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Maria Janina Vitale
James der Derian
The Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina
The mission of the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi is to revitalise the public spaces of Palazzo, one of Florence’s finest examples of Renaissance architecture, and to establish it as an exciting, dynamic and international cultural destination for visitors of all ages and interests. Already the exhibitions held in the Palazzo’s grand spaces on the first floor have attracted international attention. The Palazzo’s courtyard now hosts a café, a shop and a permanent exhibition on the history of the Palazzo, as well as a varied programme of concerts, fashion shows and performances. From the outset, a key part of the Palazzo Strozzi project was to create a centre for contemporary culture at the very heart of Florence, and the Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina (CCCS) was created as platform for the different approaches and practices that characterise the production of contemporary art and culture.
The centre is located in the beautifully restored spaces under the courtyard of Palazzo Strozzi – known as ‘La Strozzina’ – and hosted Florence’s most important international exhibitions in the years after the Second World War until the flood of 1966. The CCCS comprises eleven rooms of different sizes, approx. 850 square metres in total. The absence of natural light enables individual curators to interpret the space in new and exciting ways and makes it possible to reshape the entire environment in accordance with the requirements of each new project. The challenge posed by the Renaissance architecture of Palazzo Strozzi for contemporary art is a stimulus to treat each new event and project almost as theatre, constantly pursuing new possibilities of artistic communication, presentation and mediation.
Philosophical idealism has a long history. In 1927 Alfred North Whitehead remarked that ‘the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato’ and certainly Plato is among the earliest to have suggested that the world we see is not the ‘real’ world, but merely shadows flickering metaphorically on the wall of a cave. In 1781, Emmanuel Kant took idealist logic even further: ‘... if I remove the thinking subject, the whole material world must at once vanish because it is nothing but a phenomenal appearance in the sensibility of ourselves as a subject, and a manner or species of representation.’
The current exhibition tackles issues at the heart of contemporary culture. The show focuses on the meaning of the term ‘reality’ in the context of contemporary art, and explores different ways of representing the world and the ambiguity that lies between the real and the verisimilar, the concrete and the apparent, the present and the past. We have already seen a return to a neo-idealist paradigm which argues that the ‘real world’ does not exist as an independent category, but merely as a projection or a construction by the individual. Actions and beliefs are then based on this ‘reality’. Photography and video art may not only faithfully record reality – they may equally falsify it.
The exhibition presents the work of 23 international artists including Thomas Demand, Elena Dorfman, Andreas Gursky, Ilkka Halso, Rosemary Laing, Gwon Osang, Cindy Sherman and Paolo Ventura. All use photography and video art to manipulate our perception of the visible world and build new models of reality.
Today, with the spreading popularity of digital technology and the widespread dissemination of images by the mass media and the internet, this ambiguity has increased, pushing the tension between appearance and reality to its limits and demanding that the spectator play an active role in defining what he or she is seeing as real. Looking at the world is no longer an act of faith, it is an act of will, and the issues explored by Manipulating Reality are ones that deserve our careful and critical attention.
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