Participating artists: Guy Ben-Ner (IL), Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen (NL), Ettore Favini (IT), Petra Feriancová (SK), Aaron Gilbert (US), Kristyna and Marek Milde (CZ/US), Moira Ricci (IT), Eva Seufert (DE), Irgin Sena (AL), Jiří Skála (CZ), Jiří Thýn (CZ), Patrick Tuttofuoco (IT), Nico Vascellari (IT), Bryan Zanisnik (US)
Curator: Marco Antonini
In the 1963 novel Lessico Famigliare (known in English-speaking countries as What we Used to Say or Family Sayings, but more readily translatable as Family Talk) Natalia Ginzburg uses her apparently detached and ironically humorous family memoir as a device to highlight the ritualistic importance of words and constructed behavior as driving forces behind familiar unity. By the end of Ginzburg’s dry and discreet autobiography, now unanimously considered a masterpiece of post-war Italian literature, the reader is completely immersed in her family’s recurring jokes, ritual exclamations and ordinary nonsense, a repertoire of assorted little obsessions that stands out as an independent “character” in the novel.
In a 1963 unsigned introduction to the book, a writer usually identified as Italo Calvino defines family as something mostly made of “voices, intertwining over the table during dinner or lunch, scoldings, jokes, disjointed gags, sentences that we hear over and over again, at every given occasion.” In time, this ritual lingo becomes a real language, only clear to those who practice it daily: the family members. This, to Calvino, is the mysterious “something” that characterizes and bonds together the entity we call family. In Ginzburg’s novel this secret lexicon is projected over a vast repertoire of quirky and often neurotically ritualistic gestures, images and allusions, describing her family nest as a totalizing environment.
In recent times, artists have sublimated a generational uneasiness in forming conventional family bonds by creating works that explore, deconstruct and problematize their own idea of family. Redescovering permanence and commitment in family relationships that range from traditionally orthodox to totally deconstructed and impromptu, the works in this exhibition speak of an increasing fascination with family structures and rituals. Resonating with the humor and sentimental honesty of Ginzburg’s Lexicon, they are haunted by a sincere desire for meaningful relationships, intimate exchanges and familiar identification. The artists’ strategies vary according to personality and circumstances, ranging from analytical detachment to over-identification to
playful, semi-serious exploration.
Family Talk presents a selection of visually and conceptually arresting artworks, locating family somewhere between a safe harbor, a quasi-sacred hyper reality, an informal, affinity-based community… often, family members (or elements culled from the familiar context) become artistic material, a set of variables for the artists to work with. Although belonging to different generations and individually preoccupied with a remarkably heterogeneous set of themes and
problems, all selected artists share an interest in the system of signs and codes at the foundation of an extended and permeable notion of family: a self-determined idea as open to criticism as to constructive reinvention.