A Bowl of Dust is based on a multi-local field research across Europe, carried out by Leone Contini over the last years to investigate the artificial sites created after WW2 with the rubble of the bombarded cities. This research follows the artist’s investigation on soil and ground as both a political territory and lively archive, where moments of erasure, decay, alteration and recreation are continuously reiterated. In his research, Leone Contini recounts not only one particular moment in European history, but also of different entities and temporal segments that inhabit a collective memory, thus functioning as vehicles for extended periods of time and knowledge.
Displaying an artificial post-disaster biosphere that is inhabited by various organisms and a variety of non-human witnesses, the exhibition centers around the rubble uncovered by the artist at different sites, such as Milan, Stuttgart, Berlin, Munich, Warsaw and Palermo. Here, the natural and the artificial are interwoven, forming an object-based lively archive which addresses a micro geological time scale, carved from post-war and contemporary ruins: a foremost solid ground bearing the weight of a collective body that endures as a vital and adaptable entity.
The illustration Bivacco tra le macerie (Bivouac in the rubble) evokes a pittoresque illusion of post-war, post-fascist Italy on the brink of recovery. The date — the image originates from an illustration the artist found in a magazine published on September 5, 1943 — suggests a different reading in which the image can be exposed to the ghosts of its immediate past and future, the previous regime and the still upcoming fascist republic. Later in 1943, Italy was in fact invaded by the Germans and, under this occupation, retaliations, massacres, and deportations took place. Bivacco tra le macerie (Bivouac in the rubble) is put into dialogue with a second large scale image within the exhibition: Parco Lambro, Milano, 1976 explores the vision of an “ideal” world — drawing from the arcadic landscape and its ruins — and hippie-ideology, in which leisure time and hedonism are an integral part of the idealized European landscape and its society, when in reality the young Milanese “rebels” of the post-war society “celebrate” between the only 30 year old ruins of the war.
Consisting of a tent and a cooking spot, the eponymous installation Bivacco tra le macerie (Bivouac in the rubble) faces the video Il corno mancante (The missing horn) and will be used by the artist for a cooking performance during the opening of the exhibition. The video shows “archeological” sites and introduces a mythological narrative, which tells the story of an object of the ethnographic civic museum in Milan that was “mutilated” during the bombing of August 13, 1943: the statue of the buddhist deity Yamantaka, also known as the “conqueror of death,” acts as a symbol for “survival”, departure, and transformation.
A Bowl of Dust aims to challenge the image of Europe and its ruins as an expression of a romantic longing permeated by the idea of new beginnings. Instead, the raw heritage of war is subjected to various, living forces: the ruins are now covered with meadows, bushes, anemone forests, inhabited by fish or insects, shellfish, rodents, and invertebrates. The roots of the trees slowly digest the rubbles of the past, while underwater streams erode the baroque palaces of Palermo. The installation A Bowl of Dust retraces both the process of permanent change and repetition by displaying the shattered heaps of the past in the exhibition space, and within an “ecosphere” that serves as metaphor for the minimum viable habitat.
Leone Contini (b. 1976 in Florence/Italy) studied philosophy and cultural anthropology at the University of Siena. He has held events at the Kunstverein in Amsterdam (2013, 2019), the Delfina Foundation, London (2014, 2015 and 2017), and the Kunstraum in Munich (2014), among others. Selected exhibitions include The Planetary Garden, Manifesta 12, Palermo (2018) and The Scattered Colonial Body, Museo della Civiltà, Rom (2017).