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Giulia Corradetti: the beauty of the “mutant”

Magazine article "Contempor Art", Art and Culture Quarterly - by Andrea Baffoni

The twentieth century was the century of technology, spasmodic evolution and the definitive encounter between man and machine. The Futurists wanted it from the first decade, André Deed expressed it with The Mechanical Man in 1921, Fritz Lang in 1927 with Metropoliz and Chaplin ten years later with Modern Times, but no one had questioned the primacy of mankind. On the contrary, today, in Bauman’s “liquid society”, the boundaries separating gender are no longer certain, relationships are no longer stable and the concept of being is questioned. Giulia Corradetti’s art belongs to this millennium, but it has its roots in the last glimpse of the previous one, which began with the birth of the Communes and ended with that of an artificial world where virtuality and reality intertwine, often confusing, sometimes overlapping.

In 1967, Gino Marotta used Naturale Artificiale, an installation in transparent methacrylate resembling a forest. The plastic replaced wood and leaves trying to enhance the charm inherent in the industrial material. Man evolves by nature, it seemed to say, and the artificial product has the same capacity to push him to the “beautiful” inherent in the elements of nature. Meanwhile, artificiality was running ever faster towards fragile human beings. Science and science fiction alternated in a continuous relay race, Mary Shelley had already been writing her Frankenstein for 150 years when Barnard performed the first heart transplant on December 3, 1967 and began designing bionic prostheses. The android officially entered the common imagination and genetic engineering was on the horizon. From literature to cinema, between cyberpunk culture and collective imagination, the era of machines was spreading everywhere..

Giulia Corradetti goes further, placing herself in the full post-human climate, but shifting the focus from the problem of artificiality applied to man to that of nature, just as highlighted in the recent 2012 exhibition Artificial Nature (Artsinergy Gallery, Rome). In her work there is a sort of dreamlike quiet, explains the curator Mirella di Peco, close to certain surrealist echoes where childlike lucidity and visionary imagination come together to create a reassuring parallel world, despite the obvious hybridization of forms. A “joie de vivre” in a post-human key in which new beings wander serenely, eluding the sense of unease transmitted by the mutant condition. The cyberpunk culture of the eighties, made of androids and replicants immersed in noir metropolitan scenarios, gives way to bionics and cybernetics, even more precisely to biomimicry, the study of nature and its mechanics for artificial applications.

Corradetti’s imaginary world sometimes recalls images under the microscope of natural elements, revealing a hidden and peaceful world of unusual shapes, others, seabeds populated by strange invertebrate beings that take the form of a mouse, or spermatozoa similar to light bulbs. All immersed in the candour of a positive reality. The years in which Jeffrey Deitch with the exhibition Post Human (FAE Musée d’Art Contemporain in Pully, Lausanne, June 1992, then Castello di Rivoli, Turin in November) are distant, communicated to the world the advent of a new era, that of post-humanity. Artists such as Matthew Barney, Paul McCarthy or Wim Delvoye showed man through the deformed lens of an evolutionary process started by human genius, which was twisting on the latter causing hybridized conditions not very reassuring.

Processes that are the result of constant physical and genetic manipulation, which have emerged from man’s dream of overcoming his own human condition. The finiteness of being, its dependence on the earthly datum, aging, diseases and anything else are a constant obstacle for the one who aspires to the divine state. The post human is the paradoxical need of man to feel as little human as possible, to want to change his condition considered insufficient with respect to a probable higher ideal. In this sense Orlan transfers his “studio” – both as a workplace and as a research objective – to the operating room of a plastic surgeon, undergoing continuous operations to correct his appearance, not with the aim of achieving an ideal state of beauty, but with the simple intent of expressing the very meaning of the mutant process.

It is precisely on the dynamics of the “mutant” that the artists of the nineties shift their attention because, exalted by the new possibilities of digital technology, their imagination shifts from the android to the hybrid being. Science has given a considerable boost and while Jurassic Park (1992) hypothesises that dinosaurs would be reborn through cloning, at the Roslin Institute, near Edinburgh, some researchers take the path that four years later would lead them to the “production” of Dolly, a simple sheep, not born, but generated in the laboratory. The first living cloned being, the zero degree of a new civilization. Died in 2007 Dolly is visible today at the Royal Museum of Scotland, embalmed like a hunting trophy and fixed in her pose like a classical deity. Her familiar appearance contrasts with the exceptionality of the event that determined her birth, and there is no fear in looking at her, there are no terrible scenes of (failed) experiments, where human beings undergo aberrant mutation processes; there is no thought of the tragic outcome of the tele-transhipment that condemned Professor Seth Brundle to transform himself into a fly. Dolly is the reassuring emblem of an inevitable tomorrow, constantly poised between the will of preservation and the risk of experimentation, where ethics inevitably clashes with genetics.

However, one cannot claim immortality without circumventing the limits imposed by nature. Post-human is an unexplored territory, the dawn of a new era populated by ambiguous, gruesome and sweet beings, who live gently with man, sharing spaces and customs. Dolly had died a few months ago when at the 2003 Venice Biennale Patricia Piccinini enchanted the world with We Are Family, a delicate reconstruction of a hypothetical family of mutant beings, where even the furnishings were deformed to better adapt to the needs of the new species.

Giulia Corradetti’s “artificial natures” show an artist totally immersed in this new reality, aware of the possibilities offered by the digital techniques with which she works. The future is a harbinger of beauty, one cannot remain indifferent to her works and the fascination of an unreal dimension that constantly brings us back to everyday life. Metaphors are wasted: in Artificial Love two fish mate no longer thanks to the usual sexual organs, but to a power socket; the Artificial Plants have an on/off button on the jar containing them, because to live they need to be “on”. The post nature of Corradetti is peaceful, delicate and refined, full of feminine sensitivity and aesthetic grace. Flowers, vegetables, invertebrates alternate with technological elements on white, aseptic and perfectly polished backgrounds, just like the futuristic scientific laboratories, where nothing is left to chance and everything is perfectly sterilized. But white, finally, is also a symbol of purity, the light from which the new, neonatal condition, the dawn, we were saying, of a new civilization in a new millennium.

Andrea Baffoni