Solo Da Bambini (Only as a Child) is a complex, yet detailed and multifaceted exhibition about childhood - as understood from the points of view of both young people and their parents. It also considers how difficult it is to put yourself in another’s place and understand their conception of the world. The show has three authors; Lina Fucà and Daniele Gaglianone, who are married with children and Paolo Leonardo. Lina and Daniele used a month long trip to Cuba with their children as an inspiration for the creation of work such as, ‘A Million Steps are not Enough’: 10km of crocheted jute thread which is strung up in a maze-like fashion. Following the pathways one discovers sets of Polaroid photos taken by Cuban locals of their daily lives. The crocheting recalls moments from Lina’s childhood where she would spend time with adult women performing “feminine work” and taking part in an intergenerational sharing of skills. The photos (and supporting video) create an atmosphere of a happy, if perhaps basic, life; of repetitive manual work surrounded by many generations of the same family.
At the core of the exhibition - and forming a visual centre piece - is a crudely fashioned carousel made from discarded and reclaimed pieces of metal. It was made in Turin in collaboration with three asylum seekers: Mouhamed About Chehou, Zakaria Cisse and Kalambani Nassirou. In Senegal and Togo, where the three men are from, the carousel would have been used by local children, but here, in the rarefied space of a contemporary art gallery, it is deemed too dangerous to use, rather it stands in for the intense problematics of cultural appropriation or indeed - as found in the rest of the exhibition - the impossibility of truly appreciating another’s circumstance and experience of the world.
The city of Turin also play an important role elsewhere in the exhibition. The work ‘I Always Thought of you’ by Lina is shot in her old (now rundown) childhood home in the district of Vanchiglia. It shows her cleaning a room and preparing to project a film on a sheet on the wall, a ritual she would have witnessed as a child and now recreates as an adult. The dirt on the floor and walls lends a heavy pathos to the event and one is left wondering if this attempt to recapture a event from one’s past would live up to that original moment and can only be clothed in a sense of loss.
In ‘Sudden Thunderstorm’, a video also by Lina, we see four young boys lined up next to each other. They run on the spot in a form of a mock competition. The video cuts to a dissolving montage of the boy’s faces. Here we have an exploration of gender roles as acted out by boys when hanging out together. They seem to examine each other, measure themselves against each other. But as is suggested repeatedly in the exhibition, this is just my adult interpretation of a moment involving young people, that, due to my age, I can no longer accurately interpret in a true way.
‘Other Eyes’ is a work on paper by Paolo and a film by Daniele. In both medias the artists take seemingly found material and then distort the imagery or mask parts out. Fragments of family lives and landscapes peer through the spaces left behind. The effect is haunting and unsettling. Few clues are given to these peoples’ lives, instead it is up to the viewer to fill in the narrative blanks and decide what the relationship might have been between these individuals.
‘The Coco Archives’ by Paolo is a video dedicated to the family restaurant of the same name in the centre of historic Turin and frequented by the large immigrant community that arrived from southern Italy in the 1960’s. In the film we see a collage of family and social photos pinned to the walls of the restaurant. Now faded and bleached the images feel as if they are from another era all together. Paolo has brought a contemporary edge to the work by reproducing some of the images and flyposting them in public places in Turin. The effect is to publicise and expand these private moments. However as the images are so worn by time it is impossible to really relate to the anonymous individuals. One stares quite blankly at the photos trying to imagine the narratives surrounding these peoples’ lives. The difficulty in doing this reinforces the main message that stand out to me in the exhibition, that trying to understand another person’s journey in life, their values, decisions, family situation, is all filtered and distorted through our own experiences which ultimately creates a real distance - and it is that distance that is displayed in this intriguing, complex and ultimately fascinating exhibition.