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Words and Stars: Mart in Rovereto exhibits works by artist Grazia Toderi and writer Orhan Pamuk
Words and Stars, installation view. Photo: Mart, Jacopo Salvi.

ROVERETO.- After four years of conversations, meetings and correspondence, the Mart in Rovereto presents the eagerly awaited project by artist Grazia Toderi and writer Orhan Pamuk.

Words and Stars (2013-2017) is an interweaving of art and literature, the visual and the narrative. From 2 April, curated by Gianfranco Maraniello.

In 2009, during a visit to the Venice Biennale, looking for ideas for the Museum of Innocence in Istanbul, Nobel prizewinner for literature Orhan Pamuk came upon the work Orbite Rosse by Grazia Toderi. Toderi was among the major international artists there and had already received the Leone d’Oro award in 1999.

Deeply affected by the work, he wrote a significant article in praise of it in La Repubblica newspaper, where he declared: “... I was struck by a sensation of the infinite ...”

The Words and Stars project came about in 2013, when the Turkish writer decided to invite the Italian artist to work together to devise a work of art for the Museum of Innocence, created by him in Istanbul.

After four years of work, conversations, meetings and intense exchanges of correspondence between the two authors, the result of this exceptional artistic association was the creation of a trilogy consisting of a “monologue”, a “dialogue” and a “conversation” - making a total of eight video projections - which are now presented at the Mart, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto.

Furthermore, in November 2016, the project saw the birth of a work specifically created for the space of the dome of a Planetarium and a small yet refined installation intervention, presented respectively at the Civic Museum of Ancient Art of Palazzo Madama and the Planetarium of Turin, curated by Guido Curto and Clelia Arnaldi di Balme.

Together the videos of Grazia Toderi and the words of Orhan Pamuk have built cosmogonies and maps, imaginary and real, against the background of light galaxies and the lights of Istanbul.

Grazia Toderi’s notes contained in the exhibition catalogue start with this sentence: “I decided to project video because its material is light, which travels and appears when it encounters a surface, and also because it can be simultaneously transmitted around the world”.

Orhan Pamuk seems to echo this in his own text in the catalogue: “I consider myself at least a ‘visual novelist’ […] We write novels to communicate the dramatical pictures we have in our minds with the readers”.

On the eight screens of the three large video installations, writing and image are blended, words and lights are combined, far-off sounds are amplified and echoed. A “monologue” develops into a “dialogue”, which in turn is transformed into a “conversation”. The experience is transformed from the personal to the universal.

In the faint light this major exhibition is immersive; it enchants spectators and takes them into a sensory dimension. The times and postures of fruition go beyond the flow of images and lead inside a universal and cyclical rhythm.

Orhan Pamuk’s phrases inhabit Grazia Toderi’s landscapes. Images and words overlap, creating mutable maps of the heavens and earth together. The lights of the city of Istanbul are continually transformed into constellations of land and sky.

An identifiable yet mysterious universe, delimited yet infinite, real and fantastic, is traversed by propositions and questions that appear and dissolve.

In Words and Stars Orhan Pamuk’s words take up and develop the plot of The Museum of Innocence, the novel written by the Turkish author in 2008, which was followed by the creation of the actual museum in Istanbul in 2012. The two protagonists, whose love is experienced against the odds, return to being children, asking themselves existential questions: can our thoughts be compared to distant stars in movement? Is there a visual connection between the landscapes of our mind and the sky above the cities?

Both the planisphere, a traditional instrument for the representation of celestial and land mapping, and the eyes, with which we observe the world and capture the images of our personal cosmology, are sources of inspiration for Grazia Toderi. In each video the lights, in continuous transformation, appear inscribed in large disks, as orbits of monocles or binoculars.

From writing, defined by Toderi as an “involuntary secret portrait”, we move on to the “handwriting of the earth” marked by rivers, seas, water, earth, lights and trails of light, which transform into constellations without confines in the work.

The exhibition contains contrasts: intimacy and plurality, immensity and fine dust, universe without questions and major existential issues. The research of the two authors blends together in a project that is as ancestral as the world and questions the future.

Without a narrative development, in a temporal ring that is an infinite and continuous cycle, the words of Orhan Pamuk, written by unknown hands, are in dialogue with the images of Grazia Toderi. An Istanbul that can appear or fade away into the atmosphere. Today more than ever, the city is the symbol of constant contradictions and divisions, but also a teeming and vibrant place of encounters and interweavings of worlds, times and cultures, sometimes distant, sometimes coinciding.

You pass from one to the other in a continuous variation: Monologue becomes Dialogue, which is transformed into Conversation, the handwriting grows and multiplies, the rotation times of the images change, relationships gradually become more complex.

Different dimensions and colours: Monologue smaller, on which the black and white projection is original light. Blue and turquoise the colours of the angled double projection, Dialogue, illuminated by cold, metallic lights. Red, finally, the dominant colour in Conversation, projected on five large screens to form a pentagonal space. In correspondence with the light spectrum, the colours inform about the proximity or distance of the stars: blue for a star in movement towards the Earth or red for moving away, or the black and white of pure light, which cannot be colour because it only encounters itself.

In a continuous interplay of timeless cross-references, between philosophy, ancestral questions, projections, writing, mental maps and geographies of the soul, history re-echoes in the contemporary art of Toderi and Pamuk.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published by Electa with texts by Joo Fernandes, Gianfranco Maraniello, Orhan Pamuk and Grazia Toderi.

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