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<span class="chapeau">Throughout his career, Roberto Cuoghi (born in Modena, Italy, in 1973; currently living and working in Milan) has created hybrid theatrical works in a variety of media that radically alter our perception of representation. An exhibition of Cuoghi’s work will travel to various European museums over the year 2017; the Pinault Collection is contributing the work <i>Senza titolo</i>.</span>
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<span class="lieu">Centre d’art contemporain de Genève<br></span>
<span class="lieu">Museo Madre, Naples<br></span>
<span class="lieu">Kunstverein, Cologne<br></span>
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<span>Co-director of<br>Le Consortium, Dijon</span>
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<span class="alinea"></span>When studying maps, we are able to grasp multiple different layers of information simultaneously; perceptual maps in particular help us to analyze and compare infected geographies. Today, the attribution of labels such as “Axis of Evil” evokes the ’sinister’ zones to the east of the Roman Empire (’sinister,’ from the Latin meaning ’on the left side’—quite literally here—’unlucky, inauspicious’). The countries of the “Axis of Evil” are not cheerful seaside resorts; on the contrary, these places are regularly inspected by agents of the United Nations—somewhat akin to those workplace inspectors patrolling construction sites, making sure that the crew working there is wearing the appropriate footwear, shoes with steel-enforced toes, when maneuvering the heavy crates containing precious works protected by soft and pretty foam.
<span class="alinea"></span>Roberto Cuoghi is an artist of reinvention, of trompe-l’oeil, of entertainment and imagination: an artist who chose to transform himself into his father as part of an artwork undertaken throughout his twenties, adopting his progenitor’s physical appearance and cultural tastes; who composed a chant of lamentation as it might have been heard in an Assyrian temple during the decline of that empire, circa 612 BCE, and then performed it himself, accompanied by instruments that he designed and built. As he searches for the “Axis of Evil,” Cuoghi discovers uncharted territories (terra incognita), disguising weapons of mass destruction, nuclear laboratories, work camps, gulags...
<span class="alinea"></span>A map is not a substitute for the territory itself. According to its scale, a map can only present some, but not all, of the information available; it is a representation, but also, necessarily, an erasure. Looking out the window of the airplane as it approaches the landing strip, I can suddenly see cars driving down roads; the land that, from above, seemed completely still, deserted of all human presence, is once again populated by my fellow men and women. Today, satellites can find a needle in a haystack—something Cuoghi knows well. But when a country is drawn on a page measuring only 53 by 53 centimeters (as in the case of one of Cuoghi’s works), we see only lace and engraved layers of clouds: a sight similar, in fact, to memories of landscapes glimpsed from an airplane window, 30,000 feet up in the sky—the rolls of fat of mountain ranges, the glittering reductions of unfamiliar seas.
<span class="alinea"></span>North Korea is bordered to the West by the Chinese Liaoning province and to the South by its former Korean spouse. The lines separating it from those countries twist and turn, like the shouts and arguments of the eternal leaders of each imprecisely defined zone. There is nothing more to be found in this mute, silent country.
<span class="alinea"></span>Belarus looks like a checkerboard, like Marcel Duchamp’s skull seen from far above. Each summer, immigrants from that former post-Soviet dictatorship are now responsible for building the pavilions of the Biennale, in Venice’s Giardini. Having had the job for several years, they have very informed, well-documented opinions on each nation’s proposed plans.
<span class="alinea"></span>To Cuoghi, Myanmar is Burma as seen in Objective, Burma!, Raoul Walsh’s 1945 film that came out in theaters many months before Japan’s surrender in World War II, as the country was still suffering from a string of defeats at the hands of the American offensive. From Burma, we recognize the saintly figure of Aung San Suu Kyi, soldiers, the Shan and Karen insurgent groups.
<span class="alinea"></span>The artist portrays Cuba in Goodgrieffies (2000), in which animated cartoon characters are reworked with the destructive enthusiasm for which Cuoghi is well known. This work is a map he has drawn of a vacation resort/theme park, decorated with pictograms, enigmatically promising sea, sex, and sun.
<span class="alinea"></span>Of other infected territories, such as Syria, Turkmenistan, Sudan, Iran, or Libya, the map shows very little; you can maybe make out Syria, with a hole in its center, identifiable by its recurrent motif of boteh symbols we recognize from Persian rugs.
<span class="alinea"></span>The map is an invented story that topographic scientists are forever attempting to validate—in vain.
Mixed media,<br>9 pieces
Untitled (North Korea)