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For their second consecutive participation in ART-O-RAMA, Munich-based gallery Deborah Schamoni is pleased to present a new project by Davide Stucchi: a sculpture that consists in casts, scale 1:1 of the bodies of the artist and his boyfriend while swimming-sleeping, made of soap and then “washed” so that the facial features of the figures get “dispersed”. The work is created as a purely representative intent, but that intent is immediately denied. Indeed, the denial takes the form of a ceremony. The intimacy of the couple is so apparently shared — actually it remains in the pair — and is further enhanced by the ceremony of the birth of the work.
Stucchi’s research is devoted to the exploration of the “materiality” of artwork following an interest in the strategies of vision that allows to it subvert its objecthood. Stucchi defines himself as a “sculptor” even if a large part of his practice unfolds as minimal interventions: engraving leather with fire; shaping spaghetti pasta into forms; accumulating dust, etc. All these interventions, in one way or another, avoid any possibility of conveying the work through traditional channels such as the photographic documentation of it. Stucchi’s practice never stops to surprise thanks to the use of self-referentiality and secret meanings, blurring the lines between viewer, work, meaning and the various contexts of reference in which they enact.
Davide Stucchi (*1988) lives and works in Milan, Italy. His solo exhibitions include NENA at Sant’Ilario Pavilion, Genoa, What’s left unsaid, says it all, at Taylor Macklin, Zurich (both 2015), and Oggetti Traditi at MACRO, Rome (2014). His work has been featured in group exhibitions, such as DIE MARMORY SHOW III: Guilty Pleasures at Deborah Schamoni, Munich (2016), La scrittura degli echi at MAXXI, Rome (2015), In Real Life at Galerie Christine König, Vienna (2014), and The reconstitution of fiction which eventually provoked the “no more fictions movement” at Shanaynay, Paris (2013). He has held residencies at Cité internationale des Arts, Paris, Fondazione Pastificio Cerere per l’Arte Contemporanea, Rome (both 2013), and from April to July 2016 he was artist-in-residence at Triangle, Marseille.
I am already a week into my stay and walk through the city to visit the old soap factory Le Fer à Cheval. There, shrouded in steam clouds, are giant stone vats full of boiling scented oils. The white vapour dazzles me and there’s so much going on that all my senses kick into action. The master soap-boiler is one of the last of those who keep this old tradition alive. As we talk, he keeps a watchful eye on the soapy solution: every bubble, every smell, every noise and gurgle has its own special meaning, which only he can interpret. I try to remember as much as possible of the conversation. Finally, to see whether it is ready, he tastes the mixture. It’s absurd! The smell isn’t strong or oily. Its delicate fragrance reminds me of the smell of a freshly washed towel when you nuzzle your face into it. The more time I spend here, the more I think about the body that will use this product. I get more and more enthusiastic for the labour being carried out here in order to produce something that cossets the skin. The rhythm and hand movements of the employees as they stack the soap bars into blocks make me think of a construction site. The bricks – or blocks of soap – that pass from one worker to the next have the same colour as the city, the same clarity as its light and the same bulk as its walls. This soap will end up in our bathrooms and become part of a private ritual, part of one of our many daily routines.
Only when I pick up a packet do I notice the embossed horseshoe shape. The soap-maker notices I’m curious about the symbol and explains that it is a lucky charm: “It’s good luck and wards off the evil eye.” With a half smile, he awkwardly searches for the right words – “The U looks like a V…” – clearly referring to the female sex organ. People hang horseshoes outside their houses so that le diable, distracted by sexual temptation, won’t enter. But the soap-maker’s advice for me is to put the soap under my bed as a way to stay healthy. A bar of soap under the bed, near your body while you sleep: it may sound ridiculous, but I think it’s a beautiful image.
Excerpt from “Postcard from Marseille” by Davide Stucchi from Spike Art Quarterly (issue 48).