Michelangelo Galliani


…to seek and be able to distinguish who and what, in the middle of hell, is not hell.
And make it last, and give it space…

Italo Calvino

It cannot be said that Kublai Khan necessarily believed all that Marco Polo recounted when, in the piece of writing that may be considered Italo Calvino’s most beautiful, he describes to him the cities his ambassadors have visited, but it is certain that the Emperor of the Tartars continues listening to the young Venetian with more interest and attention than that given to any other envoy or explorer, "In the life of emperors", writes the author in his Invisible Cities, "there comes a moment, following the pride in the boundless magnitude of lands we nave conquered, the melancholy and relief in knowing that soon we shall renounce trying to know or understand them; a sense of emptiness that comes over us one evening with the smell of elephants after the rain and sandalwood embers cooling in the brazier (…). It is that desperate moment in which we discover that this empire which had seemed to us the sum of all that is wonderful is in collapse, without purpose or form, that corruption is too ingrained for our sceptre to offer protection, that our triumph over opposing rulers has made of us the inheritors of their long downfall". It is to this melancholy emperor, who has realized that his boundless power courts, for nothing in a world in collapse, that a visionary traveller tells of impossible cities: there is such a microscopic city which expands and expands until it is made up of many concentric cities in expansion, a spiders web city suspended over an abyss, or a two-dimensional, Moriana, which has no thickness and is made up of just two faces, like a playing card, with a figure on each side which cannot be divided or look et each. It is only through Marco Polo’s tales that Kublai Khan can also to discern, through "the crumbling walls and towers, the watermark of a design so subtle so as to escape the bite of termites". This is the idea behind the work, estranged from both time and space, the same idea of an "invisible" design on which Michelangelo Galliani bases his exploration of other worlds which he then transposes and conceptualizes in his latest range of work. The theme of imaginary places dreamed up by Calvino is represented in the work of the young artist in the form of finds and memories of imaginary cultures. The Invisible Cities of both the writer and the sculptor are a dream born from the heart of the unliveable city, what both writer and sculptor hold dear is the discovery of the secret reasons for which men live in it, reasons which may have a value beyond all forms of crises. The cities are an amalgam of many elements: memory, dreams. the signs of a language. The cities are a piece for exchange, not only of goods, but of words, desires, memories. Galliani’s sculptures, like Calvino’s book, open and close with the image of happy cities (and citizens) which continually assume a form only to then disappear, hidden in the unhappy cities (and citizens). Visionary author and traveller, the artist from the Emilia region digs into the inanimate substance of marble in his quest for an image, invisible at first, but which then seems to come to life spontaneously from within the raw block of stone. The artistic dream springs from the cities of Calvino, such as Fedora, Diomira, Sofronia and Ledelma which inspire him to create an installation in marble hidden behind great wooden chests which are imagined as coming from museums in these spectral polis. These chests carry the stamps of the National Gallery of Diomira, the Musée des Beaux Art of Sofronia, the Archaeological Museum of Fedora or the Pontifical Academy of Arts of Ledelma. On the inside wrapped in bullet cartridges and straw packing, the marbles of the invisible city hover in a space-time dimension somewhere between dream and reality. They encompass what is to be and what is to come, the necessity and unconditional freedom of art, the transitory nature of man’s destiny which only images of the past and imaginary projection of the future save from oblivion. It is about memories, finds which are testimony to the realities and cultures of other, imaginary worlds.

Galliani loves working at the interface of life and fiction, reality and invention. Marble is a substance which challenges time and as such, death itself, placing itself beyond details of a purely tangible nature, beyond appearance, so as to safeguard over time the changeability of reality and the inalterability of being, of the existence and inconstancy of bodies conceived as a combination of parts put together as a whole. His works of art seem to have been created in tiny individual pieces, even over a long period of time. Like a poet penning his lyric poetry, the artist likewise is guided by a variety of inspirations. And he seems to go forward, following signposts along the way, many imaginary signposts, resuming the ideas which spin around his mind, the visions that they capture. There is one signpost for objects, one for people, one for animals, another for history of art, one for genetics and biology, one for mythology, one more for the senses and one for the scenes in his life, all beyond both time and space. When a signpost starts to look full, he begins to think about the work of art he may draw out of it. In this way, whole series come into being, the islands, the Metamorphosis, the Marbles in Vitro the Medical sculptures, the Twin Marbles up to the most recent Flesh of others and Marbles from two worlds. Whilst following his itinerary, Galliani opts to confront the classical tradition, carefully looking to his Renaissance name-sake, to Jacopo della Quercia, Medardo Rosso and also Adolf Wildt, and even oriental statuary, Thai and Burmese, and the classical perfection of ancient Greece. But, a true child of his time, he does not neglect the appeal of films, the fervour for science-fiction flourishing at the end of the twentieth century, expressed, for example, through the pitiless portrait of The Elephantman by the brilliant David Lynch, or th horrors of The Fly by the visionary David Cronemberg. The artist chooses to work in a way which is comparable to the great masters yet at the same time does not forget more contemporary themes, especially those of scientific dictatorship and genetic experiments. He marries classical technique with allusions to an unsettling present, made up of hybridization and mutation, mixing classical culture with contemporary tension. In one scene, suspended between mythology and science fiction, he speaks of nature being increasingly manipulated, where the identity of being is forever more in crisis and where the unsettling spectre of cloning and the dismembering of the human body shows its face. The figures and faces adapt to the most unusual and improbable incisions in the marble, building themselves up around imperfections and impairments in blocks which are never perfectly squared. The harmony of ephebic lines is disfigured by veins of raw stone like enormous scars, harmonious and graceful bodies are oppressed by the impossibility of developing fully. In the end, having been pleaded with and persuaded by all these constrictions, he decides that all of his works must be a challenge to fortuitousness. an attempt to give order and soul to irregular and difficult scraps of marble. Where the raw cuts and the parts left natural have the same weight as the finished, rubbed-down faces, and where the rock crystals shimmer like grains of salt. The young sculptor brings to life mutants, anthropomorphic beasts, impaired and tragic heroes who are part of a new mythology, somewhere on the border between the past and present. He makes connections and brings about contiguity between past actions, creating a whole where object is time on its space-time continuum (past, present, future): this is the main task of memory, and of our author, too.

Maurizio Sciaccaluga