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  Cornell University

Cornell in Rome

College of Architecture, Art and Planning

Donatella Landi

Donatella Landi is an artist whose work focuses on memory, perception, behavior, and the relationship between humans and nature. She is primarily a video and sound artist, using sound as a physical and visual form to convey her work. Last week, Landi gave a lecture about her work, both past and current. She began with one of her older works, Parco della Musica, which consisted of a video showcasing a series of women with their children. By only filming one woman with a child at a time, Landi is able to direct the focus onto the relationship between mother and child. Landi described the direct gaze of the woman onto the camera as “creating a diverted flow of time”. There are three diverted flows of time, one when the mother looks at the camera, one when she sees herself inside the camera and the other when she breaks her gaze to look at her child. Occasionally, the children stare directly into the camera, unmoved just like their mothers, enchanted by the view presented in front of them.

The next work she discussed was Zoo, a work created in 1994. The video installation which features two separate film installations, focuses on the idea of the zoo and the boundaries which are created between the cage and the animal inside it. The film focuses on a bear walking back and forth repeatedly, out of boredom, anxiety, and stress. The first film, which consists of the video of the bear is accompanied by another video serving as a sound-piece, recording basic primal sounds, and ultimately discussing the idea of the zoo animal as a prisoner for human entertainment.

This idea of the relationship between the animal and the cage is further emphasized in another work which Landi presented, Robben (2006). The film, which she had shot at a zoo in Berlin, highlighted the importance of a multi-layered glance in an underwater habitat. The work documented the swimming behavior of seals and they way in which they breathe, especially because of their need for air. Landi thought that this comparison between humans and seals, oxygen-needing in nature, was an important one to make. Both videos were installed side-by-side in a dark room, thus allowing for a clear juxtaposition between the two separate videos. While one video was mainly green, the other was blue, therefore creating a color contrast as well as a thematic one. Moreover, both videos showcased the animals transcending each frame at different times, similar to the bear that she had filmed before.

In the same exhibition, Landi created a film which is essentially impossible to rewatch because the film was to be screened through a normal, working fence. The film was shown in Rome, Naples, and Palermo, and was begun after the American invasion of Iraq. The goal of the video is to serve as a reflection of the idea of perfection, and therefore cannot be watched without the fence, a border of sorts. The film showcases an exploration of plants and leaves in a more aggressive, rather than peaceful manner, forcing the camera to bump into them and moving around them rather than observing their natural beauty from a distance. The sound is abrupt, loud, and almost overwhelming to a certain extent. The film, as installed formally, is barricaded by a fence, unable to be completely seen, leaving the viewer enticed yet repelled simultaneously.

The last and most recent film she presented, My Dear Beloved, is an hour and a half long film which was created for her exhibition in Montreal. Using letters that her parents wrote to each other when they were in Rome and Naples (about 2,000) as a reference point, Landi discusses the notion of the future and its uncertainty. In those letters, her parents typically discussed the idea of a future together. This idea of the future is further emphasized through an examination of the political and social situation in Italy, where Landi claims that there is a gloomy and uncertain future ahead of future generations. Landi confronts the relationship between the seemingly eternal time of nature in juxtaposition to the relatively short lifespan of her parents and their love for each other. In the film, a female voice narrates the letters which tell the story of her parents as the scene is concentrated on the landscape of a forest. The letters illustrated a goal which they had desired and ultimately achieved- being together.

Like Gianfranco Barucello who had lectured before, Landi also employs similar themes of nature and human relationships using video art, but in a relatively different way.

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