Jonas Staal, Untitled, 2015. Ink on paper, 21 x 13 cm. Courtesy the artist and Laveronica arte contemporanea.
Curated by Matteo Lucchetti
Laveronica Arte Contemporanea is pleased to present Propagandas, the first solo exhibition in Italy by Jonas Staal and developed in collaboration with the Ragusa-based Sicilian anarchist group Sicilia Libertaria.
The exhibition revolves around the ongoing research by Jonas Staal on the way different forms of governance impact aesthetic and cultural production, as a way to understand what we can define as propaganda today. The unconventional use of the plural for the title pinpoints the multiplicity of meanings that the word propaganda can assume in relation to different forms and manifestations of power, stressing that the term cannot be restricted to the negative meaning traditionally connected to totalitarian regimes. The four selected projects—dating from 2011 to 2016—are presented here in a dialogical display examining different aspects of the mutual influence between art and politics in different political systems: from the regimes of global capitalism in Monument to Capital (2013) to the revolutionary Kurdish model of democratic confederalism in New World Summit: Rojava (2015); the clash among the Spiritist ideals and the modernist urban plans of Nosso Lar Brasilia (2013–14), and the western ultranationalist discourse analysed in Closed Architecture (2011).
Each case study shows how different constructions of power imprint themselves upon spatial models: buildings, cities, parliaments and public spaces. Looking retrospectively at Staal’s past projects the grammar of a conflicted architecture emerges as a red thread, a grammar through which the artist shows the process in which ideology becomes form. Architecture takes a recurring role in these works as the domain where political and ideological discourse translates into a spatial and social structure. In this light, one could observe Staal’s works as a research of “ideological architectures.” In the exhibition, representational tools of architecture are used to show different understandings of how these ideological architectures come about: two scale models, a video rendering, two urban-planning drawings and a billboard introduce different conceptions of the term “propaganda.”
Staal’s practice is both analytical and proactive, and these two approaches often merge in the creation of platforms where the role of art is understood as a way to reach a greater impact in the social domain. Two examples are Art Property of Politics and the New World Summit. The former is a manifold study embodied in several diverse chapters—three of which are presented in Modica—where instrumental approaches to art and architecture are investigated and brought to a state of transparency: a prison model designed by an ultranationalist politician and the representation of high finance/capital in the form of the world’s tallest skyscrapers are concrete case studies in the exhibition, showing how dominant forms of political and economic power structures translate to form in our era. The latter, the New World Summit, is an artistic and political organization founded in 2012 through which the artist creates temporary and permanent parliaments for stateless and blacklisted organizations. Staged so far in six locations, among which Berlin, Brussels and Rojava (northern Syria)—these parliaments serve as platforms for the political voices excluded from official democratic spaces. After the start of the War on Terror in 2001, countless individuals and movements found themselves labelled as terrorist, unjustly imprisoned or simply deprived of the right to an active political role in society. Since 2012 the Summits offer new agoras where counter-hegemonic subjectivities gather to produce new narratives for new worlds that are unfolding. A different ideological architecture emerges here: the parliaments are not merely instruments of politics, but spaces in which we re-imagine the space of a radical democracy through the domain of art.
Propagandas will start in Ragusa on the morning of March 26 at the headquarters of Sicilia Libertaria, with a site-specific intervention by the artist that creates a bridge between his collaboration with the revolutionary autonomous Kurdish government in Rojava and the history of the Sicilian anarchist group. The programme continues in the afternoon in Modica, at Società Operaia, with the screening of video footage from the New World Summit: Rojava and a discussion entitled Revolution as Cultural Struggle featuring Firat Ak (Office Kurdistan in Italy), Pippo Gurrieri (Sicilia Libertaria) and Jonas Staal. After this, the Propagandas exhibition will officially open at Laveronica Gallery, followed by a traditional Kurdish dinner. The collaboration also features a contribution by the artist in the March issue of the monthly paper Sicilia Libertaria. Moreover, Staal will speak at the event Democracy Without State – On Kurdish Democratic Confederalism held at the Teatro Coppola – Teatro dei Cittadini in Catania on Thursday, March 24.
10:30am: Anatomy of a Revolution opening at Sicilia Libertaria, Ragusa
4pm: Revolution as Cultural Struggle screening and debate at Società Operaia, Modica
7pm: Propagandas exhibition opening at Laveronica Arte Contemporanea, Modica
9:30pm: Kurdish dinner at Società Operaia, Modica