Francesco Zanot for Fondazione Prada Osservatorio, Milan: Questioning Pictures: Stefano Graziani

Curated by Fantom’s Francesco Zanot, Questioning Pictures: Stefano Graziani is on view at Fondazione Prada Osservatorio in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan. The exhibition is open to the public from 9 November 2017 throughout 26 February 2018.

The exhibition includes a new body of works commissioned by Fondazione Prada that explores photography as a tool for narration, cataloguing and reinterpretation. Stefano Graziani investigates archival and conservation systems in museums like the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal, Canada; Sir John Soane’s Museum in London, UK; the Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland; Museum Insel Hombroich in Neuss, Germany; the Museo di Castelvecchio in Verona, Italy; and the Plaster Cast Gallery at Museo Canova in Possagno, Italy, focusing on the ambivalent relationship between photography and the museum object.

Photography navigates an ambiguous territory in Graziani’s work: on one hand he documents diverse materials like drawings and architectural models, books, photographs and paintings; on the other, he embarks on an interpretative path through the careful use of light and camera angles, as well as the inclusion of disturbing elements in his shots. His photographs not only shed light on museum collections and archives usually denied to visitors, but reactivate them according to entirely subjective logic and perspectives.

Questioning Pictures is a sort of crash test designed to assess the museum’s ability to resist external attacks and increase its permeability in proportion. Graziani transforms the invisible into something visible, preventing these terms from being subsequently reversed, and thus sheds light on one of the primary mechanisms through which museums generate and control their power. The regulations that museums impose on reproducing materials in their collections fulfil the same role. Graziani systematically evades them, carrying out an act of civil disobedience by adopting an ethical and formal rigor reminiscent of the photographs of Walker Evans and Lewis Baltz.

The exhibition set up was designed by studio OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen as a system of colourful, modular screens laid out across the two levels of the Osservatorio, creating unexpected visual and semantic combinations between the photographs and the objects represented. A model of a building by Aldo Rossi is connected to a drawing by Gordon Matta-Clark; a late nineteenth-century photo album of Pompeii is set alongside a plastic model of the Pantheon on display at Sir John Soane’s Museum in London; a plaster by Antonio Canova conserved in Possagno dialogues with Lucas Cranach’s Three Graces (on display at the Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland).
This heterogeneous collection of objects and artworks is united through Graziani’s thinking, as the artist transforms them into disorienting and unexpected still lifes. As Zanot notes, they are “enigmatic, just like the nature of the photograph, which here becomes unmistakable: it is a non-document document.”

In this project photography functions as a conveyer belt, collector and transmission vehicle that can reconnect and combine works that are far apart in space and time, and that are often impossible to physically transfer from one place to another. It also operates as a tool that – through subtle deviations, minimal alterations and personal interpretation – unhinges traditional archival and cataloguing systems in order to grant new visibility, and therefore new life, to the documents, materials and artworks conserved in museum collections. Graziani injects “visual and interpretative viruses” into these archives, accomplishing a feat of “hacking” that triggers a potentially infinite chain of new analyses and enigmas.

Questioning Pictures is accompanied by a publication in the Fondazione’s Quaderni series, which includes a text by Francesco Zanot and an interview to Stefano Graziani by Giovanna Borasi, curator at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal.

Stefano Graziani (Bologna, 1971), has published, among others: Nature Morte, Fictions and Excerpts, Galleria Mazzoli Modena; Neon Palladio, Architecture without Content, form epfl; Fruits and Fireworks, a+mbookstore; Caraibi, Humboldt Books; Salto Grande Estasi, with a text by Ilaria Speri, Skinnerboox; It seemed as Though the Mist Itself Had Screamed, with a text by Francesco Zanot, Galleria Mazzoli Modena; Conversazioni notturne, Quodlibet; Some of these Places have been serving in greater Depth, text by Francesco Zanot, Neo Udine, Memory Talks, a+mbookstore; Under the Volcano and Other Stories, Galleria Mazzoli Modena; Taxonomies, a+mbookstore. Editor of Jeff Wall, Gestus, Quodlibet/Abitare. He co-founded, with other colleagues, the architectural magazines San Rocco and Genda Magazine, constantly collaborating with publishing houses and magazines. His work has been internationally exhibited and it is part of private and public collections (CCA Montreal, Maxxi Rome, Fondazione Fotografia di Modena). Curator in 2017 of Trough your Eyes, the photography room introducing the works of Go Hasegawa, Kersten Geers and David Van Severen, an exhibition curated by Giovanna Borasi, CCA, Montreal. He collaborates with different architectural offices, Baukuh, Christ&Gantenbein, Office KGDVS, PioveneFabi, Studio Mumbai, 51N4E. Stefano Graziani lives in Trieste, graduated in Architecture at Iuav, he is teacher at the Master in Photography Iuav in Venezia, and at Naba in Milan.

Questioning Pictures: Stefano Graziani
From November 9, 2017 to February 26, 2018 
Fondazione Prada Osservatorio
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan