Within the video work The Golden Door, which Gaia Vincensini produced particularly for the exhibition in Palermo, there’s a scene the place the protagonist—a younger banker named Piero—enters a big, virtually empty nave in a church. As Piero’s gaze sweeps as much as admire the magnificent, coffered ceiling embellished in gold, the music by composer and sound artist Tobias Koch turns into stressed, even dramatic. Throughout my go to to her studio close to Rome’s prepare station, Gaia defined that the golden ceiling of Santa Maria Maggiore (a very powerful Marian church in Rome) fascinated her and served as inspiration for her movie challenge. Thus we encounter the church’s golden ceiling, loaded with symbolism—as an object of alchemical want, the last word image of wealth, and a fabric with a colonial historical past linked to political authority. The gold used for the coffered ceiling in Santa Maria Maggiore was initially introduced from Peru to Spain by Christopher Columbus. The Spanish king then gave it to Pope Alexander VI, who commissioned the artist Giuliano da Sangallo to design the ceiling. That was within the fifteenth century, when the Catholic Church held immense energy and outdated Europe was enriching itself with items from the just lately “found” components of the world. The gold of the Incas in Peru and the gold within the vaults of the Western world.
Within the exhibition “The Golden Door”—which options the video work of the identical identify and a brand new sequence of wall sculptures entitled VAULT—Gaia, who has Peruvian roots, interweaves numerous themes that recur in her artwork: alchemy, processes of valuation (of artwork, gold, cash), and capitalism as a dominant international system with out obvious alternate options.
On the similar time, the movie serves as a condensed illustration of her distinct visible type, showcasing the range inside her creative apply. The Golden Door is Gaia’s second main movie challenge following RESYLENT from 2021. Almost all of the objects and costumes within the movie had been designed by Gaia herself: a suitcase, containers, a weird ATM, jewelry, and figures and puppets in numerous sizes—the latter created collectively along with her mom Costanza Solari, a puppet maker. The ties to the custom of puppets and puppet theatre in Palermo are apparent.
In The Golden Door, Gaia tells us the story of Piero, a younger Swiss banker (referencing the melancholy, naive clown from Commedia dell’Arte). Piero is in Rome (the Rome of grand church buildings, grimacing masks, ostentatious palazzi and the flowing blue-grey Tiber River). He has come to satisfy a mysterious shopper (based mostly on Massimiliano Palombra, a Seventeenth-century marquis who created the legendary Porta Alchemica in his Roman villa). Piero should ship a key to the shopper and in return receives a watch. This watch turns into an inescapable presence, propelling him right into a visibly surreal and fantastical realm. Music performs an vital function within the movie. Composer Tobias Koch explains that given the unbelievable visible world of the movie, he labored with baroque music however in an exaggerated, hyper-stylised method. For his compositions, Tobias utilised methods and chord progressions from the Baroque interval however used digital devices to simulate and imitate them. The result is a sonic journey that ventures into the realm of the substitute and the imaginary. For the narrative type of The Golden Door, Gaia drew inspiration from the literary custom of the Gothic novel. On the similar time, she sees the story as a template for a universally relatable type of storytelling. The banker and the shopper are archetypal figures acquainted from movies or books. Nonetheless, Gaia distorts them by portraying them by means of a intentionally feminine gaze, she explains, that means her perspective as a feminine artist depicting male characters in a patriarchal world, in distinction
to the everyday male gaze seen in lots of movies. Piero seems as a passive golden boy working for the financial institution Synchaos (sure: synchronised chaos, as written on his safe-like suitcase). In contrast to the diabolical, wolfish bankers from movies like American Psycho (2000) or The Wolf of Wall Avenue (2013), he’s extra of a “determine on a chessboard,” as Gaia explains. In the meantime, the artist envisioned the shopper as an alchemist with a penchant for the occult who criticises prevailing social energy dynamics, although from a distanced, moralising, and depoliticised standpoint. The Golden Door serves as a reminder of the logic and mechanisms behind the capitalist world order. Piero, sporting an outsized swimsuit emblazoned with the corporate brand, seems visibly confused as he wanders by means of the town. Motivated, maybe, by the attract of gold, he’s drawn to the omnipresent Compro Oro outlets (that means “I purchase gold” and referring to outlets dealing in gold and jewelry), the shows of watch retailers and an opulent desk the place arms adorned with weighty gold jewelry supply him a pomegranate. This imagery conveys each temptation and promise, but in addition a virtually libidinous greed for gold and items that (spoiler alert!) ultimately results in literal self-destruction—evoking Marx’s notions of estrangement.
As I discussed earlier, Gaia personally designed and crafted all of the golden objects within the movie, in addition to all the opposite props and costumes. These golden objects shimmer and shine, but they’re unmistakably pretend in look. This creative gesture makes me smile: the strong, treasured gold is clearly crafted from modelling clay. It additionally makes an ironic nod to the pursuits of alchemy and a mirrored image on value-making mechanisms within the capitalist system. Worth is attributed to an object (whether or not gold or cash), and a complete financial and governing system is constructed upon this idea. On this context, the monetary market is usually (mis)understood as a reliable, decided entity, ignoring the truth that it consists of grasping, speculative bankers who knowingly take dangers. Gaia is very intrigued by the connotations of gold, which even right now is taken into account one of many most secure investments, carries ideological significance, will be melted down at any time, and, on this approach, will be purged of any (soiled) traces from the previous. The references to Switzerland, the place the artist grew up, are apparent. Switzerland is famend as the last word banking hub, and there are long-standing rumours about huge gold reserves beneath Zurich’s Paradeplatz (the guts of the town’s banking scene). Switzerland has additionally gained notoriety as a sanctuary for gold stolen from Jewish individuals in the course of the Second World Battle and for the wealth of assorted unsavoury dictators and millionaires. Final however not least, Switzerland is the place a serious troubled financial institution was just lately bailed out with authorities funds as a result of it was deemed “too massive to fail”—all whereas chopping funding for cultural initiatives.
One other vital aspect in The Golden Door is the presence of clocks, dials and the theme of time itself. “Time is cash,” because the saying goes, and the invention of time measurement (significantly by means of prepare station clocks) coincided with the institution of the capitalist world order. Weekly working hours and punch clocks set the tempo of life and hold it in sync. In Gaia’s movie, the cityscape abounds with clocks (which regularly don’t show the “proper” time, as I’ve noticed in Rome and Palermo), clock dials with visages, and a determine with a clock face painted on its face. Like gold, the wristwatch is a luxurious merchandise that may be handed down from era to era and worn as a useful standing image. Gaia alludes to an commercial for a luxurious watch model headquartered in Geneva (her hometown)—“You by no means really personal a Patek Philippe. You merely take care of it for the subsequent era”—and to the declarations of the Geneva-based reformer Calvin, who made banking sinless for Protestant Christians and permitted sporting watches as the only real type of jewelry. Like gold, these watches had been saved in safe vaults. Notably, Gaia names the 4 wall items within the exhibition VAULT, which had been created from golden objects that additionally featured within the movie. They shimmer with golden hues within the mild.
As talked about above, Gaia attracts specific narrative inspiration from Gothic novels of the late 18th and early nineteenth centuries. These novels, in distinction to the rationality of the Age of Enlightenment, usually explored a darkish and fantastical world of the unconscious, the psychic and the supernatural. They supplied an alternate and imaginative perspective on the world order within the real-world context of industrialisation and the social and financial upheaval that got here with it. For this very motive, I feel “The Golden Door” exhibition additionally resonates with our present occasions. With the masks and grimaces, a latent eerie and gloomy environment, a mysterious key and gleaming golden objects, Gaia underscores the parallels between the heyday of gothic novels and our up to date world. I agree along with her perspective, however I additionally consider we must always take into consideration the world with a larger sense of seriousness and concern. We now have lengthy since outsourced the work that outlined industrialisation to different components of the world, the place exploitation of individuals and the Earth continues (together with the extraction of gold but in addition different uncommon metals important for our cell telephones). In the meantime, within the West, we eagerly focus on the Anthropocene (an age formed by human exercise—however by which people precisely?) and search enlightenment and solace by means of religious practices and therapeutic crystals. In the end, we would simply soften away (like Piero, the banker) over a flickering candle flame—whether or not we possess a golden wristwatch or not.
—Gioia Dal Molin, September 2023
by Istituto Svizzero at Fondazione Sant’Elia, Palermo
till October 29, 2023