by Patrizia Boglione
Your soul, eyes, and senses – everything falls under a spell upon entering. Not because Trieste’s old fish market is now known as “Salone degli Incanti” (“hall of enchantments”), but because it hosts an installation by Kounellis that is so conceptually, visually, and sensorially surprising that you will need a few moments to recover from the astonishment.
The Greek artist Jannis Kounellis – born in 1936 and raised in Piraeus – is a leading figure in the so-called Arte Povera movement. In love with harbors, cargo, and construction sites, he uses an extremely poetic language to tell the story of that world with incredible intensity.
Twelve old fish booths made of stone make up the core of his installation, like a huge fishbone. But instead of porgies and sea basses, these tables showcase pieces of boats and shipwrecks – both real and of the soul.
Stones rain from above, like the tears of a funeral rite attended by rows of chairs, covered in black drapes. Only through this ceremony of death can life be reborn, in a continuous renewal of nature’s powers, in the eternal fight between the sea – giving and taking life – and man – so proud when he discovers new horizons, yet so humble when he is subdued by the waters.
Under the stones you cannot figure out if you have the sky or the sea above you, or if the stones are tears or anchors; because this ceases to be a physical space and transforms into a place for the soul.
The “Kounellis Trieste” exhibition ends on February 2, 2014 – and will probably leave nothing behind. That is part of the fleeting quality of Arte Povera. What is lasting is the power of the emotions and enchantment it creates.