Prada presents “What Was I?”, The new exhibition project conceived by the artist Goshka Macuga, with the support of Fondazione Prada. The exhibition will be held from 23 March to 2 June 2019 at Prada Rong Zhai in Shanghai, a historic residence of 1918 restored by Prada and reopened in October 2017.
“What Was I?” Is a kaleidoscopic journey in the post-Anthropocene, the age that follows the collapse of humanity due to the effects of technological hyper-development. The protagonist of this surprising exploration is an android created by Macuga and produced in Japan by A Lab for the exhibition presented in 2016 at the Fondazione Prada’s Milan office. The android recites / repeats its monologue composed of numerous fragments of fundamental discourses for the history of civilization, constituting itself as the depository of human knowledge. In this futuristic scenario, in which the human perspective no longer has any value, the android is the only inhabitant of Prada Rong Zhai and a discreet presence inside the residence. The key question “What was I?” (What was I?) That closes his speech and gives the title to the neon installation of Macuga and his new project, was originally pronounced by the Frankenstein monster, in the novel of the same name gothic written by Mary Shelley in 1818.
In the fictional and post-apocalyptic universe of Macuga, the android lives in the spaces of the historical residence, revealing its own collection of art and its personal objects: 26 works of the Prada Collection, including several Italian masterpieces, made between 1958 and 1993, alongside 3 recent paper-based artist collages that are part of the Discrete Model series.
Through a selection of works by artists linked to the Zero Group in Germany and the programmed and kinetic arts movement in Italy and France – including Jan Schoonhoven, Luis Tomasello, Grazia Varisco and Nanda Vigo – the exhibition explores the complexity of the motifs and geometric and computerized shapes, creating a self-contained alphabet of shapes. The android is surrounded by a constellation of works by Italian artists: Enrico Castellani and Piero Manzoni, who in their research aimed at the zero degree of pictorial language; Alberto Burri, Lucio Fontana, Francesco Lo Savio, Salvatore Scarpitta, Turi Simeti and Giuseppe Uncini, who have experienced in their works the overcoming of the canvas and its physical and symbolic limits, using unconventional materials that connect art to reality. Two unusual portraits of Walter De Maria and Llyn Foulkes recall the human body and its absence, while a painting by Vincenzo Agnetti evokes a “language beyond language”.
A series of installations and small sculptures by Richard Artschwager, Peter Fischli & David Weiss, Mario Merz, Salvatore Scarpitta and Rachel Whiteread incorporate everyday objects and functional elements, suggesting a possible post-human routine.
At the same time, these works contribute to shaping a domestic context and an intimate habitat, in which the android is able to invent its own “existence” in the future.
During the exhibition, the monologue of the android will be accompanied by a performance of a calligrapher that will take place twice a week, with the aim of creating an alternative and written version of the original speech translating it from English into Chinese.