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Antonio Riello

Ordinary Things

30.04.10 - 15.10.10

Ordinary Things 12

“What’s robbing a bank compared to founding a bank?”, wondered Berthold Brecht in his Threepenny Opera of 1928, and though eighty years or more may have gone by since then, the question remains as valid as ever, given that the legal—and still more so, the moral—response to these two equally extreme, but utterly incomparable, ways of getting rich quick hasn’t changed in the slightest.

Organized predation must not and cannot be compared with any analogous but isolated action; this was—and is—the Canon’s take on the matter.

If one takes into account the few lone voices raised in contemporary dissent, the power of that Canon extends far beyond personal issues of happiness to impinge on the sphere of Ideas and Perception.

Faced with examples such as these, thinkers like Slavoj Žižek have no qualms about generalizing and talking of blatant cynicism. A display of brute power on the part of the dominant culture which, unhindered by any form of criticism, has no need of respect, only of obedience. In this postmodern world where everything can be said and seen, Truth seems so otherworldly; anyone invoking it will be branded quaint or unpleasant—in short, anything but appealing and therefore weak.

But it has not gone unchallenged.

In 2007, in his first Greek show, Politically Incorrect, the Italian artist Antonio Riello used real weaponry to subvert the symbolism of guns by transforming them into aesthetic ‘decorative paradoxes’. In so doing, he successfully articulated a political discourse which failed to sneer at something that is nearly forgotten in this day and age: good taste.

In his new show, Ordinary Things, which is curated by Alessandro Vincentelli, curator of the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, he takes on something even more provocative: our obvious familiarity with what was made primarily to destroy and only secondarily to interest. We must be alert to our uncritical reception of every system and mechanism which encourages the production of the machinery of war—only thus can it be brought under control.

Shells and artillery, squadrons of fighter planes, hand grenades and gas masks, helmets, clubs and shields come together into installations and motifs which speak of the rationalization of repression through legally violent and terror-striking means. Creatively re-examining concepts like freedom, justice and dignity which transcend the individual, the artist ends up renegotiating the collective in its every manifestation.

His is a contemporary reading of a repellent reality.

Monday - Friday 10.00-21.00 Saturday 10.00-15.00 until 12 June; after 14 June by appointment only.