Pirelli HangarBicocca presents a solo exhibition of works by Micol Assaël (Rome 1979), one of the most original voices in international art. Her works have been shown at important biennials and in many museums, including the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and the Kunsthalle in Basel. Micol Assaël’s works create a dialogue between art and science, rationality and imagination, past and future, taking us on a totally immersive journey and inviting us to venture into unusual physical environments and into alienating and at times extreme states of perception.
With its intentionally mysterious title, ILIOKATAKINIOMUMASTILOPSARODIMAKOPIOTITA, theexhibition is curated by Andrea Lissoni. Occupying over 1800 square metres of Pirelli HangarBicocca, it includes four of the artist’s most significant works and a new work. The project will take viewers on a physical and mental journey through environments in which extreme conditions are created, with disturbing sounds, smells and electrical tensions.
Assaël is particularly interested in the scientific theories and instruments of the past, and she brings out their more appealing and disturbing aspects. She has always been fascinated by physical and electrical phenomena and she makes her works like experiments, with human beings and their limits as their unit of measure. Micol Assaël thus brings into play the cognitive and sensorial aspects of the viewers, who are subjects in situations that are at once stunning and menacing, in places inhabited by bare electrical circuits, powerful air funnels, cooling chambers, and magnetic and electrostatic fields.
Some of the artist’s key works, covering the period from 2003 to 2009, and the new work will be shown together for the first time in the ILIOKATAKINIOMUMASTILOPSARODIMAKOPIOTITA exhibition. The exhibition space at Pirelli HangarBicocca is being transformed, as the artist herself puts it, into ‘a sort of pulsating engine room of a ship, or an ideal studio.’
Untitled (2003), which was shown at the Venice Biennale in 2003, is a room made entirely of iron, through which powerful currents of air are blown. It is furnished with a table, bed and cupboard, all of which are suspended about 4 cm from the floor. Beneath them run high-voltage cables from which sparks fly. Physical and electrical phenomena have been at the heart of Micol Assaël’s artistic research since 2001, when she made the first version of Vorkuta, working on her memories of a journey to the Vorkuta gulag in Siberia. In this exhibition we see the version revised in 2003 for a show at the Smart Project Space in Amsterdam. Vorkuta (2003) is a refrigerated cell set to -30°C, with an electrical power panel and a chair maintained at a constant temperature of 37°C.
Mindfall (2004-2007), which was shown at Manifesta 5, consists of 21 motors placed on tables in aroom/office inside a container. Turned on alternately, they generate an almost deafening noise, with smoke filling the air with a perceptible smell of fuel.
432 Hz, a work from 2009, is a setting with a series of frames of various sizes and heights, arranged on fir-wood walls. Each frame contains a back-lit wax drawing and a sound track, which reproduces the hum of bees whenever the visitor moves through the space. The frequency chosen for the title of the work, 432 Hz, is that of the ‘scientific tuning fork’ with which musical instruments are tuned, and which is produced naturally by bees humming.
Collaboration, which is a key aspect of Micol Assaël’s work, is evidenced in the process of designing and creating the projects, during which the artist seeks advice from research institutes, scientists and expert technicians.
The new installation made for the HangarBicocca exhibition is a perfect illustration of the processesbehind the development and evolution of Micol Assaël’s works. It is in the form an environment made of an assembly of aluminium and glass display units. These were originally designed by the artist to show the drawings for her Inner Disorder series of 1999-2001 and were used in the Fomu’ka travelling exhibition of 2009. Rearranged to form a transparent geometric structure, the showcases have taken on a new lease of life in their transformation from a functional exhibition instrument to part of a new work. Either from the outside or after entering the structure, visitors can watch the creation of electrostatic charges produced by a ‘Kelvin hydroelectric generator’. This is a device that uses falling drops of water to generate voltage differences by electrostatic induction occurring between interconnected, oppositely charged systems.