Magazine article Artforum International

Lara Favaretto

Magazine article Artforum International

Lara Favaretto

Article excerpt

In the first volume of her Notebooks, Simone Weil argues that there is no such thing as collective thought but rather only that of the individual thinker. Disagreeing with this proposition, I have been happy to see it contested in the initiatives of the young Italian artist Lara Favaretto.

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I refer to Favaretto's projects as initiatives rather than works because her practice is distinguished by its orientation toward collaboration. Since her school days at Milan's Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in the mid- to late '90s, Favaretto has been conceiving and executing her ideas in concert with others, documenting her productions--which are almost always improvised--on video or in photographs, then editing the results. In the process, she challenges the solipsism of individual artmaking and, with her playful, paradoxical approach, betrays a fundamental distrust of formal languages. As she explains, "I have always tried to reverse roles. I am interested in the artist not in the position of a Super-something but rather as coauthor, coscriptwriter. The idea becomes the protagonist. The idea is put on trial, and while awaiting suitable partners who will develop it, it becomes the pretext for the encounters ... a meeting point."

Take, for example, a 1999 piece for which the artist tested the idea "when donkeys fly" (an expression used by Italians to suggest that an occurrence is absurdly impossible, as in English with pigs). Favaretto, in another kind of reversal, stubbornly insists that donkeys should fly. She brought a group of people to the countryside near Bologna--an area populated by donkeys--and asked them, jokingly, to consider how to make the animals take flight. Deliberations and debates ensued, finally resulting in nonsensical proposals: have them eat live swallows, fill them with helium, lend them Air France boarding passes, stage voodoo rituals. These exchanges are documented in the eighteen-minute video Sollevarlo non vuol dire volarlo (Lifting It Up Doesn't Mean Flying). A similarly convivial variation on this theme occurred when the artist gathered hunters in central Italy and asked them to interact with donkeys. Among her inspirations: Goya's Caprichos, in which men carry donkeys on their shoulders. Two large-scale color photographs resulted from the day of play, Long Playing, 2001, and Mondo alla rovescia (The World Back-to-Front), 2001-2002.

Mikhail Bakhtin, in his study of Rabelais, describes how the "carnival celebrated a temporary liberation from the reigning truth and existing order." Favaretto, in creating nonsense, reengages this overturning of accepted hierarchies. Indeed, in her work, utter, anti-economical pointlessness is sometimes exactly the point. For Doing, 1998, for instance, she asked three masons to chip away at three blocks of marble until the stone was reduced to dust. The workers fulfilled the task, but not without voicing objections about the futility of the activity and the waste of material. Their hammering was recorded and can be heard on a CD.

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A more explicit adoption of the carnival theme occurs in Treat or Trick, 2002-2003, a complex passage through various languages and cultures, again all involving participatory actions. The first phase of the work was a film shot in Cuba during carnival. …

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