HELL, PURGATORY AND HEAVEN: THE MANGIAGRIGIO’S PERSONAL COMEDY

by Katharina Pfeffer and Shawita Parag (EVS Volunteers / Vicolocorto) / (photo by Sanne Verbruggen)

Hangartfest’s preview hold at the Scalone Vanvitelliano in Pesaro on 5th September 2014, offered Tette Katodike, a very interesting name for the performance-exhibition, so we were really curious about what we were going to see.
The art work and the exhibition were created by two artists, Fratelli Mangiagrigio.
With their exhibition, which took place at Scalone Vanvitelliano, they wanted to express an autobiography of their generation (Millennium Generation, 1984-2002), but in a very creative way.
So they adapted the space, drawing inspiration from Dante Alighieri’s “La Divina Commedia”, using also the division of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.
What they were showing were pictures of famous people of their generation who somehow had an influence (good or bad) on the world. They used pictures of themselves as a base, whitened it so only the shapes and very few lines were visible, and but the picture of the person on top. It had a very intense and confusing outcome, because we could see one face with the lines of another one still fairly visible.
In the beginning, one of the artists guided a tour which started on the ground floor (hell) and went up the stairs through the purgatory until the top (heaven). During the tour, he explained some photographs and also helped us understand more why they divided the exhibition in the three very judgmental categories of hell, purgatory and heaven.

Hell
In the ground floor exhibition, pictures of e.g. Arafat, Fidel Castro and George Bush were shown. There were also examples of communist leaders, people who stood for heavy capitalism, or the abuse of media. They even showed an extract from a porn to denunciate sexism.
In this part, they wanted to show the “bad” base of society, people that had a negative influence on the world as it is today. The porn and the display of Lucifer linked to their own face was also provocation, because like the name of the exhibition suggested, it was also a lot about provocation and making people think.

Purgatory

After this very negative start of the exhibition, we went on to the Purgatory, in which people were pictured that had, according to the artists, two sides – one that had a bad influence on society, and one that improved the life somehow.
One example that I found very fitting was one of the inventors of Google (Larry Page): Nowadays, it is wonderful to find everything on the internet, it’s so useful that any information you could want is just one click away, but it also makes us lazy and leads to the loss of old habits and rituals, like going to the library. With that loss of traditions, it can also lead to the partial loss of ourselves.

Heaven

After the Purgatory, we continued our way up the stairs and finally found ourselves surrounded by inspiring people who put their ideals and ideas first, who weren’t selfish about what they had invented or thought of, who didn’t want to become famous with what they had created or with what they did in their lives.

One example was the current president of Uruguay, José Mujica, who lives on the farm of his wife, drives a 1987 Volkswagen and donates over 90% of his monthly salary to charity.
On the very top were people who were ready to give up their identity to have their ideas spread. For them it was truly only about the ideas that they wanted to express, not about them as a person. For example the group of Italian authors “Wu Ming” (Chinese for “anonymous”), who chose to hide behind the name to reject the celebrity-making machine which would have turned them into stars.

Self reflection

At the end of the stairs, two very bright lights were set up. It looked like the gate to heaven, but after entering, you faced a big mirror. So the artists also confront the viewers with themselves, making them reflect a little bit.

After the tour, we asked the artists for a short interview, to explain a little bit more about the show and about their intentions.

Interview with Fratelli Mangiagrigio

How did you get the idea to make this exhibition?

This exhibition is about making an autobiography of our generation. And we wanted to make it a little bit bigger, to share it with people. The idea started with finding a relation between people, using a topic that can be a link between people. With this project we studied the main characters of our generation that shape our society [such as politicians, businessmen and philosophers]. We wanted to be as close to the people as possible and tell them something that they know – just from another point of view. And then we got the idea of Dante, La Divina Commedia, to let that be a provocation. We tried to present the idea to people, to show how our generation works and find a solution or a way of how we can believe in our dreams.

Why did you put your own faces?

We want to be responsible; I mean I have an iPhone in my pocket [Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, was a representative of the Purgatory]. I think the first point is to tell the people: be yourself, by true, try to speak about your life, about your story. And for our generation, we try to be an example. So we put white in our faces to be true, because our generation is true, to be honest, and contrast it with the cathodic system.

And the technique is that: in a dark room – here in this place [Scalone Vanvitelliano] – we projected the pictures of the people that we chose to represent our generation on our faces. For us it’s a liquid generation, the first generation that can teach their parents something. We know more about the people behind us, because we are linked to each other, we can get information easily. It’s a lot of power but it can also be really overshadowing. We are in this society and we want to be responsible about who we are.

Do you also want to make people think about how they are influenced?

We don’t want that. This is all what I saw, what I remember about our generation, and I can show to you all my questions, all my points, all my steps, the developing of my identity. So it’s about questions, and of course we have an idea about the answers. But for me personally the important thing is to keep searching for answers and not stop when you find one but keep looking. When you find an answer you can stop, to see where you are at the moment, but don’t rest there, but keep looking for other answers.

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