Corin Sworn, winner of the fifth edition of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women, in collaboration with Whitechapel Gallery, presents her large installation Silent Sticks at Collezione Maramotti, where it will enter its permanent collection, after being shown at Whitechapel Gallery, London (20 May-19 July 2015).
Continuing her artistic research weaving history, memories and fragments of true or imagined tales, in this new work Corin Sworn has drawn inspiration from the characters and stories of Commedia dell’Arte, a form of improvisational theatre developed in the 16th century in Italy where it continues to play an important cultural role even today; the characters of Commedia have continued to influence artists and writers for hundreds of years, from Shakespeare and Marlowe to Goya and Picasso. The work is the result of the artist’s residency in Italy in 2014, when Sworn explored in depth the culture of Rome, Naples and Venice, studying traditional stage plays and meeting actors and experts of Commedia dell’Arte.
Sworn is interested in the idea of mistaken identities and the frequent recourse to this literary device in the stage productions of Commedia dell’Arte: the first players and characters with radically different appearances (a woman passing as a man, a master dressed as his servant or a nobleman with the look of a beggar) toyed with the perception of strictness linked to rank and social standing, and represented the anxieties derived from the instability characterising society at the time, by winking at liberty and social mobility. Inspired by these ideas, Silent Sticks reworks the story of a famous case of imposture in the 16th century and is set like a stage scene with props, costumes, sound and video elements. In particular the costumes designed by the artist, who researched many historical and iconographic sources and found inspiration in the text Il teatro delle favole rappresentative by Flaminio Scala, were hand-made in collaboration with a team of designers and artisans from Max Mara.
The exhibition is accompanied by a book documenting Sworn’s experience, her residency in Italy, her sources of inspiration and the development stages of the project. For the opening of the exhibition, Corin Sworn will be joined by Whitechapel Gallery’s Eisler Curator and Head of Curatorial Studies, Daniel F. Herrmann, to discuss the making of the new commission Silent Sticks. One of the foremost proponents in research-led practice working in the UK today, Sworn will talk about her working methods and development from residency through to script, performance, film and object-making. Revealing the academic and historical influences on her thoroughly contemporary take of Commedia dell’Arte, Sworn and Herrmann will explore the concept of “Objects as Impostors” and the role of stage properties in installation art.
Corin Sworn: Silent Sticks, 4 October-28 Febraury 2016, Collezione Maramotti, Via Fratelli Cervi 66, 42124 Reggio Emilia, Italy.
For more information visit www.collezionemaramotti.org.
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1. Corin Sworn, Silent Sticks exhibition view at Whitechapel Gallery, 2015. Courtesy of Whitechapel Gallery and photographer Stephen White.