05 Firenze Robert Pettena

Robert Pettena's career partakes of a heterogeneous sphere that is difficult to pin down within the confines of any specific artistic vocabulary. An artist-cum-traveller probing the wonders and inconsistencies of the world, he seizes the conflicting aspects of reality and places them on a single plane akin to a boxing ring, in a manner that is both poetic and a provocation. 

Alongside photography, video-art and installations, his work includes performances and site-specific projects involving other players besides himself, who often hailing from the artistic underground in which Pettena has identified a potential and an energy that he transfers and channels into a variety of situations, sparking a short-circuit in his audience's senses. His art subverts the function of specific objects, such as a scooter which he transforms into a military vehicle, or codes of social conduct whose conventional aspects he questions. This art is sparked by the observation of daily life in which he identifies "exceptional" moments and places, breaches that allow us to glimpse reality, revealing its incongruous and alienating side.

His art can be both massive and "destructive", like his excavation inside the Gum studio in Carrara, or minimal, like his insertion of a record player into the desolate panorama of the artificial lake of Santa Barbara, drained for maintenance and naturally transformed into an underwater forest, in his series of photographs entitled Alla conquista dell’inutile [Conquering the Pointless].

His works turn our normal perception of social contexts and space upside down, probing their break points and their true margins of freedom, stimulating a reaction and giving rise to new kinds of interpersonal relations. 

Born in Penbury (UK) in 1970, Robert Pettena spent a large part of his youth and adolescence between Brixton (London) and San Giovenale (Reggello). In 1990 he moved to Florence, where he attended the Accademia di Belle Arti. He embarked on his artistic career by experimenting with video-art, though his research led him from 2000 on to focus on the relationship between the video image and spatial environment. His output now ranges from photography, to performance art and to site-specific projects, one of his most recent creations being the Jungle Junction for the Kunsthalle in Athens.

He has taken part in numerous collective exhibitions both in Italy and abroad, including: Watou Poëziezomer 2001 Een lege plek om te blijven, curated by Pier Luigi Tazzi and Ann Demeester, Watou (Belgium) 2001; Palazzo delle Libertà, curated by Lorenzo Fusi and Marco Pierini, Palazzo delle Papesse, Siena, 2003; Fuori uso, curated by Luca Beatrice, Pescara 2004; The Food Show: The Hungry Eye, curated by Robert G. Edelman and Gina Fiore, Chelsea Art Museum, New York (USA) 2006; Pan Screening, Art Radio Live, WPS1.ORG Broadcasts, Giardini della Biennale, Venice 2007 and Rites de Passage, curated by Pier Luigi Tazzi, Schunck, Glaspaleis, Heerlen, Netherlands 2009. 

A sweeping anthological exhibition of his work was held in several different sites in the historic centre of  Prato in 2008: Second Escape, curated by Pier Luigi Tazzi. His most recent personal exhibitions in 2010 include: Noble Explosion, curated by Emily Barsi and P.E. Antognoli Viti, Villa Bottini, Lucca; and Underground, curated by Matteo Chini, Studio Gum, Carrara.





Address: Via della Chiesa 105

How to get there: From Piazza Santa Maria Novella (Florence), take Ataf bus nos. 36 or 37; alight at Serragli; Fifteen minutes on foot from Florence's main SMN train station