Lara Favaretto’s contribution to dOCUMENTA (13) coincides with the fourth chapter of her Momentary Monument project. Initiated in Italy in 2009, the project reflects contingently on what the justification might be for a monument today. If a monument is intended to create a shared memory and extend it in time, thus generating a lasting point of attention, Favaretto’s temporary monuments are rather intended to bring attention to what is not yet a memory—and is not necessarily aiming to become one—but is calling for attention, to be given it in a tangible, nonspectacular way.
A two-part project titled Momentary Monument IV (2012), Favaretto’s contribution consists in a double, temporary sculptural gesture deploying itself in Kassel and Kabul—two cities both wounded by a war—that rises up in the public sphere, both portraying it and striking, in the artist’s words, “an uncomfortable balance between its destruction and reconstruction.”
In Kassel, metallic material recuperated from landfill and recycling centers is randomly unloaded onto a disused square in the Kulturbahnhof area. The result eschews the creation of any aesthetic form in favor of an amorphous mass providing the basis for an ambiguous apparition and the unstable experience of it, constantly oscillating between permanence and impermanence, something and nothing. Favaretto then retrieves several metal objects from the pile, choosing them for their intrinsic expressive force. Installed in a nearby exhibition space, the removed findings are placed within a context that, incongruously to the objects’ nature, conveys the key concepts of museum display: conservation and the attribution of value. She then places in the empty spaces left behind by these objects elements made out of rough cement, whose color, density, and shape are largely dictated by their provisional function of filling. The incongruous, dislocated dimension of the fillers and the displayed objects, the mutual temporary quality of the pile in the open and the exhibition of the objects, and the reciprocal implication of these two interrelated yet distinct entities prevent the viewer from understanding exactly what the actual work is, on the basis of what criteria its value can be defined, and where, and when, it is located.
Parallel to the project in Kassel, a search for a possible Momentary Monument has taken place in Kabul, where the question of the artist’s own presence has been more poignant than ever , in a context that Favaretto had experienced only indirectly. Thus the decision of working with what was already there, in terms of both materials and memory.
Therefore, Favaretto asked the people of Kabul to fill in a questionnaire asking which were the most relevant places in the city to them, in terms of historical, social, and affective reasons. Six of the suggested locations were selected for soil-core extractions, leading to the extraction of cylindrical layers of earth. Carrying their own memories, these frail fragments of a temporal monument were each cut into three segments of one meter, stored in boxes, and temporarily exposed in the Bagh-e Babur, in a room were they were surrounded by the questionnaires to which they owed their presence and temporary visibility. Concrete and silent presences speaking for themselves, they constitute an eloquent, wordless archive that the history of the place has shaped out of time, as well as the chance that lies at the core of events.
Piling and extracting, adding and subtracting, are here but poles in a force field that the artist activates in order to give tangible existence to a work whose title already conveys the polar dimension incidental to the combination of the term “monument”—coming from the Latin monere, “to remind”—and its temporary, adjectival dimension.
A threshold made visible and at times audible, Lara Favaretto's work can be said keeping its balance in a space thrummed by a rhythm that is simultaneous of creation and de-creation. Constantly on the edge of a shifting, her works cover in order to unveil, and subtract in order to make visible what would otherwise lay hidden—in our memory, and the stratified quietness of materials. The acceleration and temporary condensation of a process that is often entropic, her work contracts for the viewer the general atmospheres surrounding the collapse and recovery of things and their memories, the acts of withdrawal and disappearance, and the definition and vanishing of personal and social identity. In an often playful alliance with the materials employed—of which she tends to seek the weak and unstable point—Favaretto suggests a sudden, magical disruption in our experience of time, and of any comfortable and given knowledge.
Momentary Monument – The Core, 2012
six cores, six wooden boxes, a hundred questionnaires framed,
installation view, dOCUMENT(13), Queen's Palace in the Gardens of Babur, Kabul, Afghanistan.
Commissioned and produced by dOCUMENTA (13) with the support of Goethe-Institut Afghanistan
Photo: Katrine Lotz