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  Cornell University

Cornell in Rome

College of Architecture, Art and Planning

DREAM: Art Meets the Dream in Chiostro del Bramante

Our photography professor Liana Muccio took us to an exhibit titled DREAM: Art Meets the Dream, which many of us fell in love with (I went back twice after that), so I decided to write a gallery review for Marco Palmieri’s Contemporary Art Seminar class. I am posting a modified version of the review.

I find that many times, my most pensive thoughts come right as I am about to fall asleep, in the limbo between consciousness and unconsciousness. Those thoughts, almost like dreams, fade away by morning time. Anxiety, fear, longing, happiness, aspirations, or even ideas; those involuntary thoughts are perhaps the truest reflection of myself.

DREAM, curated by Danilo Eccher, with its artworks paired with poetry, is a narrative of the subconscious hiding in the deepest parts of our soul. Its setting is in that limbo. The pleasant exhibit showcasing international artists, so poetically narrated that you find yourself almost floating through the dream-like sequence, is tucked away between buildings behind the Piazza Navona. However dreamy the exhibit may be, the artworks and poetry do not deal with Dreams in the literal way, but dreams of a desire, of a someone, someplace, or something never achieved. According to the website, it is a third exhibit in a sequence that follows Love and Enjoy.

The poems – read out loud expressively (and sometimes seductively) through headsets – speak to the spectator in first or second person. We look at the piece and we are confused; we listen to the poem which we understand; we piece them together and we are satisfied that this artwork now suddenly makes sense to us. It is, to me, an ingenious invention for contemporary art to reach out to the public in an engaging way.

Museum fatigue – a phenomenon that occurs when a repetitive museum tires the visitor out, them opting instead to speed through artworks – is something an architect is always told to avoid. Chiostro del Bramante cleverly side steps museum fatigue. The poems, which are 3-5 minutes in length, paces the viewer throughout the one-way circulation, and helps to grow an empathy with pieces that would’ve otherwise gone unappreciated. For example, I am never one to linger on in a digital projection piece, in this case, Tatsuo Miyajima and Ryoji Ikeda. But the poem forced me (voluntarily) to stare at the numbers on the screen and appreciate another interpretation to the numbers: inside them, according to the poet, is a consciousness that doesn’t want to merely be a statistic, that wants to escape normality. We will never know if the artist had such intention to humanize his work. However, the poet raises interesting questions about what goes beyond something that is aesthetically pleasing or constructed purely from artistic logic.

Their main image was Tsuyoshi Tane’s Light is Time. The photo reminded me of TeamLab’s digital art museum in Tokyo: both artworks allow the spectator to become part of the piece and take personalized photos to take home. There is a certain Instagram attraction to the exhibit, as I saw from those that were visiting at the same time, and the gallery is liberal with allowing photos for all pieces. The way to experience the artworks is quite laid back as well. In three of the rooms, there are bean bags to sit or lie down on to enhance the experience of ‘dreaming’: Ryoji Ikeda’s timepiece, Tatsuo Miyajima’s Time Sky, and Turrell’s installation. No guard is there to tell you to get off the floor, or that we are standing too close to the artwork. You are only monitored through a screen.

Above: Security monitor showing Peter Kogler, Luigi Ontani, Tatsuo Miyajima, and James Turrell

The bean bags aren’t the only things that makes the experience through the chiostro dream-like. The path that you walk on is a sinuous, glittery carpet that at times detaches from the ground to elevate you, such as in room number 6. There is an efficient use of awkward spaces to make it part of the exhibit, so the entire chiostro becomes a sort of solid, continuous artwork: the staircase is occupied by Alexandra Kehayoglou’s landscape rugs (the narrator says that it is a world one made for his unrequited love), the smaller rooms attached to the main hall of Peter Kogler on the second floor are like side chapels to a nave. Each room has its own distinctive character, almost covering all the types of dreams we may have: psychedelic dreams such as in Peter Kogler and Bill Viola’s work, childhood dreams in Christian Boltanski’s, wilderness in Mario Merz, nightmarish in room 6, heavenly in Turrell and Ettorre Spalleti.

Without poetry, these different rooms may seem disconnected, some more than others. The first work that you approach is Jaume Plensa’s work: two colossal marble heads that seem to be scaled in one direction and transfigures the viewer’s perception of the courtyard – suddenly the arches seem to be spaced too closely with each other. Both children have their eyes closed, but their stoic posture suggests they are not asleep, but in a meditative state, which is a stark contrast to their youthful features. The narrator reads: “I am not marble.”

Enter the building and you are confronted with a dark room lit only with a screen of a woman submerged in water. Bill Viola’s model is drowning peacefully, the ripples in water distorting her face and body, and there are slight movements of her hand. The narrator reads: “What a terrifying word it is, abandonment.”

The sparkling carpet leads you to the next room, where a small CRT television confronts you in a dark space surrounded by a pastoral environment made of tree branch bouquets (Mario Merz).  The narrator says: “Run!”

Moving on, you are enticed to peek into small square cut outs into a whimsical Allegory of the Cave type shadow play (Christian Boltanski).

Following Plato is a seemingly illogical conglomeration of objects in one room: room 6. Perhaps the only common feature is that they are found objects presented to us in a way we are not used to: Henrik Hakkanson’s tree that is uprooted, Wolfgang Leib’s rice that is ritualistically placed on the ground, Anish Kapoor’s subtractive sculpture that looks like a blood clot, and Doris Salcedo’s torture machine. Together they read as a nightmare, and we are forced to timidly tiptoe our way through the walkway supported by Kate MccGwire’s monstrous roots.

The path to the second floor through the winding, landscaped staircase is a transition from darkness to light, and Peter Kogler’s hallucinatory black line pattern on the white fluorescent space is dizzying. We reach our climax at James Turrell, “the heavens”, where slowly the colors change from center outwards, but the change is so gradual it is almost discernible.

At the end, we are released into a peaceful courtyard with a four-sided loggia, and the base of the columns creates a seating space to relax on. It is a peaceful recluse away from the hustle of the Roman city outside. Look down, and the two squished heads that you started the visit with is there, meditating.

Here, one can contemplate their own dreams…


Chiostro del Bramante

Arco della Pace, 5, 00186 Roma RM

06 6880 9035

Mon – Fri 10am – 8pm

Sat – Sun 10am – 9pm

Showing until 5 May 2019



Ami Kurosaki

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