In collaboration with Noah Stolz and the Stella Maris Archive.
The work of Marco Poloni spans cinema, photography, text and installation. In 2014 the artist established an agency to bring together fifteen years of work, ‘The Analogue Island Bureau.’ The agency seeks to build an index of plots, problems and tropes of the Mediterranean Sea. This archive documents and reformulates a number of geopolitical scripts and narratives of this area, focusing on relations between social invisibility and power, subjectivity and ideology. Poloni’s most recent set of works, ‘Codename: Osvaldo’ comprises of several different case studies, two of which are currently juxtaposed in Galerie Campagne Première to form a large-scale installation.
‘Codename: Osvaldo’ fans out from a single point of origin, the charismatic and complex figure of Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. Millionaire and Guevarist revolutionary, Feltrinelli founded the eponymous publishing house in Milan in 1954 and was active in the European anti-imperialist movements of the 60s and 70s under the battle name of compañero Osvaldo.
Poloni approaches Feltrinelli from several sides, the intersecting lines form a rhizomatic narrative about a repressed chapter of the Italian national identity. In the first case study, ‘The Pistol of Monika Ertl’, Poloni narrates the killing of Roberto Quintanilla, the General Consul of Bolivia in Hamburg, by a young German woman, Monika Ertl.As head of the Bolivian secret police, Quintanilla had captured Che Guevara in the Bolivian jungle in October 1967, and commanded his summary execution. For this, he was chosen by the revolutionary underground to be killed as an act of revenge. Monika Ertl, daughter of cinematographer and photographer Hans Ertl, the director of photography for Leni Riefenstahl’s controversial 1938 documentary film Olympia, settled with her family at La Paz at the end of WW2. In the late 60s Monika joined the Bolivian Liberation Army, and received her military training in Chile and Cuba.The revolver she used to terminate Quintanilla was given to her by Feltrinelli.
The second case study presented here is the atlas of photographs, texts, films and objects titled ‘The Orgosolo Laboratory Project’, which was co-produced with Swiss curator Noah Stolz.The work is a visual examination of the events that took place between 1968 and 1969 in the village of Orgosolo in central Sardinia, in which the population of a village dissolved the City Council and established a Popular Assembly in its place – a unique case of self-government in the entire history of postwar Italy.These events culminated in the November 1968 mobilization known as ‘The Four Days of the Republic of Orgosolo’, when the population of Orgosolo was able to block a war game in nearby Pratobello, defeating the Italian State and taking a stand against inner-Italian colonialism.Visual witnesses to these events are not only the many propagandist wall graffitis in Orgosolo, whose pictorial language borrows heavily from the South American tradition of murales, but also the many militant brochures and booklets which were published and distributed by Feltrinelli.
Not only the subject matter of ‘Codename: Osvaldo’ evokes pictures from crime film and literature, Poloni’s installation is also formally reminiscent of criminological and forensic methods: walls covered with photographs and textual fragments seem like mind maps recording the state and progress of police investigations, while slide projectors demonstrate forensic evidence in court.
Contrary to what the formal setting suggests, Poloni’s installation refuses to follow any kind of logical system, seem randomly placed on the wall. Different image genres – police, press, ethnography and fashion – hang next to each other, seemingly unconnected. Poloni’s test assembly, his experimental arrangement is relieved of any function, the pictures don’t seem to refer to anything except themselves.
That way, the assembly becomes a comment about visual culture: photographs, being authentic documents, circulate, create historical credibility and generate collective, official narratives which often leave out crucial parts. Poloni, even though he makes use of the same technique of montage, doesn’t supply definitive results. In ‘Codename: Osvaldo’, the images refuse to be used as an indexical chain constructing historical narratives, they rather amount to a stream of consciousness, which only highlight moments and details without revealing the whole.
The gallery thus becomes a laboratory which deals only superficially with historical events, but rather becomes a reflexion on the loose connectivity of the revolutionary galaxy of that period and on our fragmentary knowledge of it, as well as on the structure of real and prosthetic memory in general.
Text: Nina Lucia Groß