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Mucha stool sculpture
Mucha stool sculpture

Reinhard Mucha, Island of the Blessed, 2016. Installation at Galleria Lia Rumma, Milan

Sculptural room installation with sound and colour print, Roof(ing) tiles (found objects), rubble, 6 float glass panes, 6 stepstools, 2 tape measures, wall paint, blockboard, sound audio equipment,UV-protection glass, mat, archival pigment print, 4732 tiles

You go inside to find yourself above a giant roof. It occupies the entire floorspace of the ground-floor gallery, one of Milan’s most monumental private venues. The viewer’s gaze adopts an aerial perspective, while the sounds of aeroplanes and birdsong add to the feeling of being up in the air: Reinhard Mucha recorded the audio at the airport of Düsseldorf, his hometown, which is a constant presence in his work. The roof, 12.2m by 12.6m, is made of old, handmade terracotta tiles – 4,732, to be precise, and everything is extremely precise and measurable in Mucha’s world – arranged, in overlapping fashion, as has been common in Italy since Roman times. They rest upon a thin though visible layer of rubble, and I couldn’t help thinking of the recent earthquakes that pulverised so many ancient borghi across the country, causing the instant vanishing of centuries-old forma urbis, shaped by an inseparable combination of architecture, history and culture.

The artist asked the gallery to make available a sheet with a pair of quotations from a book by Salvatore Settis, If Venice Dies (2016), which concern how Milan recently dressed up like an icon of modernity, all skyscrapers and curtain walls – ‘just like a boorish peasant putting on his best Sunday clothes in the comedies of the past’, Settis writes, so that now there are ‘two urban models completely at odds without any correlation or sense of harmony’. On one side of Mucha’s roof, a white platform sustains a little turret made of six float-glass panes and six step stools, resting, slightly tilted, upon two metal tape-measures. It could be a model architecture, as well as a self-portrait: Lia Rumma’s architecture is composed of three white cubes piled on top of each other and occupies three floors, like Mucha’s legendary Merzbau studio, while the tower of step stools is a recursive element in his oeuvre, as a metaphor for art’s ability to generate pinpoint shifts in our ways of seeing. The title of this installation is Island of the Blessed (2016). Maybe this roof is actually a raft, and Mucha is casting us afloat on the Sea of Time and Space.

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