Runo Lagomarsino “We are each other’s air” at Francesca Minini, Milan
“We need other kinds of stories,” says Donna Haraway as she faces the camera in Fabrizio Terranova’s Storytelling for Earthly Survival (2016) and suggests a wide horizon of possibilities about how these other stories may feel, look or sound like. To balance our earthly living, weak stories are to be rendered strong while dominant stories to be rendered weak. Runo Lagomarsino’s practice is weaved around a strong need for other kinds of stories shaped by persisting presence in the face of dominant narratives of power.
The artist is very aware of how language is a site of empowerment and a site of enslavement at the same time. In his approach, materiality become tools and environments of storytelling; they are transformed with frictions as they witness presence. Lagomarsino names his new solo exhibition for Francesca Minini as We are each other’s air poetically highlighting the dilemma of presence and impossibility of containment, which air as a life element refers to. The new works he realised for the exhibition experiment with containment in various forms and elements, collapsing the boundaries between materiality and immateriality on different realms of politics and poetics. His sharp and idiosyncratic sense of humour cross-referencing double-faced stories of modernity is at work as usual.
Lagomarsino often fractures and plays with the historical narrative of enlightenment which appears in the materiality and symbolism of natural and artificial light in works such as Trans-Atlantic (2010-11) where he had newspapers exposed to sun regularly during a Transatlantic sea travel; Stolen Light (Abstracto en Dorado) (2013) where he displayed stolen lightbulbs and neons he took from the Ethnographic Museum in Berlin and Pergamon (A Place in Things) (2014) where he reunited more than one hundred lighting devices that were previously used in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, systematically laid out on a plinth.
Enlightenment, defined as the age of reason in Europe, advocated ideals such as liberty, progress, tolerance, constitutional government, and separation of church and state, and produced the basis of modernity as understood today. For the artist, modernity and its ideals erected through domination of labour, wealth and resources appropriated from colonised lands and communities reduces the knowledge and reality of the worlds we live in to a singular dominant narrative.
Poet and philosopher Édouard Glissant rightfully points out that from the perspective of enlightened Western thought understanding people and ideas requires being measured and reduced: “In order to understand and thus accept you, I have to measure your solidity with the ideal scale providing me with grounds to make comparisons and, perhaps, judgments. I have to reduce.”1 When there is reduction, there is no relation. Yet Lagomarsino’s playful reduction of enlightenment to light bulb and its artificial light reveals the reductive Western perspective in relation to the rest of the world and relates history with contemporary in intrinsic ways.