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  • Writer's pictureDimitri Ozerkov

Futuruins: The Future of Ruins and Ruins of the Future

When: 19.12.2018 - 24.03.2019

Where: Palazzo Fortuny, Venice, Italy


In the run-up to Christmas, the exhibition Futuruins is opening in Venice’s Palazzo Fortuny. Ruins have always existed: it is impossible to establish the historical moment when there were no ruins yet and it is hard to imagine a time when there will be none.

“Past” and “future” are merely words that allow us to describe a person’s life or grasp the flow of time. Every artist is reckoned to have early, middle and late periods in which they respectively formed as an artist, were at the height of their powers and finished their career.

The future is what we invent in the present, projecting beyond its limits. The future remains aloof from our fancies and feelings, as one of the character’s in Nabokov’s Ada rightly asserts when talking about the structure of time. Someone, us included, thought of the recent past as the future. In the same way the near future will soon approach, slip by and pass into the non-existence of the ruins of the past. The speed of the course of time and the truth that it reveals are the only subjects that it is possible to discuss adequately.

What will happen to art in the future? And what is happening to it now? Art has shifted away from the result and addressed itself to the process. It makes use of modern speeds to advance towards its goals. It pretends to be discovering truths and that does indeed work – depending on the age of the audience. It is not interested in viewers yet depends on them more and more. It continues to be divided into the decorative and the conceptual. There are, moreover, conceptualists who are “officially appointed”, accepted by the critics, and completely marginal figures. That is how things will continue to be.

With the aim of reflecting all these themes in development, the exhibition Futuruins will be presenting items spanning a broad chronological range: from ancient stones and illustrations of age-old accounts of destruction and divine wrath (the Tower of Babel. Sodom and Gomorra with Lot’s wife turned to a pillar of salt, the Plagues of Egypt, The Burning of Troy (Monsù Desiderio), other fires and floods) through to the traces of the latest acts of destruction. The display will also include examples of Ancient Egypt, Greek and Roman art damaged by time and barbarians. Time rounds off the creation of a work by its own means. Hubert Robert’s imaginary ruins and the evidence of the pernicious effect on monuments of the latest conflicts (the collapse of the Twin Towers of the WTC, the devastation of Palmyra).

A separate place is occupied in the exhibition concept by the problem of preserving and cautiously restoring architectural monuments, in particular what people, following Ruskin’s lead, call the “Stones of Venice”. Today as before, Venice is engaged in a tense dialogue with ruins and fragments of works that belong to various cultures and were given a second life through their inclusion in the city’s architectural fabric. Greco-Roman and Byzantine elements, stones from the whole Mediterranean basin, building materials from the abandoned Torcello reused in later buildings, incorporated into their fabric. The age-old Venetian edifices are constantly being refurbished and rising again from ruins. The themes of preservation and restoration are also important for Saint Petersburg – the “Venice of the North” and “Northern Palmyra”.

The Futuruins: The Future of Ruins and Ruins of the Future project looks to the future. Today’s contemplator of ruins becomes the subject for reflection on how to combine concern about memory with creative activities. Due to the increased pace of life and the boom in technology, people today no longer produce ruins – or cannot yet imagine what the ruins from their own time will be.

The design of the exhibition has been constructed in a dialogue with the historic interiors of the Palazzo Fortuny. The building itself – a Renaissance-era ruin painstakingly secured by modern means – will become an integral part of the exhibition. the chief exhibit and an object of close attention.

The exhibition features over 80 items from the stocks of the State Hermitage: works by Caspar David Friedrich, paintings by “ruinists” such as Hubert Robert, Giovanni Paolo Panini and Monsù Desiderio, graphic art by Ghisi, Parmigianino, Heemskerk and Bloemaert, drawings by Clérisseau and Wael, ancient artefacts from Palmyra and the Middle East, rare archaeological finds from Siberia.

The author of the exhibition concept is Dmitry Ozerkov, head of the State Hermitage’s Department of Contemporary Art.

Daniela Ferretti (Palazzo Fortuny) and Dario Dalla Lana participated in the organization of the exhibition.

An illustrated catalogue edited by Dmitry Ozerkov has been produced for the exhibition.

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