A door opens into a dim hallway, and the faint sounds of a television filter through, like the memory of a childhood homecoming. But the voice remains muffled, trapped behind a frosted screen, even in the mirrors we try and catch a glance of ourselves in.
This is My hart is so leeg soos ‘n spieël, the third “episode” in Gian Maria Tosatti’s ongoing project ‘My Heart is a Void, the Void is a Mirror’, currently on show in Cape Town. Referencing the controversial Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s ‘Exile’ trilogy, Tosatti situates each visual instalment in conversation with a city, providing a lens for his exploration of the dissolution of democracy.
The first episode was exhibited in Catania, Italy, for Manifesta 12, and the second opened in Riga, Latvia on September 6th 2018. This Kaapstad episode comes as a result of Tosatti’s residency since February at the A4 Arts Foundation.
Tosatti places the intimate process of self-reckoning at the forefront of this episode, creating a seemingly banal apartment interior. As the viewer moves through the installation, they are confounded by a fog that blurs every surface of recognition; not just the mirrors but newspapers, images, and the constant drone of the distorted voice emanating from a blurred television. The muted interiors are punctuated by teeth, testament to some unseen process of painful extraction. Haphazard glass bottles culminate in rows upon rows of the receptacles, standing mute amongst the white noise.
Unlike the monumental Episodio di Catania set in the Palazzo Biscari, and the multi-level installation at Riga’s Ex Bolševička Factory, the artist has now focused on the innocuous; those ‘who passed through troubled years with no visible scars or wounds’. Instead, he tells a human tale of loss and self-exile hidden behind the outward violence of apartheid-era South Africa. My hart is so leeg soos ‘n spieël is an intimate questioning of what is lost when one refuses to see.
About the artist
Gian Maria Tosatti (b. 1980, Rome) trained at the Centre for Theatrical Research and Experimentation of Pontedera in the 2000s. After a decade of living and working in New York, as of 2018, Tosatti is now based in Naples. His works are largely long term investigations into questions of identity, from the political to the spiritual. The first series he developed was «Devozioni» (2005-2011) – installations for ten buildings in Rome about archetypes of the modern era. More recently, between 2013 and 2016, Tosatti’s research focused on a work that embodied the entire city of Naples, titled “Sette Stagioni dello Spirito”. He is the winner of the 2019 Cape Town Prize and the 2016 New York Prize, both promoted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Recent shows include Dot, Point, Period, at Castelli Gallery, New York (2019), Quaestio de aqua et terra at Rocca d’Angera (Varese), Ala Scaligero (2019) and Damasa at Lia Rumma, Naples (2017).
A4 Arts Foundation
A4 Arts Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation based in Cape Town dedicated to the arts of Southern Africa. It privileges artistic experimentation and inter-disciplinary conversation as a catalyst for innovation and learning. As part of his residency at A4, Tosatti has also curated a selection of works from the A4 archive Nowhere – No we’re – Now here, on display at their centre at 23, Buitenkant Street, Cape Town.
My hart is so leeg soos ‘n spieël, Kaapstad episode is on view at 1, Roeland Terrace, Cape Town, between April 27, 2019 through May 11, 2019.
Image: Courtesy the artist; Lia Rumma.