For his second exhibition at the Galerie Perrotin, Gianni Motti has created a new and singular project that will occupy the three rooms of the St Claude space with the elusive title of “Draft”.
With regard to Motti, it would be completely pointless to attempt a summary description (where the project is known) or to try to imagine what it might be (where it is still unknown). What we do know is that, before its public presentation, every exhibition project, as such, can undergo variations up to the very last minute. In substance: in this phase, nothing is definitive and determined once and for all. But this is not the case with Motti.
In effect, in Gianni Motti’s projects there is never a plan that precedes the work nor is the work ever just the completion of a plan. There is never anything that can anticipate the premises or mediate the semiotic relationships with the outside. You either enter into the game directly or are excluded. Every piece of work is rather a temporary theatre of an event: the risk or hazard is that something is developed within it in real time, that something passes through it as through a gap or a lacuna. And, as in every event, here too something happens without the author being able to dominate the unexpected outcomes and its evolution. In this sense, every new work by Motti is also and always an expectation of his very work. For this reason, it never begins with an effective presentation or exhibition as such but starts at a distance, involving the audience’s systems of expectation – its forms of reception, its perceptive codes, its reassuring conventions. In many cases, it is the audience that transforms itself from spectators into objects of observation.
Prague 2003 (Blitz). As a result of Motti’s invisible hand, a detachment of the American armed forces illegally, and without warning, occupied the internal landings of the National Gallery during the opening of the first edition of the Czech Biennial. Camouflage uniforms, rifles ready and binoculars in their hands, five soldiers kept under observation the public who, despite moving from one space to the other, was unable to avoid their monitoring. No-one could have imagined, at the time, that this situation would turn out, over the years, to be so familiar and neither, possibly, would they have understood just to what degree this operation would reveal the hidden ganglia of modern governmentality, one that in the museum or exhibition space, calls into play certain dynamics of contemporary control which by promising freedom and creativity, manage to channel and organise social consent.
In fact, if for Motti there is no preferred medium on which to intervene, this is because every one of his actions is always sited in the very place he intends to undermine. It may be a television scene from the semi-finals of the French Roland Garros International Championships (Roland Garros, intervention, 2004) or from the weekly reading of the horoscopes on the Tuscan Canale 3 (Oroscopo, 2001). Just as it may also be a page of the Neue Luzerner Zeitung, of the Tribune de Genève (Reviews, 2000/2008) or the Columbian El Espectador (Nada por la fuerza, todo con la mente, 1997), or it might be a Biennale such as Venice (2005) or Manifesta (2002). Motti’s tried and tested method is that which has been defined with the expression “strategy of infiltration”. If he mutes the display he does not mute, however, the key idea of addressing publics (in the plural, therefore) who find themselves by now bound together by the information economy. What is in play is, in fact, the levelling and rendering uniform of the ways of life and social behaviour induced by mediatisation (the press, advertising, television, IT networks, exhibitions) at the centre of which is the hegemony of semiotic production and the rules of communication society. For this reason, his work is always defined by time and in time. It is difficult to capture and is always located somewhere other than expected.
However, even where Motti’s intervention is concentrated in an assigned location (a gallery, museum, fair or biennial), his work is never where it should be or where it is presumed to be. There is nothing hanging on the walls, nothing standing on the floor, no glass cabinet containing something, no object to be observed, no sound to be heard. There is always an empty space that seems to contravene one of the main slogans on which the exhibitory complex has based, by statute, its relationship with the audience: look at everything and touch nothing. Some examples?
2004: Plausible Deniability at the Migros Museum in Zürich: a 600 metre long corridor made from wood panels that filled the entire, vast space of the museum and channelled the audience from the entrance to the courtyard behind the Löwenbräu building.
2008: Think Tank at the Contemporary Art Centre La Criée in Rennes in France: an immense floor surface made from cobblestones not fixed to the floor, making it almost impossible to cross the area if not even to just stand up on it.
2012: in the BPS 22 space in Charleroi, the emptiness was even more consistent and was accompanied only by a simple, black slab bearing the word SWAP and a label stating: “The artist devoted the entire production budget for the exhibition to the purchase of BTP Italia, government bonds for the reduction of the Italian public debt, deposited in UBS account n. 024-753181. MIF.”
However, the main aspect that Motti aims to undermine in the conventions of the artistic context is the presumed ideological atemporality of the very exhibition machine for whom, to quote Brian O’Doherty, art “exists in a sort of eternity of display”. In fixing the time of his performance in a recent art festival, Motti indicated an entirely random temporality: “between 18 September and 13 December 2015”, a period in which anything could happen. It is precisely this constitutional indeterminacy, where every moment could be the right one, that is at the heart Motti’s sense of time: a potential time that is never definitively actual. Without this, his telepathic actions, his incursions into the immaterial and the physics of infinitesimal particles cannot be explained – they would remain misunderstood. Nonetheless, it is precisely this subversive work on regimes of visibility that is able to confiscate that which has been removed from the new devices of power and to return to subjectivities the ability to use and to act. To a journalist who was asking him about his series of claims in relation to natural disasters and his ironic comments on the heroic-artist, Motti replied: I spent my childhood between the Dolce Vita and terrorism. They were the ‘years of lead’, almost every day I saw the claims of the various political groups in the papers. I told myself that, possibly, I too, one day, would be able to claim something... The advantage of claims about natural phenomena is that ‘god’ is something like your assistant...