Art Research Map

Article: ‘The Restless Earth’

Triennale di Milano

28 April 17 - 20 August 17

Let’s start by saying that one does not often happen to find oneself in the right place at the right time. Especially in art, the visitor often lives that condition of inadequacy, between someone who seems to have arrived a moment after what has happened and someone who looks at a work that deals with a theme in a forward-looking manner the moment before it happens.

However, this feeling of a perfect cosmos can be fully experienced with a visit to the exhibition The Restless Earth at the Triennale di Milano, organized by the Nicola Trussardi Foundation, which for many years has been highly focused on identifying social issues that can make art accessible even to those who do not live it every day, introducing or addressing topics that are sometimes uncomfortable and dangerous. It is topics like these that Massimiliano Gioni, the curator of the show, decided to openly address with a project titled after a collection of poems by the French Caribbean writer Édouard Glissant, who has always lived westernization in his own skin.

The show presents the condition of refugees (or of those who want to become refugees) through the vision of about 60 artists, many of them of African origin and many of them Westerners. These artists have, over time, tried to put themselves in the shoes of 16 million people who challenge nature every day in search of a life better than that which their home country has offered them.

The entire project exposes, in a precise and sometimes even shameless way, a theme that would risk being taken as affectation of these times. However, it admirably bypasses this obstacle with a rhythm and meter that, room after room, almost astonishes us.

The exhibition speaks of physical, tangible borders, but also of invisible, mental limits.

There is a full selection of works alternating with documents, photographs, and archives provided by institutions (such as Comitato 3 Ottobre) that offer the viewer the possibility of seeing not only the traditional materials belonging to an art museum but also spine-chilling materials in the shape of objects, documents, and personal belongings of those who did not survive the crossing. For the first time, these objects are shown to the public exactly as they were found. They are like works of art worth tens of thousands of euros on a blurred border between fiction and reality – inside display cases as war memorabilia or ornaments of bygone eras, on immaculate walls or in rooms revisited for the occasion.

In this manner, a diary with personal notes in Arabic, a cell phone covered with salt, and a lost passport come into contact with the reflections of artists who come from the same countries as the victims did, and who, for years, expressed their feelings through a less formal language – such as painting, video, and sculpture.

It has been a long time since an exhibition imparted such excessive power to contemporary art. Works that could appear frail in another context are here emphasized as if they were specially produced for the occasion.

The success of The Restless Earth lies above all in its offering a unique journey that keeps unfolding in the next days, when images of works mixed up with survivor interviews and archive photographs continue to resurface.

Images become even stronger when, once the viewer leaves the museum and is confronted with hundreds of current news reports, reality magically refers to the artwork.

If the success of a work of art is that of setting the artist apart from the viewer, as a real witness of social changes in our history, I recommend everyone visit this show. As happened in the Renaissance or through the works of the ‘60s the show tells the story to those who have not experienced it first hand, and for that reason it must be visited.

An oversized planisphere by Alighiero Boetti finds a new strength right after one of the most agonizing works of the show –The Mapping Journey Project by Bouchra Khalili. Through the use of other maps that appear as dreamlike constellations, this work tells the real journey of some refugees. It is a work that touches the hearts of those who enter the room and that, according to the artist herself, is still in progress, or – alas – in a state of continuous updating.

“In the face of dramatic events and social and political transformations,” says Massimiliano Gioni, “the artist can pursue reality with, however, images that are themselves migrant, oblique, fragile, and fragmentary. The exhibition analyzes the crisis of globalization, the relationship between people and borders, and does so with a lyrical approach that shows an idea of truth as a multiplicity of narratives and points of view.”

Artists: Adel Abdessemed, John Akomfrah, Pawel Althamer, Francis Alÿs, El Anatsui, Ziad Antar, Kader Attia, Brendan Bannon, Yto Barrada, John Berger and Jean Mohr, Alighiero Boetti, Anna Boghiguian, Andrea Bowers, Tania Bruguera, Banu Cennetoğlu and Nihan Somay in collaboration with UNITED for Intercultural Action, Phil Collins, Comitato 3 Ottobre, Constant, Thierry De Cordier, La Domenica del Corriere, Forensic Oceanography / Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani, Meschac Gaba, Charles Gaines and Ashley Hunt for Gulf Labor Artist Coalition, Giuseppe “Pinot” Gallizio, Rokni Haerizadeh, Ramin Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian, Manaf Halbouni, Mona Hatoum, Lewis Wickes Hine, Thomas Hirschhorn, Wafa Hourani, Pravdoliub Ivanov, Khaled Jarrar, Isaac Julien, Hiwa K, Yasmine Kabir, Šejla Kamerić, Bouchra Khalili, Runo Lagomarsino, Dorothea Lange, Zoe Leonard, Glenn Ligon, Liu Xiaodong, Ahmed Mater, Steve McQueen, Aris Messinis, multiplicity, Paulo Nazareth, Adrian Paci, Maria Papadimitriou, 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography (Daniel Etter, Tyler Hicks, Mauricio Lima, Sergey Ponomarev), Marwan Rechmaoui, Hrair Sarkissian, Thomas Schütte, Hassan Sharif, Augustus Sherman, Xaviera Simmons, Mounira Al Solh, Hamid Sulaiman, Rayyane Tabet, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Wolfgang Tillmans, Andra Ursuta, Danh Võ, Henk Wildschut, Zarina.


by Giorgio Galotti
Translated by John Bez


Hope, 2011-2012.
Boat, resin, 205.7 x 579.1 x 243.8 cm
© Adel Abdessemed, ADAGP Paris Photo Maris Hutchinson/EPW Studio Courtesy of Adel Abdessemed
JOHN AKOMFRAH, Vertigo Sea, 2015
Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound, 48’30’’
Installation view, 56. Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte della Biennale di Venezia, 2015
© Smoking Dogs Films, Courtesy Lisson Gallery
JOHN AKOMFRAH, Vertigo Sea, 2015
Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound, 48’30’’, video still
© Smoking Dogs Films, Courtesy Lisson Gallery
MOUNIRA AL SOLH, Now Eat My Script, 2014
Video, color, sound, 24’50’’, video still
Courtesy Mounira Al Solh and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Hamburg / Beirut
in collaboration with Julien Devaux, Felix Blume, Ivan Boccara, Abbas Benheim, Fundaciéon Montenmedio Arte, and children of Tanger and Tarifa, Don’t Cross the Bridge Before You Get to the River Strait of Gibraltar, 2008
Video and photographic documentation of an action
Courtesy Francis Alÿs and David Zwirner, New York/London
EL ANATSUI, New World Map, 2009
Aluminium and copper wire, 340 x 500 cm
© El Anatsui. Courtesy of El Anatsui and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Burj Khalifa II, 2010
Gelatin silver print 120 x 120 cm
Courtesy Ziad Antar and Almine Rech Gallery
Dadaab Refugee Camp, Dadaab, Kenya, 2011 Photographic print
© Brendan Bannon
YTO BARRADA, Landslip, 2001
Chromogenic print, 60 x 60 cm
Courtesy Yto Barrada and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Hamburg / Beirut
Provinces du Nord (Northern Provinces), 2009/2011 Chromogenic print, 80 x 80 cm
Courtesy Yto Barrada and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Hamburg / Beirut
Alighiero Boetti, Mappa, 1989-1993
Embroidered canvas, 255 x 580 cm
Fondazione Alighiero e Boetti, Roma, Courtesy Giordano Boetti
© Eredi Alighiero Boetti by SIAE 2017
ANNA BOGHIGUIAN, Crossing boundaries physical and mental. Voluntary and involuntary, 2012-2017
Mixed media on paper, 42 x 29 cm
Courtesy Anna Boghiguian and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg / Beirut
Andrea Bowers, Papillon Monarque (Migration Is Beautiful), 2015
Marker on found cardboard, 204 x 352 cm
Private Collection. Courtesy the artist and kaufmann repetto, Milano / New York Photo: Sebastiano Pellion
PHIL COLLINS, how to make a refugee, 1999
Single-channel video projection, color, sound, 12’, video still
© Phil Collins, Courtesy Shady Lane Productions, Berlin and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York
CHARLES GAINES and ASHLEY HUNT Cultural (En)richment, 2017
Giclee print, 132 x 111 cm
© Charles Gaines, Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
The Sun Shines on a Graveyard and a Garden Alike, And The Rain a Loyal Man From a Traitor Knows Not, 2016-17
Plaster, watercolour and ink on printed paper, 29.7 x 42 cm
Courtesy Rokni Haerizadeh and Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai
MANAF HALBOUNI, Nowhere is home, 2015
Mixed media, dimensions variable
© Manaf Halbouni
MONA HATOUM, Map (clear), 2015
Clear glass marbles, 1000 x 1800 cm
Installation view, Centre Pompidou, Paris
Courtesy Mona Hatoum and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris. Photo: Florian Kleinefenn
Indianapolis fruit venders, Italian boys, Indianapolis, Indiana, August 1908
Photographic print
National Child Labor Committee Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, The Library of Congress, Washington, DC
THOMAS HIRSCHHORN, Ruins Ahead, 2016
Cardboard, prints, tape, coins, 240 x 480 cm
Courtesy Galleria Alfonso Artiaco, Naples
Photo: Luciano Romano 2016
WAFA HOURANI, Qalandia 2087, 2009
Mixed media installation in six parts, sound, 550 x 900 cm
Installation view, Haus der Kunst, Munich
Nadour Collection, Düsseldorf / Paris. Photo: Wilfried Petzi
KHALED JARRAR, Infiltrators,2012
Documentary movie, color, sound, 70′, video still
Courtesy Khaled Jarrar and Galerie Polaris, Paris
ISAAC JULIEN, Western Union: Small Boat, 2007
Five screen projection, 35mm colour film transferred to High Definition, 5.1 Surround Sound 18’22”
Installation view Museum Brandhorst, Munich 2008
Courtesy Isaac Julien, Museum Brandhorst, and Victoria Miro Gallery, London
YASMINE KABIR, My Migrant Soul, 2001
Video, colour, sound, 34’, video still
Courtesy Yasmine Kabir and Magic Lantern Movies LLP
ŠEJLA KAMERIC, EU / Others, 2000
2 lightbox signs, 35 cm x 150 cm x 30 cm each
Courtesy Šejla Kameric and Galerie Tanja Wagner, Berlin
BOUCHRA KHALILI, The Mapping Journey Project, 2008-2011
Video installation, eight single channels
Installation view, New Museum, New York, 2014 Courtesy Bouchra Khalili and Galerie Polaris, Paris Photo Benoit Pailley
RUNO LAGOMARSINO Mare Nostrum, 2016
Neon sign 26.50 x 250 cm
Courtesy Francesca Minini, Milan and Collection Agovino, Naples
ZOE LEONARD, Robert, 2001
10 suitcases, 185 x 54.6 x 50.8 cm
Fondazione Museion. Museo d’arte moderna e contemporanea, Bolzano
Collection Enea Righi. Courtesy Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milan
LIU XIAODONG, Refugees 4, 2015
Oil on canvas, 220 × 300 cm
Courtesy Massimo De Carlo, Milan/London/Hong Kong
AHMED MATER, Leaves Fall in All Seasons, 2012
Video, color, sound 19’57”, video still
Courtesy of Ahmed Mater and ATHR
STEVE MCQUEEN, Static, 2009
35mm color film, transferred to HD digital format, sound, 7’3’’, continuous projection, video still
Courtesy Steve McQueen; Marian Goodman Gallery, Parigi & New York e Thomas Dane Gallery, London
(Stefano Boeri, Maddalena Bregani, Francisca Insulza, Francesco Jodice, Giovanni La Varra, John Palmesino, Maki Gherzi, Paolo Vari)
in collaboration with Giovanni Maria Bellu, Solid Sea 01: the Ghost Ship, 2002
Multi-channel video installation, color, sound, video still
Courtesy Multiplicity
ADRIAN PACI, Centro di permanenza temporanea, 2007
Video, color, sound, 4’32’’, video still
Courtesy Adrian Paci and kaufmann repetto, Milan / New York
MARWAN RECHMAOUI, Shabriha 9, 2011
Acrylic, china marker, and oil pastel on synthetic burlap mounted on wooden panel, 90 x 120 cm
Courtesy Marwan Rechmaoui and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut/Hamburg
HRAIR SARKISSIAN, Execution Squares, 2008
Archival inkjet print 60.5 x 77.4 cm
Courtesy Kalfayan Galleries, Athens – Thessalonik
HASSAN SHARIF, Suspended Objects, 2011
Mixed media, 350 x 160 x 160 cm
Mohamed and Mahera Abu Ghazaleh
Courtesy Hassan Sharif Estate and Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai
Untitled #50 from the series Freedom Hospital, 2016. Ink and felt-tip pen on paper 42 x 29.7 cm
Courtesy Galerie Crone Berlin and Vienna
Architecture Lessons, 2013, from the series Five Distant Memories: The Suitcase, The Room, The Toys, The Boat and Maradona (2006-2016)
Concrete casts of a wood block toy set and 27 wood block toys, dimensions variable
Courtesy Rayyane Tabet, Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut/Hamburg, and Pinchuk Art Center. Photo Sergei Illin
WOLFGANG TILLMANS, Workers’ accomodation 2009
Inkjet print on paper, clips, 207 x 138 cm
© Wolfgang Tillmans. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles
ANDRA URSUTA, Commerce Exterieur Mondial Sentimental, 2012
Marble, nylon jacket, gaffer tape and coins, 177.8 x 45.7 x 61 cm
Courtesy Andra Ursuţa, Ramiken Crucible, New York, and Massimo De Carlo, Milan / London / Hong Kong. Photo: Uli Holz
DANH VO, Nguyen Thi Ty [The artist’s grandmother’s grave marker], 2009
Wood, calligraphy by Phung Võ, 190.5 x 80 x 3.8 cm
Collection Daniel Buchholz & Christopher Müller, Cologne

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