Urban Lines

see video

Ivana D’Agostino
exhibition catalogue Urban Lines StudioArteFuoriCentro, Rome 2008
translation Heather Holloran
download pdf

This is the first exhibition in Rome by Franca Marini, Sienese artist by birth and formation, who, with the show Urban Lines at the “Studio Arte Fuori Centro”, offers an overview of her research on New York, defining emotions and reflections experienced during the years spent in the Big Apple and re-examined today through the distancing lens of the comparison with the reality of Siena, once shunned, and with Rome, a new capital of the arts, although so different by history and tradition from the American city. What the artist proposes is a video-installation lasting fifteen minutes and projected in a continuous cycle. Images of New York, black and white and colour, variously manipulated on the computer by the artist, urban images which are interpolated at different speeds synchronized with  contemporary background music, specially adapted  for this video by Gianpaolo Cappelli & Car_Ma (Carlo Torrini and Maso Ricci).
Various visual experiences intervene in the creation of this video-installation: from informal painting to sculpture installation to signicic abstactionism to the metropolitan graffiti of Rammellzee and Basquiat. We find the contamination above all in the computerized manipulation of the images whose sequences built of fragments are at times very short flashes, like the initial very quick glimpse of the plane taking off, immediately reabsorbed  by the images of the  New York subway, seen through the dirty windows of the trains. The abstract introductory images, constructed by the artist using visual material from her show in Buffalo of 2007, together with a rotating globe, introduce the idea of the universality of New York, of its frenetic movement, of the loss of identity of those who live there, sucked down into the vortex, to which the tangles of mad abstract signs allude, with their trails in space following the surge of the music. The images  of the American city, filmed in the underground and on the streets, real and electronically manipulated, chase one another at a hectic rhythm. The voices and the noises inserted into the fabric of the background music contribute to communicate to us directly the greatest quantity of information and sensations on New York following a principle  which Marini  inherits from the innovative experience of the total art of the avant-garde movements.
The urban lines of the city create outlines with various contours. Continuously fractured and broken in New York by the frenetic bustle of the people, instead they stretch continuous and uninterrupted in the silent outlines of the walls of Siena. The sublime and aristocratic beauty of this town wrapped in its extremely rich history, seen in the distance and in transparency, as a memory of an absolute intangible perfection, is further enhanced by the contrast established with the  frame which immediately follows, a  wall in New York, a factory or a piece of industrial archaeology, on which the recognizable signs of an evident internationalism appear, documented in the written words: Puerto Rico, Los Angeles, South America, Hawaii.
For the artist, in Urban Lines the experience of the journey, considered as a cosmic and interior widening, interacts ceaselessly with that through the city of New York, seen not so much as documentary but rather a selection of examples which recognizably relate  to an artistic elaboration which makes them its own, filtering them through the language of video, the experiences of the visual arts.
The perspectives slide quickly through accelerations and slowing down of the rhythm; enlivened by vertical and horizontal shots passing quickly from the contour of the skyline of the city to the street signs of 23rd Street and 6h Avenue, only to sink soon after with the underground river of people swallowed up by the subway.
As has been said, the artist tries to give us the maximum quantity of sensations and information possible, synchronizing the images with the specially created music and the sounds recorded on site .The voice off announcement of the speaker of a subway station, blending with the music of the ghettobaster of a passenger of African origin clearly show us, following  a cinematographic model, the location of the action. Although the images for Urban Lines are mainly filmed in New York, the artist considers three urban realities. Here too the creation of a narrative development based on personal experience plays a part, where once more, the noise, or its absence, express the precise character of the various urban realities. If noise identifies the feverish agitation of one of the most important metropolises in the world, we see Marini use silence and the horizontal flowing of  images seen in transparency, to point out, through hearing  and vision, as in a fresco by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, the suspension of time of the by now mythical beauty of the town of Siena. However, the video-installation in question also extends the concept of the journey to a new destination. After the final images of New York and its awaking with a visual progression established in linear sequence, the symbolic insertion of a male figure running suggests the idea of a new journey, whose departure point, this time, is Rome. Here a slow progression of horizontal images of the Roman Forum and the “Altare della Patria”, filmed in the warm colours of a chromatic range reminiscent of the  Scuola romana, underpinned in the background by flowing sounds which created a sense of continuity between then and now, precisely shows the new location of  Urban Lines.
New horizons in Rome which may well later become the subject of further reflections. Marini in the closure of  her  video-installation indicates Rome as possible set for future journeys: for the moment they are mere notes jotted down briefly in the margin with this tracking shot of the city. The development of new exploratory stories centered on the capital are evidently still under construction.