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'Data Mining' by Paolo Bufalini & Lorenzo Lunghi at La Rada, Locarno

Data Mining is an exhibition presenting a selection of works by Paolo Bufalini and Lorenzo Lunghi, artists whose practice looks at technology with an unusual eye, far from the cold austerity of those who use it instrumentally. The works in the exhibition use germicidal ultraviolet lamps, oxygen concentrators, biometric data collection devices, and archaic divination techniques to create a bridge between technology, poetic suggestion, and magical thinking. The title of the exhibition refers to the computer term for the automated extraction of information from the depths of the web, but opens up numerous possible interpretations, alluding to an excavation that is not literal but metaphorical. While Paolo Bufalini explores the depths of the oneiric world and of individual and collective memory through unusual photographic portraits and sculptures, Lorenzo Lunghi presents a series of mysterious sculptural devices that change the atmosphere of the exhibition through invisible but informative processes, provoking anxiety. 

At the threshold leading into the central corridor of La Rada, like a Janus opening and closing the double-faced path of the exhibition, is a transparent sculpture by Paolo Bufalini entitled Y (Luca). The work consists of a borosilicate glass container whose shape resembles a divining rod and whose finish is reminiscent of laboratory glasswork. Inside is a milk tooth immersed in a corrosive acid. Over an indefinite period of time, the acid will consume the tooth until it disappears. The work induces a perception of time in a transformative sense: the baby's tooth, an object of affection that symbolizes childhood, while still present, is subjected to a chemical process of progressive dematerialization. The shape of the container, alluding to pre-rational methods of investigation closer to alchemic-divinatory than computational thinking, lends itself well to disappointing expectations of what one might expect from Data Mining. 

Mirroring Y (Luca), on the other side of the corridor, Paolo Bufalini exhibits The Sleeper, a photographic portrait taken with a view camera and printed in full size. The subject - the artist's companion - is depicted in the intimacy of sleep, wrapped in a midnight-blue sheet that, as in the iconology of truth, is pulled apart to reveal what is hidden: the medical device for collecting biometric data that the girl is wearing. Data that the artist has transformed into an NFT, creating an atypical portrait, accessible to a few and incomprehensible to most. A three-page report with line graphs illustrating, for example, changes in posture during the night. A document whose coldness clashes with the 'latent content' of its analysis, the mystery of what goes on behind closed eyelids and which cannot be limited to a simple enumeration of blood pressure values or heart rates. 

Just like the aerial view that flies over the sleeping figure of The Sleeper like an out-of-body experience, Ultraviolette, a chandelier sculpture by Lorenzo Lunghi, looms over the viewer from the center of the ceiling, waiting to do its nightly work like a sinister alien technology. The chandelier, made of galvanized iron, steel, and pewter, is equipped with ultraviolet lamps with germicidal radiation that emit ozone for a quarter of an hour every night, sterilizing the exhibition space and restoring it to its pristine state. The public is not allowed to witness this bizarre purification ritual, except for a few minutes of blue light filtering through the windows of the Swisscom building. All that remains of this process is its photographic documentation and the sense of anticipation generated by the sculpture as it silently emits the faint pulsating light of a standby. 

Some of the structural elements that make up Ultraviolette, made of welded steel, reappear in the enigmatic metal structure that hangs in the middle of the great hall of La Rada and houses some Spie, fragile and menacing glass sculptures that resemble claws. In the version created for Data Mining, entitled Spie (Fontana), the Spie, connected to oxygen concentrators, exhale imperceptible quantities of gas through their small tubes as if they were living organisms, acting simultaneously on the physical atmosphere and on the emotional-psychological atmosphere we breathe. The disturbing hiss of this pneumatic device, whose symmetrical shape is reminiscent of a robotic steel lung, make the spectator imagine that tiny particles of oxygen are entering his respiratory tract, like anxiolytics administered to calm the very anxiety they produce. 

The Kingdom is a series of eight childhood photographs arranged in three display cases. Taken by the artist and his mother during a trip to New York, the images document a visit to the Hall of Biodiversity at the American Museum of Natural History, a permanent installation of thousands of specimens from the living world. The Kingdom is a clear reference to the taxonomic nomenclature to which these specimens belong, but it also alludes to other realms, playing with the multiple meanings of the term. Such as that of fantasy, in which the child lives lost in the joyful reverie of an eternal Wunderkammer, or the realm of memory that the adult continually reprocesses through photographs, ghostly snapshots stapled like insects in entomological cases. 

Self-doubt, sex addiction, anorexia and Anger, ex-boyfriends, depression, paranoia are all inspired by a service sold on the online platform Etsy. The Grey Kindred Spirit Shop, based in West Virginia, performs a ritual of its own invention by proxy: following a precise practice, personal traumas, wrongs suffered, and negativity are transcribed onto an object, which is then thrown off a mountain. This form of exorcism is the starting point for the two still lifes, displayed on small tables that act as ostensory devices, differing in that the fruit is left to rot, alluding not so much to an act of sublimation as to the decay of an unresolved content, the decomposition of an offering on an altar. 

Specchio riflesso and Specchietto riflesso, by Lorenzo Lunghi, are small round mirrors made by the artist through a chemical reaction of silver nitrate and potassium hydroxide, which forms a fleeting reflective patina on the back of concave glasses. Like do-it-yourself Anish Kapoor's, these objects attract the viewer's gaze with the reflection of their upturned image. As you approach, you are confronted with a grotesque distortion of your own face. Then you see an inscription engraved on the back of the mirror: 'Specchio riflesso buttati nel cesso'. The phrase, a childish Italian joke in vogue in the 1990s, acts as a magic formula that, like the light of a solar oven, channels all the energy of derision against the malignant forces that besiege those who, in seeing themselves reflected, benefit from the beneficial effects of this mantra. 

To complete the exhibition, a luminous sculpture by Lorenzo Lunghi is placed outside the exhibition rooms, at the top of the stairs leading to the Rada spaces. Parassita d’ansia, a sculptural concretion of polymer masses that seems to sprout spontaneously above an emergency light, acts as an enigmatic preamble to the exhibition, like a sort of aberrant ornament placed at the top of a portal. By highlighting a functional element of a building through acts of sabotage, Lorenzo Lunghi produces an almost parodistic emphasis on what he calls the "signage of anxiety". 

6.5.23 — 11.6.23

Photo by Tiziano Ercoli & Riccardo Giancola

La rada

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