The relationship between art and technology is always evolving. It is a tension explored and celebrated in From Clay to Algorithm – a collaboration between Intesa Sanpaolo and the Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, outside Turin.
The exhibition, housed at Gallerie d’Italia in Milan, was inspired by questions about art and technology.
How do artists make use of technological discoveries to develop artwork and express their vision of the world?
Such questions apply to contemporary artists as well as daily life, where we are exposed to an ever-changing digital upgrade, including robotisation and AI.
“How do artists make use of technological discoveries to develop artwork and express their vision of the world?” asks Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, head of the Castello di Rivoli Museum.
“How can artists even predict technological scenarios? Why are technological features made evident in some artworks while they are hidden in others and one can only perceive their effects? These are just a few questions the exhibition takes its cues from.
“In fact, such questions apply to contemporary artists as well as daily life, where we are exposed to an ever-changing digital upgrade, including robotisation and AI.”
As Marcella Beccaria, chief curator and curator of collections at the museum, explains: “This is two very different institutions coming together. Intesa Sanpaolo has a huge, important collection that runs from ancient archaeology up to contemporary art. Our museum is solely devoted to contemporary art. It was a challenge to find subject matter that would create a dialogue.”
We talked about hyperlink narratives, the fact that when you search for content each page opens up to an infinite number of other pages.
So it is physically impossible to create a narrative that goes from point A to point B or from the beginning to the end.
Things are always in a dialogue.
From Clay to Algorithm reflects this by featuring traditional, ancient items alongside very modern artworks that use video or immersive technology. To underline this approach, the exhibition is not presented in a linear, chronological way.
Art critic Alastair Smart notes: “The most striking thing when you walk in is that there are works covering two millennia, yet they are not presented chronologically – they are all interwoven. In another exhibition you might think that was disorienting, but it seems absolutely correct in this instance. The point being that art and technology have been indelibly intertwined for centuries.”
The absence of a chronological approach has been influenced by the way that humans currently use the internet. As Marcella Beccaria explains: “We talked about hyperlink narratives, the fact that when you search for content each page opens up to an infinite number of other pages. So it is physically impossible to create a narrative that goes from point A to point B or from the beginning to the end. Things are always in a dialogue.”
Christov-Bakargiev says the exhibition does not claim to cover such a vast topic systematically. “It intentionally endorses a subjective yet free narration, devoted to a cultural legacy to which contemporary artists still refer. Collaborating with Intesa Sanpaolo offered the chance to expand our exploration over a wider chronological span, by including major works from its invaluable collection.”
One of the exhibits is by Giorgio de Chirico, whose experiences of the advanced weapons of the First World War led him to reject the prevailing technologically driven movement of Italian Futurism and advocate a return to traditional methods and iconography.
Conversely, if there is one artist featured in the exhibition who perhaps best represents the synergy between technology and art, it is Lucio Fontana. As Marcella Beccaria explains: “He is a champion of the relationship between art and technology, because when he came back from Argentina to Milan, he started to reinvent the idea of artwork. He talked about the radio, radar, black light and even TV as new technology that artists should be using. So the legacy of Lucio Fontana for the contemporary artist is immense.”
The exhibition runs until September 8 at the Gallerie d’Italia in Milan.
Cover: Cécile B. Evans (Cleveland, Ohio, 1983)
What the Heart Wants, 2016
video HD | HD video; 22:30 min.
Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Torino, on loan from Fondazione per l’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea CRT
The Leningrad Painter
Attic red figure kalpis, 470 – 460 BC
Collection of Intesa Sanpaolo
Agostino Carracci, (Bologna, 1557 – Parma, 1602)
Selfportrait with a watch, 1582 -1583
Oil on canvas, 102×81 cm
Collection of Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio in Bologna
Giorgio de Chirico, (Volo, 1888 – Rome, 1978)
Metaphysical Composition – Metaphysical Muses, 1918
© Giorgio de Chirico by SIAE 2019
Collection of Fondazione Francesco Federico Cerruti per l’Arte,
long-term loan to Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, Rivoli – Torino
Umberto Boccioni (Reggio Calabria, 1882 – Verona, 1916)
Officine a Porta Romana, 1909-1910
Oil on canvas, 75 x 145 cm
Collection of Intesa Sanpaolo
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