Within the perimeter of the Largo Isarco’s complex exists two freestanding structures: one flat and square and the second more vertical. The freestanding object to the east of the Great Hall, dubbed the Cisterna, is divided into three rooms with three interior “pulpits” connected to an exterior balcony. Its configuration suggests a precise industrial need that now reads as a quasi-religious environment. Until 14 May, Slight Agitation is a four-part project of newly commissioned, site-specific works presented in sequence within the Cisterna, one of the pre-existing buildings at Fondazione Prada’s Milan venue.
Curated by the Fondazione Prada Thought Council – whose current members are Shumon Basar, Cédric Libert, Elvira Dyangani Ose, and Dieter Roelstraete – Slight Agitation will unfold in four chapters realised by the international artists Tobias Putrih (b. 1972), Pamela Rosenkranz (b. 1979), Laura Lima (b. 1971) and Gelitin, the Austrian collective, active since 1993. The title of the project was inspired by the poetic expression “une légère agitation”, employed by the French historian Fernand Braudel to describe the tidal movement of the Mediterranean. This metaphor embodies the Thought Council’s starting point to present interventions by artists whose practices differ considerably in philosophical and material terms, all of them commissioned to interfere and dialogue with the spatial context of the Cisterna and to influence the viewer’s physical experience and all her or his attendant senses through their works.
Pamela Rosenkranz’s work explores how physical and biological processes affect art. So what happens when biology – specifically, the core materials and processes that underpin the life cycle of all living beings, for example birth, existence, disease, and death, becomes synthetically replicable by humans and, consequently, a building block for design? Rosenkranz’s colossal installation Infection is based on a neuro-active parasite, of which an estimated 30% of the world’s population is affected.
An impressive and green-lit mountain of sand is formed inside the Cisterna’s tall spaces, the realm of research and practice in which basic processes of life are restructured and redesigned. The Swiss artist creates an emerging area of research that can broadly be described as the design and construction of novel artificial biological pathways, organisms or devices, or the redesign of existing natural biological systems, contrasting the historic architecture. The sand is imbued with the fragrance of synthetic cat pheromones that activates a specific, biologically determined attraction or repulsion and subconsciously influence the public’s movement. RGB green light illuminates the peak of this chemically altered nature gently evaporating the scent.
Rosenkranz’s intervention could be perceived at different distances, which heighten and alter the architecture of the Cisterna. The circular plan, and chemical investigation, is an oblique memory of the alcohol distilling vats that were formerly housed there. The green light leaking through the windows transforms the building into a vitrine, a luminous object sensed from the outside. The blocking, obstructing experience of the sculptural intervention could be absorbed by a number of angles, revealing the consistency of an overwhelming volume. Engaging with smell, heat and coldness, mass and density, light and its absence, Infection creates an open-ended interface between life and the arts.
Pamela Rosenkranz: Slight Agitation 2/4 runs until 14 May at Fondazione Prada, Milan. For more information: www.fondazioneprada.org
1. Installation view of the exhibition Slight Agitation 2/4: Pamela Rosenkranz. Infection, (2017). Photo Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti.