculptures so similar to a real human being is very impactful because it makes you empathize with them more, being so similar to you.
After that, the exhibition is over. Spectators are supposed to climb the stairs, returning to the starting point - the dead/asleep man. Was it a journey in his brain? Or was it the journey in that man’s life? Was it all a dream? Or only a part of it was a dream? We, as spectators, can’t answer this question. On the contrary, it would be wrong to provide a universal answer. Isn’t it the best part of art? To be so subjective and open to many interpretations and responses by the audience.
Article and photos by Ilaria Mariani.