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Fantastic Journey
by Alice Savorelli
Patrick Tuttofuoco, "Revolving Landscape," April 12-June 4, 2006, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Via Modane 16, Turin, Italy

"Revolving Landscape," an installation of sculptures, neon light and a six-channel videotape by the 32-year-old Milanese artist Patrick Tuttofuoco, on view at the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin this spring, was an ambitious and visually stunning first solo show.

The notion of "Revolving Landscape" suggests movement and change, and indeed, the show is the result of an impressive, three-month journey around the globe, taken by Tuttofuoco and three friends -- two film directors, Mattia Matteucci and Damaso Queirazza, and one architect, Andrea Pozzato. From October 2005 to January 2006, they voyaged from Milan to Mumbay, Udaipur, Jaipur, New Delhi, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Mexico City, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Their aim was nothing less than a survey of the contemporary city, done in the context of an examination of the future of urbanization. During the course of their globetrotting, Tuttofuoco and his friends made extensive observations, and collected a quantity of writings, photographs and other materials, including several interviews with architects and anthropologists.

Tuttofuoco’s exhibition, then, is an artist’s documentary of a world tour. Visitors to the show were welcomed by neon lights spelling the word "gnivlover" -- "revolving," read backwards -- reflected by a mirrored wall, settling a disorienting tone.

The large exhibition space then opened onto a dramatic environment filled with a variety of sculptures, made largely of brightly colored plastic elements set upon glass-topped bases that resemble café tables. Each piece is an abstraction inspired by one of the cities on the tour, and by the feelings and visual and emotional qualities suggested by each place.

Guiding viewers from one sculpture to the other, from one "city" to the next, were bright neon ceiling lights. This crisscrossing path of light was a work of art in itself, both illuminating the gallery space and providing a route for movement, a literal neon pathway that seems a distillation of the neon signage that guides us every day across cityscapes throughout the world.

Traversing the forest of sculptures, visitors discovered a large, six-screen video installation, running the length of the exhibition space. The video screens simultaneously projected a variety of images, documenting Tuttofuoco’s journey through a collage of interviews, images and sounds.

The installation also included an old-fashioned neon sign spelling "Luna Park Varesine" -- the sign, as it happens, for the Varesine Fun Fair in Milan, demolished years ago. The artist stumbled across the antiquated sign and decided to reclaim and repurpose it, as a reminder of the kinds of debris left behind by massive urban change.

Tuttofuoco’s installation does not, of course, delineate any kind of real urban environment. Rather, it represents an ambiguous, placeless sensory experience, something garish and hard and emotionally strange. Part chidren’s playground, part futuristic theme park, the sculpture prompts a postmodernist restatement of Paul Gauguin’s famous query -- Who are we? Where are we going?

A placeless place such as Tuttofuoco’s dense "Revolving Landscape" can be interpreted as the quintessential expression of globalization. Futuristic and Pop, these luminous, mysterious, makeshift works -- also available via Studio Guenzani in Milan, which represents the artist -- suggest a fascinating, slightly utopian vision that could well become a feasible alternative to the banality of contemporary urban planning and organization.

ALICE SAVORELLI writes on art from Italy.