Atmospheric Narratives

The central railway station is about 4 km from MAST Foundation. Located close to Bologna residential districts, it appears as a light, translucent and changeable building, composed of two layers: a transparent curtain wall and a glazed layer screen-printed with a pixelated photographic design; at night, the building becomes a bright see-through object.

It differs from the surrounding urban fabric, mediating between the solidity of the existing buildings on the company campus and the open spaces of the nearby park. It therefore has two “fronts” – two sides – a private, linear one which relates to the existing company structures and a second, public front that opens toward the city and park.

On the occasion of Arte Fiera, one of the three established Italian contemporary art fairs, MAST Foundation, Bologna, opens Work in Motion: The Video Camera’s Eye on Social and Economic Behaviour. For the first time since opening, the space is entirely dedicated to moving image, comprising installations from 14 international artists that document transformations in the labour industry.

The videos, screened and projected in the dark core of the building, develop different atmospheres. They use juxtaposing images to evoke different emotions and dialogues: from the manual activities of an individual person to mass production, from human to robotic, from energy to high-tech production, from product development to contractual negotiations, from the legal issues through to the structural, existential problems in the financial system, from reiteration processes to simulated schemes and situations.

The range of single and multi-screen films allows us to reconsider the ways in which we think about both personal and collective histories – the grand narratives of our times – across nation states and continents. Works by Yuri Ancarani, Gaëlle Boucand, Chen Chieh-jen, Willie Doherty, Harun Farocki / Antje Ehmann, Pieter Hugo, Ali Kazma, Eva Leitolf, Armin Linke, Gabriela Löffel, Ad Nuis, Julika Rudelius and Thomas Vroege has often given voice to underrepresented communities and their universal stories told through the creation of sublime imagery, and evocative and immersive soundtracks. Sounds are, however, often “eluded”, especially in the case of Yuri Ancarani’s (b. 1972) tryptique: Il Capo (The Chief), (2010); Da Vinci, (2012), and Piattaforma Luna (2011).

In the dark exhibiting cave, sounds disappear in order to let motion emerge. There, for example, Willie Doherty (b. 1959) introduces for the very first time Italy Empty (2006). The facade of a disused office building is filmed over the course of a day. Its quietude is interrupted solely by the changes in weather that accompany the transition from darkness to light and from rain to sun, transformations that are sometimes imperceptible, sometimes dramatic, and that seem to evoke the past life of the structure. Close by, Peter Hugo’s (n. 1976) Permanent error (2010) tells the story of the technology dump in Agbogbloshie, on the outskirts of Accra – the capital of Ghana. Millions of tons of old computers, televisions, cell-phones and other devices all trace of which is lost in Europe.

The exhibition provides a visual representation of small communities in which each video simultaneously comments on, contrasts with or silently joins stands apart from the other works in the vicinity.

Work in Motion runs until 17 April at MAST Foundation. Find out more:

1. Chen Chieh-jen Factory (Fabbrica), 2003. Video proiezione a un canale, 31’9’’, loop. Single channel video projection, 31’9’’, loop. Courtesy of the artist.