In their exhibition the artist duo FAMED focus on a dialogical approach to work. Botta e risposta is a figure of speech that defies literal translation; it’s meaning implies a “duel” or “battle of words”. In these terms, FAMED draw strength and inspiration from each other’s differences, from an opportunity to present statements or theses and comment on them from their respective point of view. FAMED divide their artistic production into different groups of works and it seems obvious to file the pieces presented in this exhibition into the category of language-based works. The artists like to channel the spectators’ expectations by using formats, materials or expressions that seem evident on first glance, but raise questions on second look, on closer inspection or attentive listening. The set-up for the debate is reminiscent of a boxing ring with large bathing towels waiting for the contestants on the sides. But FAMED‘s towels are not embroidered with rousing pep-talk slogans, rather they seem to emphasise the air of casualness.
The inscriptions found in this strange pantheon, recalling the Latin precis one might expect on a tympanum or a triumphal arch, soon reveal themselves as bits of an exchange of mutual vulgarity. That the winners of the 2019/20 fellowship have their collected rejection letters read out in broad public stands in strong contrast to their status as artists-in-residence at Villa Massimo: the ten month term at the Deutsche Akademie Rom Villa Massimo is considered one of the most esteemed awards granted to artists by the German government. And yet one needs to pay close attention to hear and understand that the hymn of administrative poetry that is read out is actually concerned with the rejection of grants. Political correctness has encouraged the production of rejection letters in a motivational tone; they would sound flattering, were it not for the simple fact that the recipients of these letters will, in short, receive no support.
To ponder one’s own fate and in particular one’s own success in a place like Rome is part of a long tradition, as illustrated by the long line of subjects found in the history of art and literature that have questioned the Arcadia myth over the centuries. FAMED‘s Anthropometrische Betrachtung #1 (Anthropometric Observation #1), as well as the final room of the exhibition titled We are on Fire, makes use of the expressive language of advertising or even pieces of writing, which, as in the case of eye test charts, are not intended to convey any message at all. The result is an artistic act of self-assurance, infused with self-doubt.
Botta e risposta is not a finished dialogue, but an invitation to a conversation that ideally remains open. FAMED bid the visitors welcome and farewell via a neon sign at the so-called gatekeeper’s house at Villa Massimo. It’s about final words. About everything and — nothing.
Photos: Alberto Novelli