When the Duke of Savoy built his 17th century palace on the site of the medieval Castello di Rivoli, he included a picture gallery in which portraits and heroic scenes depicting the royal family were hung along the long and narrow room. Over the centuries the palace suffered a series of misfortunes, including being set alight by French troops, Napoleonic occupation, German bombings and invasion during World War II. Known as the Manica Lunga, ‘the long sleeve’, due to its proportions, it was used as a barn until its 1978 conversion into a museum of contemporary art.
Adam Carr’s Exhibition, Exhibition is the first in a series of guest-curated shows. Repetition is the subject. Setting out to be innovative in both its display methods and its focus on the viewer, the show plays ‘on, with and within established parameters’, rather than ‘eschewing convention altogether’. But the dissonance between ambitious and modest objectives is a feature throughout the exhibition and, consequently, the result is somewhat compromised.
The 147-metre-long area is divided into four parts, creating two exhibition spaces, and each comprising two rooms. The presentations mirror each other so that a work by an artist in one show has its counterpart in the opposite location. The intention is to create a folly or an exhibition with no beginning or end, where the visitor is surprised to find at the end of one show, another complementary one. But the visual pun is evident immediately upon entering the gallery: the wall text describes the whole conceit in advance and spaces can be viewed through the large openings in the temporary walls. there are some witty pieces, and the notion of a double-mirrored exhibition is imaginative. But instead of ‘insisting that visitors reinterpret and revisit and ultimately play a fundamental role in the exhibition and its possible reshaping’, the idea quickly wears thin, the show being neither bold enough to turn things completely on their heads nor mysterious enough to intrigue.
Exhibition, Exhibition is clear about its remit of doubling and seriality, so why is there no exploration of other dimensions: the psychology of the double, the uncanny, the surreal—this is, after all, the province of Turin, where designer and artist Carlo Mollino created the ultimate folly, a secret apartment in which he never lived but which he designed, to the last trompe l’oeil detail, for the afterlife. Works by three Turin-based Arte Povera greats, Alighiero Boetti, Giuseppe Penone and Michelangelo Pistoletto, are central to the show and bring an experimental quality that holds today. But I would argue that the curator’s claim of originality is misplaced: a number of European shows have touched on doubling and duplicity in recent years, the latest of which closed in September 2010 and applied the device of mirroring to the complementary spaces of the Musée d’art Moderne de la ville de Paris and Palais de Tokyo, which share the same Paris complex.
As mentioned, specific contributions are a joy: two photographs, both 2008, by Louise Lawler, ‘Hedge Fund (Here’s Looking)’—a detail of the famous Joseph Beuys portrait by Andy Warhol—and ‘Hedge Fund (Sugar)’, which is smaller, and in which the same detail is cropped so close as to become unrecognisable as part of a face without its counterpart piece. Tino Sehgal’s ‘Instead of allowing some thing to rise up to your face dancing bruce and dan and other things’, 2000, includes postures borrowed from performative video pieces by Dan Graham and Bruce Nauman that are recreated by two performers in a continuous, elegiac recumbent dance. For ‘Variable piece No. 111 London’, 1974, Douglas Huebler photographed mannequins in Oxford Street shop windows and allowed himself no more than ten seconds to snap the person who looked most like them; its analogue in the exhibition, ‘Crocodile tears: the Great Corrector (Mondrian iii)’, 1990, lampoons the elevated unique art work and its inflated market. Penone is represented by one work comprising two seemingly identical rocks ‘(Essere fiume 6 (Being river 6)’, 1998, only one was found in a river while the other sculpted in Carrara marble. This last work holds great poetry and physicality, yet it, like others in the show, seems flattened by the laboured application of the concept. Exhibition, Exhibition asks for an enormous amount of patience and dogged determination in the face of its repetition.
Ariella Yedgar is a writer based in Turin