Nico Vascellari’s “Codalunga”

Arto Lindsay

January 16, 2015
Monitor, Rome
October 30, 2014–January 17, 2015

Last November, Nico Vascellari moved into the Sala delle Armi in Rome for a month. A huge, rationalist building built in 1934 as a fencing school, and adapted, in 1981, as the Aula Bunker of the court of Rome, it hosted a series of famous trials—namely that of the kidnapping and murder of Aldo Moro, that of the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II by Mehmet Ali Ağca, and the anti-mafia processes. It’s a long, gloomy, and resonating marble gymnasium.

In the middle of the room, the artist constructed a one-to-one plywood replica sans roof of Codalunga, the studio/gallery/venue he maintains in his hometown of Vittorio Veneto, in the northeast of Italy. Codalunga is where he plies his double trade of artist and musician, trying not to allow either one to become an illustration for the other. Over the course of December 2014 he organized a series of performances and lectures by his collaborators from the art and music worlds: electronic and noise musicians, artists, and curators among them.

At the same time, he installed a show at Monitor, his Rome gallery. For the opening night at the Sala delle Armi, he imported some of the pieces from the gallery show to the bunker. One of these pieces is called Into the Infinity of Thought (2014), after a song by black metal band Emperor. His allegiance to a black metal band may offer some context for his music, which, whether adhering to a classic hardcore sound or being produced electronically, is repetitive and obsessive and extremely loud.

Into the Infinity looks, at a distance, like it consists of two identical boards of pine or some other blond wood. The effect is reminiscent of mirrored or bookmatched marble. But if you look closely, you can see that the knots in one board are mirrored by holes in the other. The knots from each board were knocked out and inserted into the other. When I asked Vascellari about being both an artist and a musician, he referred me to this piece.

It could be a simple, if elegant, representation of two modes that seem similar but on closer inspection reveal themselves to be almost opposites. At least in the making. To get it down or to set it free. Or this careful transfer of knots and holes could be a toned-down version of one of his marathon hammering pieces, such as Gnawing My Own Teeth Behind a Closed Door (2009), in which the artist sat on a dark corner of Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery and for twenty days in a row attempted to reduce a large stone to dust by knocking on it with a large bronze mold.

He seems to use one medium to act out the frustrations he feels in the other. And the great thing about the relationship between these two mediums is that it fits almost any description: fraternal twins, part for the whole, one as title or epigraph for the other.

A recent piece, (Lago Morto, 2010) undocumented in this show, was a series of concerts held over fifteen days, each night in a different local pizzeria, restaurant, laundromat, or living room in Vittorio Veneto, with a hardcore band similar to With Love, Vascellari’s group from 1995­–2007. One of these restaurants was in the habit of displaying articles written about their successful native son. Now, defaced with comments like “poser,” “pretentious asshole,” etc., these tear sheets have been included in the gallery show (Nicoglione, merda, frocio, gay, 2014). This piece is both warm and almost hilariously self-serving.

Sometimes it seems Vascellari mythologizes his hardcore past just so he can keep practicing it. The distance between the teenage Vascellari and Vascellari the artist keeps expanding and contracting. Looking for pleasure, looking for meaning, Vascellari doesn’t present us with souvenirs of a live performance. No leftover single sneakers or skid marks of one kind or another. He gives us the past as a score to be performed. He gives us the pedestal and the echo.

Music, Performance

Arto Lindsay is a composer, musician, and artist. He has collaborated with visual and musical artists including Vito Acconci, Laurie Anderson, Animal Collective, Matthew Barney, Caetano Veloso, and Rirkrit Tiravanija. He lives in Rio de Janeiro.

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January 16, 2015

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