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Theatrum Mundi, Galleria del Carbone, Ferrara (IT), 2019

Theatrum Mundi, Galleria del Carbone, Ferrara (IT), 2019

Simonetta Moro, Theatrum Mundi, poster

Theatrum Mundi is the title of the solo exhibition by Simonetta Moro, curated by Paolo Volta, at the Galleria del Carbone, Ferrara (Italy), March 9-31, 2019. The works on paper have been made between 2014 and 2019, and comprise cityscapes and landscapes of places that have been at the center of current and ancient wars in the Middle East, as well as works on Mylar that represent imaginary cartographies of World War I theaters of war, of which the centennial recently occurred.
This choice is guided by the idea that events of the world which seem to be historically, conceptually, and ideologically far apart, are in some way connected with each other, not in a linear and orderly sequence (according to an antiquated conception of history), but rather according to the logic of overlapping and points of rupture, which evoke either the figure of the ruin or the palimpsest. The “views” thus obtained summon up a world in which the historical events do not cancel each other out, but accumulate one upon the other in a way that is reminiscent of the Baroque allegory.

Read the Press Release in Italian published in Exibart

Simonetta Moro Theatrum Mundi Galleria del Carbone view
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Simonetta Moro, Theatrum Mundi, Galleria del Carbone

Simonetta Moro, Theatrum Mundi, view of the installation

It is not a coincidence that the figure of the “Theatrum Mundi” became popular especially in the Baroque period, before being retrieved centuries later by Postmodernism. The theatrical character of our lived experiences, particularly in the way they are actualized in the simulacrum of media and political space, transforms even the most serious events into dramas taking place on the scene of the world, immediately spectacularized, denounced and forgotten at the incessant rhythm of the “infosphere”. As a witness of this situation, the artist can only try to reconnect the threads of a frayed fabric of memory. Many of the places at the center of the current news have a long history of cultural inventions, invasions and military destructions, foreign occupations, human migrations, and so on. The ancient Semitic city of Palmyra was for a long time a Roman colony, but also an important crossroad along the Silk Route that connected East and West in antiquity and in the Middle Ages. The modern state of Syria, like the rest of Mesopotamian nations, is the outcome of the partitions that followed World War I controlled by the winning European powers. What appears like a fragmentary and incoherent world is actually the result of specific political decisions, some of which lost in the archives of history. To recall these connections through the visual assemblage of landscapes and cityscapes is one of the tasks that the artist can take on herself, without any intention of solving problems, but to show how one can think in a broader way – a more panoramic way – the “theatre of the world” in which we live. With a final thought: that the destruction of the land and of the historical heritage of a people is the first step toward the destruction of a people.

Simonetta Moro, Theatrum Mundi, Ur - Nasiryah

Simonetta Moro, Ur (Nasyriah), 2018, mixed media on paper

Below the English translation of the text by Claudio Cerritelli in the exhibition catalogue:

About Simonetta Moro’s Art

There is a critical-theoretical premise that must be taken into account when commenting on the works of this exhibition, a preliminary consideration that supports the reasons on which Simonetta Moro’s pictorial language is based. It is a creative conception that escapes from exercised experimentalism at all costs in the name of novelty, a reflection that accompanies the ways of finding the past and its paths of assimilation. There is also, in the aesthetic perspective of the artist, the need to give new imaginative substance to the quotation of cartographic documents scattered in the world archives, to reintroduce their reading with the ancient means of drawing and colour, representation tools used to unveil the future possibilities of the legacy of the past. It is no coincidence that an image dear to Moro’s critical conscience is that of Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus, the angel of history that Walter Benjamin interpreted as a symbolic figure with the gaze staring at the ruins of the world, his shoulders turned to the future, almost forced to sublimate himself in silence, to remain silent in the face of broken identities of the visible.

The unspeakable vastness of this silence is alluded to in the scenarios of despoiled beauty that Moro transfigures with her unmistakable style: recreating appearances of buried or endangered signs, places of surviving memory, splinters of a wounded beauty, degraded and with no escape. The artist-cartographer names without reticence the references of her pictorial transmutations, which tap into photographs and archival documents, magazine and newspaper findings, military maps and geographical atlases, emblematic icons linked to the Middle East and ancient Palestine, references that range from the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the Ottoman Empire, events of the First World War, with a look at some futurist artists who disappeared in the war (Boccioni, Erba, Sant’Elia).

Simonetta Moro, Grand Delusions: Theatre of WW1 - Homage to Boccioni Erba Sant'Elia

Simonetta Moro, Grand Delusions: Homage to Boccioni, Erba, Sant’Elia, 2014, mixed media on Mylar

In the cycle of the “Grand Delusions” (2014) Moro breaks the usual narrative embankments, adopts the coexistence of figurative elements and visual verbal traces, through a proliferation of fragments and iconographic details, descriptive forms and scriptural handwritings, indelible fragments superimposed on each other with fluid, cumulative logic. In addition to recovering the footsteps and features of anthropological pathways, this cycle of works (made with wax pastels and inks on translucent Mylar sheets) expresses different levels of meaning, collective memories and individual stories, spatial flows and temporal resonances, imaginative nutrients for dreaming about the future through the critical awareness of the present.
The expositive sequence is, therefore, a journey between the visible and the submerged, between recognizable figures and hidden footprints in the underground cracks, indistinct perceptions entrusted to ephemeral palimpsests of boundless stratifications.

For Moro, the investigation of previous epochs is her desire to belong to the “theatre of the world” through an operation of slow mental digging, a process she herself called “pictorial archaeology of memory”. This perspective has nothing restrictive or dogmatic, rethinking the legacy of history means opening our minds to new possibilities of knowledge able to illuminate the opaque face of the past.
In the systematic reconnaissance of places, even the least striking finding reveals tension towards the future, an amplification of the role of art beyond the linguistic canons and the classifying parameters that often respond to the combinatorial game of dry stylistic exercises. To counteract this reductive planning of knowledge is the commitment that Moro pursues in her maps of imaginary landscapes. In fact, the iconographic maps are never erudite quotations for their own sake, but means of pure drawing sensitivity, pre-texts of pictorial interiorisation. The dominant character is the high point of observation, the so-called panoramic view, bird’s eye view, a planimetric optics where the control of the scenic elements gradually fades into the corporeal atmosphere of materials, in the variable surfacing of the “forma urbis”.

Simonetta Moro, Theatrum Mundi, Jerusalem

Simonetta Moro, Jerusalem, 2017, mixed media on paper

The archaeological subjects are transfigured by the dust of colour, by the touch of the lines, in some sheets the shapes are simulacra of a humanity overwhelmed by its illnesses but also by the signs of transience. With careful skill, Moro communicates thoughts never unmoved by the places observed, aimed rather at making the painful morphologies of the shattered territories palpitate with measured strokes, giving duration to their precarious aspect. Each image comes alive through chromatic features and sediments, fragmented signs and architectural details, means to capture the unmistakable atmosphere of the ruins, the emptiness and desolation that emerges from them. Analytical and at the same time emotional is the look with which Moro penetrates in the interstices of the geological warps, the representation of ancient cities oscillates between recognizable findings and abstract appearances, luminous transparencies and obfuscations, shadow effects and nuanced tones, pictorial values attuned to the echoes of the past as a reflection of the present.

Simonetta Moro, Theatrum Mundi, Aleppo

Simonetta Moro, Aleppo, 2018, mixed media on paper

Describing the ghosts of this Theatrum Mundi means crossing the latitudes of the past as a reflection of the present to the point of losing a linear logic, abolish the defined boundaries, immersing oneself in the latent apparitions of the invisible, listening to the mysterious sounds of distant and immeasurable worlds. At the beginning of the route we are attracted by the idea that any map can be observed freely, and this may also be plausible. In fact, a better reading is the one that interprets the reticular structures as evocation of besieged territories, urban bodies marked by deep scars (Kut, 2016). The tracks thicken and branch off from the center towards the sides, they are generated by the piercing of the sign, the confident strokes of the black flake off and vanish in the nuanced textures of grey, in the rarefied vapours that wrap around the conglomerate, almost close to getting lost in the blurred nothingness.

Simonetta Moro Theatrum Mundi Galleria del Carbone Kut

Simonetta Moro, Kut, 2016, graphite on paperclick on the image to enlarge it

On another sheet, the representation of the city is touched by slight beats of colour, signs and stains just hinted at as if the light were coming from the bottom, acting from behind, under the epidermis of the visible (Palmyra I, 2016). Equally astonished is the panoramic view that from the foreground goes upwards, almost as if to cross the horizon, overcoming the last barrier of the gaze (Palmyra II, 2016). The compositional rhythm is marked by the remains of columns scattered in the open field, disorientated ruins surviving the arduous historical events, the opaque remains of a lost temple, memory of its former glory.

Simonetta Moro, Theatrum Mundi, Palmyra I

Simonetta Moro, Palmyra I, 2016, mixed media on paper

On the other hand, the grazing course of the sign and colour strokes revolves around marvelous relics now timeless (Aleppo, 2017), an image permeated by vibrations that expand from the figural nucleus into the indeterminate breath of emptiness, inhabited by fluences of indistinct luminosity. The veil of light is like a mental filter spread over the entire surface, placed with the same intensity at each point of the planar vision. This specific quality is particularly evident when the ethereal nature of colour is declared. This dimension is even more accentuated by the disoriented presence of a plane coming from the outside, a metaphor for the artist who observes the ghost of the city at an appropriate distance (Jerusalem, 2017). Perspectively different is the glance played on the transversal movement of the frontal point of view (Samaria-Sebaste, 2017). This side-view imposes a structural rhythm to the image, which the artist makes fluid and vibrant through the impulsive fragmentation of the pictorial stroke. The vision of Ur (2018) is of a completely different constructive tenor, the spatial arrangement is delineated with compositional firmness, similar to a fortress that encloses the stratified events of history, a place protected from the pitfalls of oblivion.

Simonetta Moro, Theatrum Mundi, Samaria Sebaste

Simonetta Moro, Samaria-Sebaste (Augusteum), 2017, mixed media on paper

The iconographic variants that Moro stages are also open to radical stylistic changes; this is what happens in the Baroque landscape of Mosul (2018), immersed in a livid and dark light, dense and enveloping in its restless metamorphosis. They respond to the contrasting forces of nature, the luminous wonders of shadows, the perceptive ambivalences that the chromatic writing expresses with compelling seduction.

Simonetta Moro, Theatrum Mundi, Mosul - Baroque Landscape

Simonetta Moro, Mosul (Baroque Landscape), 2017, mixed media on paper

In tune with the intersections of the past-present we meet other imaginative occasions; the work dedicated to Venice (2017) evokes the beauty of a city eternally prey to the myth of itself. In this sense, the symbolic image of the map is a warning to defend the fragility of its beauty, threatened by the erosion of time but mainly besieged by environmental policies of a speculative kind.
Finally, it is clear that what links the old themes to the contemporary repercussions is not only the iconographic thread that unites them, but rather the hope to convey through them cognitive and aesthetic emotions. It does not matter if this longing corresponds to an unlikely messianic utopia; what matters is to know how to realize it through the intentional transfiguration of painting. And this happens with that exact sensitivity that Moro can instill in her discoveries, awakening the attention of the reader with images that emerge from collective history on the threshold of inner vision, which is ultimately the message addressed to everyone’s conscience.

Claudio Cerritelli
(Translated from the Italian by Daniela Sarnacchiaro)

Download the Italian version as pdf: Moro_Cerritelli_Theatrum Mundi.pdf

Simonetta Moro, Theatrum Mundi, L'ora ella conoscibilità, Panorama Machine

Simonetta Moro, "L’ora della conoscibilità." Ink on paper & Panorama Machine with scrolling mechanism, 2019 (click to watch the video) from Simonetta Moro on Vimeo.

Text in the drawing excerpted from Walter Benjamin, translated into Italian by Giorgio Agamben:

“L’indice storico delle immagini dice, infatti, non solo che esse appartengono a un’epoca determinata, ma soprattutto che giungono a leggibilità soltanto in un’epoca determinata. E precisamente questo giungere a ‘leggibilità’ è un determinato punto critico del loro intimo movimento. Ogni presente è determinato da quelle immagini che gli sono sincrone: ogni ora [Jetzt] è l’ora di una determinata conoscibilità. In quest’ora, la verità è carica di tempo fino a frantumarsi. . . Non è che il passato getti la sua luce sul presente o il presente la sua luce sul passato, ma immagine è ciò in cui quel che è stato si unisce fulmineamente con l’ora in una costellazione. In altre parole: immagine è la dialettica nell’immobilità.”
(Walter Benjamin, GS, V, 1, pp. 577-578; cit. in Walter Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire: Un poeta lirico nell’età del capitalismo avanzato, a cura di Giorgio Agamben, Barbara Chitussi, Clemens-Carl Härle, Neri Pozza, 2015)

English trans.:
“The historical index of images says, in fact, not only that they belong to a determinate age, but overall that they come to legibility only at a particular time. And indeed this acceding ‘to legibility’ constitutes a specific critical point in the movement at their interior. Every present day is determined by the images that are synchronic with it: each ‘now’ [Jetzt] is the now of a particular knowability. In it, truth is charged to the bursting point with time. . . It is not that what is past casts its light on what is present, or that what is present casts its light on what is past, but the image is that in which what has been unites itself with the now immediately in a constellation. In other words: the image is the dialectic at a standstill.”
(Walter Benjamin, AP, 462-63; GS, 5:578)

Simonetta Moro Theatrum Mundi Galleria del Carbone
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Simonetta Moro Theatrum Mundi Galleria del Carbone
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Simonetta Moro Theatrum Mundi Galleria del Carbone

Simonetta Moro, Venice 2016, mixed media on paperclick on the image to enlarge it

Simonetta Moro Theatrum Mundi Galleria del Carbone
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Simonetta Moro, Theatrum Mundi, opening night

Galleria del Carbone, opening night with critical introductions by Paolo Volta (left), Daniele Degli Angeli (center), and Claudio Cerritelli (right)

Simonetta Moro, Theatrum Mundi, opening night

Galleria del Carbone, opening night

Via del Carbone Ferrara

Via del Carbone, Ferrara, Church of San Giacomo

Simonetta Moro, Theatrum Mundi, il Resto del Carlino

Il Resto del Carlino, March 10, 2019

All images Simonetta Moro ©
Artworks photo credits: Cibele Newman

Simonetta Moro Theatrum Mundi Galleria del Carbone catalogue
Catalogue available at Galleria del Carbone, Via del Carbone 18/a, 44121 Ferrara (IT)

Download a low-res pdf version: Theatrum_Mundi_CATALOG_web.pdf

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