Part 1 of 4
Francesco Simeti is known for his site specific installations using wallpapers, sculptures and 3D collage to construct enchanting scenes that allude to the rapacious path of late stage capitalism that thwarts environmentalism. Using found images from newspapers and magazines depicting the ravages of war scenes, environmental disasters, and other acts of violence, Simeti rearranges visual elements to create highly aestheticized experiences that raise questions about the roles of images in contemporary discourse. For Homemade, Simeti will analyze this moment of global pause and its effects on the environment and economy from isolation. Using his window as a framing device, he will create an animation that exposes how nature is emerging as humans have retreated indoors. From a perspective of longing for the outside world, Simeti will create a looped animation that combines hand-drawn and found images of plant and animal life with sound elements.
"Over the past few years I have been concerned with the problematic relationship we have with the natural world and how we call ourselves out from it and consider us independent from it, if not above. We act as if we can go about with our economic growth for the most part dismissing talks of sustainability.
Now that we had come to a halt and we had to physically separate ourselves from the outdoors to shelter in our homes, physically enforcing that same separation, the natural world seems to be creeping back as we watch from behind our screens and windows as many accounts from all over the globe seem to indicate.
While bound at home and in this imposed passive condition of onlooking on the outer world, I’d like to recreate that feeling of wonder and bewilderment that we experience when facing the natural world.
I intend to create a video animation, a natural yet fantastical landscape growing and scrolling outside our window.
To respond to an interior necessity of a deep reset, I’d like to get out of my comfort zone, use a combination of drawings and found imagery without aid from professional editors and fancy equipment.
The provisional title is, Onlooking." - Francesco Simeti
Part 2 of 4
Although Francesco Simeti has explored the relationship between humans and nature in his previous work, his current investigation of this dynamic is marked by the unique circumstances we find ourselves in today. Confined indoors, we are left to observe nature from a distance. Using the window—the boundary that separates us from the outdoors—as a grounding visual motif, Simeti creates 3D animations that explore not only the human longing for nature but also how this moment demonstrates the effects of our absence from the outside world: as human beings recede into their homes, nature slowly creeps back into view. As we watch Simeti slowly and delicately create an intertwined web of foliage, we are reminded of our everyday experience of watching nature gradually emerge in quarantine.
As the physical separation continues we are experiencing an exponential increase in our digital life and our virtual relationships. Interesting discussions about how this pandemic is forcing us to do some overdue and necessary rethinking of our lifestyle, our society and nature all in the name of sustainability.
I swing between optimism and pessimism, as I believe that this historical moment constitutes an unprecedented opportunity to reset the button and start anew.
But I am frightened by how physical social distancing might polarize our society even more and we could miss the chance.
How can we make our thoughts and work available to each other? How can we bridge this growing gap?
Meanwhile, I am carrying out with my Homemade project as my longing for the outdoors increases. I started playing with a watercolor stop animation, which has been a refreshing experience although an entirely unknown territory. The next goal is to incorporate the watercolor with images taken from my collection of historical botanical illustration in an all-encompassing animation. I’d like to incorporate sound as well but I’ll confess here I am lost.
Part 3 of 4
Francesco Simeti’s most recent animation allows us to follow the incremental growth of a field of plants from a horizontal perspective. With leaves of all different colors extending laterally to the right, Simeti’s video depicts the harmonious and collaborative expansion of diverse plant life that remains unbothered by human beings as the quarantine continues. Simeti accompanies his animation with a series of three composite images that are composed of hand-drawn foliage intertwined with scanned photographs from nature books or photographs taken by the artist himself. This digital and manual blending reflects the artist’s ongoing grappling and internal conflict with the contradiction between our desire to remain connected to the outside world as we are confined to our homes and our complete reliance on technology to do so.
Time is not the same as it was before. Time has become elastic—you can stretch it, bend it. Was it yesterday or a week ago?
It feels like any sense of urgency in my work has been diluted, yet again maybe not; deadlines don’t matter as much but the urgency is still there; priorities have shifted.
I’ve taken to walking in the cemetery grounds near my home. Here, time seems to have a twofold character. On one hand, the graves, the memorials—all man-made—present themselves as the embodiment of the end of time. On the other, nature doesn’t notice and continues its course. The tree roots are knocking down the tombstones; the wind and the rain are eroding the statuary. Cycles are still going, the trees are budding, the grass is growing thicker and greener, and I am increasingly sneezing. My walks are interrupted by a fat groundhog that is wondering why so many human beings are interrupting his generally solitary existence.
Meanwhile, I am carrying out with my Homemade project, and as I continue experimenting with watercolors and stop animation, I realize that this too is about Time. A photograph records a moment of light. Stop motion records moments and movement; it highlights the static to reveal the gesture.
Part 4 of 4
Francesco Simeti’s practice has long been interested in the tension between the natural world and the built environment, attuned to the fragility of this balance and how one can eclipse the other at any moment. For Homemade, Simeti started the project with an interest in how, with the absence of humans, animals and plants began to reclaim spaces. Swans and fish reinhabited canals in Venice again; coyotes took to the streets of San Francisco; spring flowers bloomed all over. All the while, humans have retreated indoors and become more dependent on technology to connect to the external world. In his animated video works, Simeti used new methods to capture this moment of uncanny overlap, with plants palimpsest over another, creating a mysterious composition that processes our new reality.
Strangely it seems to be about time again.
At the Greenwood cemetery, the landscape has changed again. The line of sight is now being interrupted by the new leaves and by the flowers that have blossomed. Volumes and masses have changed. The barren winter landscape has been replaced by the luscious spring one. The statuary and the tombstones are being partially hidden by the trees and have retreated to some sort of backstage. Nature is unfolding in time.
Meanwhile, as the project draws to a close, I have produced three short animated clips. Think of them as seedlings. They will grow overtime to the tunes of my dear friend and collaborator Chris Cerrone’s compositions. And overtime, the new set of skills that I have learned will expand with them.
About the artist
Francesco Simeti (b. 1968, Palermo, Italy) is known for his site-specific installations using wallpapers, sculptures, and 3D collage. His multi-disciplinary approach aesthetically presents enchanting scenes, which often reveal a darker subtext upon closer inspection. Simeti often rearranges newspaper and magazine photographs depicting violence in order to create new images that raise questions about the very nature of this imagery in contemporary society. He has had solo exhibitions at venues such as Assembly Room, New York, (2019); Open Source Gallery, New York (2017); Hessel Museum, Bard College, New York (2014); Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Palermo (2012); and Artists Space, New York (2009). His work has been included in group exhibitions at Museo Civico di Castelbuono, Palermo (2019); ICA Singapore (2017); Palazzo Reale, Milan (2016); and Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, Turin (2014). His work has also been exhibited at the Triennale di Milano (2014 and 2013). Simeti lives and works in New York.
From July 9 through September 7, 2020, Magazzino presented Homemade, a special exhibition of new work created by eight New York-based Italian artists—including Alessandro Teoldi, Andrea Mastrovito, Beatrice Scaccia, Danilo Correale, Davide Balliano, Francesco Simeti, Luisa Rabbia, and Maria D. Rapicavoli—during the global quarantine. Originally launched as part of the Magazzino da Casa’s digital program, Homemade culminated with an in-person exhibition of the final artworks created over the project’s two-month duration, which opened to the public on July 10, 2020.
Over the course of two weekends, June 12 – 13 and June 26 – 27, 2021, Magazzino Italian Art will premiere the fourth iteration of annual film series Cinema in Piazza presented in partnership with the Cold Spring Film Society. Returning back to the museum’s central courtyard, visitors will have the opportunity to watch new films related to past museum exhibitions, artist films, and classics of Italian cinema. This year’s series is presented in collaboration with Artecinema and Instituto Luce.
Magazzino Italian Art presents a live streamed conversation with four of the artists who participated in Homemade —Alessandro Teoldi, Danilo Correale, Davide Balliano and Maria D. Rapicavoli.
Magazzino Italian Art will begin welcoming the public back to the museum starting Friday, July 10, 2020 in accordance with state, regional, and local guidelines of the phased reopening of the Mid-Hudson region. Find out more information on Magazzino’s summer programming, as well as new health and safety protocols.
Alessandro Teoldi (b. 1987, Milan, Italy) is an artist whose practice involves textiles, sculpture, drawing and painting. In his work, Teoldi hints at the dissociative trauma of separation and creatively transforms the human need to establish affective connections with simple, everyday materials into intimate artistic mediations.
Beatrice Scaccia (b. 1978, Frosinone, Italy) is an artist and writer. Her visual works, which take the form of drawings, paintings, and digital animations, explore the absurdity of the human condition.
Maria D. Rapicavoli (b. 1976, Catania, Italy) is an artist whose practice developed from a background in photography, film, and video, and has expanded to include sculpture and site-specific installation.
Luisa Rabbia (b. 1970, Turin, Italy) is an artist whose practice encompasses drawing, painting, sculpture, and video.
Andrea Mastrovito (b. 1978, Bergamo, Italy) is a multimedia artist whose practice is characterized by its constant evolution.
Danilo Correale (b. 1982, Naples, Italy) is an artist and researcher whose work investigates labor, leisure, and laziness as metaphorical lenses into the post-modern sociopolitical and economic landscape.