4 November 2017 - 17 February 2018
At 9 pm on Saturday 4 November, the exhibition of work by Chiara Fumai, Nico Fumai: being remixed, will open at the Guido Costa Projects Gallery in Via Mazzini 24, Turin.
The exhibition is part of the Notte delle Gallerie event, in conjunction with Artissima. The show will remain open to the public until 10 February 2018.
Telling the story of Nico Fumai through images as Chiara, his daughter, does in this show involved not only gathering valuable information adrift in recent history, but also attempting to address a host of broader questions regarding identity, the relationship between a father and his children, and the meaning of fulfilment and success; increasingly complex questions that touch on the mysterious bond between sound and image and colour and space; as well as fundamental and unresolved issues such as the permanence of values and remembering a name.
The dreamy, tongue in cheek stage on which all these questions play proved to be a perfect coup de téâtre, and rather ingenious hoax. Upending narrative voices was a trademark of Chiara Fumai’s output ever since her first appearance as an artist and during her later years of intense artistic research.
The presence and absence of the artist’s father, Nico Fumai (his face, his voice, his many musical creations, his unsuccessful career), are a constant her life, representing both conflict and mementos.
But let’s keep to the order of events, while preserving the subtle ambiguity of this controversial, creative familiar relationship and the ethereal atmosphere in which it unfolds.
Between 2010 and 2011 the artist was switching between late-night appearances as DJ Pippi Langstrumpf and amazing, tentative incursions into the world of contemporary art as Chiara Fumai. My first real encounter with her work, and the mysterious figure of Nico Fumai, dates back to 2010 and her exhibition Persona in meno, in Guarene, the headquarters of the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation. On this occasion Chiara acted out the true story of her father the singer in a rarefied, minimalist performance, backed up with a broad selection of tracks from his extensive discography and some timely historical-critical elucidations. Her performance took us on a trip into the little-known Italo Disco phenomenon, a musical kingdom over which Nico Fumai reigned supreme. Like everyone else, I was hooked and began desperately searching the web for more detailed information on the names, records and origins of this mysterious Italo Disco and its most evanescent progenitor Nico Fumai. That performance was a success, and became a little classic of its genre. With this flawless blend of history and fiction, and real and invented characters Chiara demonstrated her perfect control of the whole creative process. And there in the spotlight was Nico Fumai, an oddly genuine, true to life father but somewhat spurious musician. Italo Disco, instead, was the real thing. In the late 1970s and on the cusp with the new millennium it became one of the greatest successes of Italian music of all time. The ‘movement’ appeared in discos as an electronic and, if you like, even more disengaged version of dance music. The identities of its stars were often masked by Anglo-Saxon pseudonyms: Easy Going, Questions, Mike Francis, and later Righeira. These were the new international stars of Made-in-Italy music and sold millions of records all over the world. Chiara modelled Nico Fumai’s artistic biography on this scene, turning the spotlight onto his curious decline into oblivion, despite his astonishingly versatile talent. Nico had tried his hand at every musical genre from singer-songwriter to crooner, electro-pop to new romantic, disco music and songs in dialect. In all these myriad incarnations he had proved himself to be an innovator, if not a revolutionary; yet success never came. Mired in a succession of flamboyant flops, fate led him into a slow and inexorable oblivion. But thanks to the artist’s solid narrative base, nurtured by a strong sense of irony and fierce disenchantment, the story of this mysterious artist becomes exemplary and emblematic: Nico’s destiny is that of the artist, of all artists.
Many years after her first performance Chiara decided to give this new exhibition dedicated to her father a truly traditional feel. As well as consolidating many of the ideas contained in the project as it had developed over time Nico Fumai: being remixed was to mark the beginning our nascent collaboration in a decisive way. But it would also to draw this first creative cycle to a close with a series of new real objects, artworks and memorabilia.
Chiara had started drawing and painting on various media, and produced some small golden-plated metal sculptures for the show. She had also collected for the first time all fifteen of Nico’s vinyl LP and single recordings. The result is an impressive corpus that encapsulates so many creative styles, appropriations, and creative expressions. Gradually the story of Nico Fumai began to grow and take on a new form, becoming a complex and surprising exhibition that spans the rise and fall of this enduring symbolic relationship, together with a full-length soundtrack to accompany this complex tall human tale.
Chiara’s tragic and unexpected death just a few months ago has given a definitive public expression to this tragic private relationship.
After much careful deliberation, and the consent of her family, we decided to hang the exhibition as Chiara had imagined it. We pored over the work she produced in notebooks over the last year and a half and meticulously reproduced down to the finest details the precise instructions she produced for us in a three-dimension mock-up of the gallery.
The limited edition of vinyl records reflects her wishes to the letter; the colours of the walls and the frames are those she chose from the pantone colour chart. Nothing in this show has been left to posthumous arbitrary interpretation.
The result is an extraordinary and unusual exhibition, not perhaps exactly what one might have expected from an exhibition of new work by Chiara Fumai. But, right from its inception Nico Fumai: being remixed was to mark the beginning of a new and unprecedented creative chapter. This is what we have tried to express in this modest show that takes us inevitably and respectfully a step back in time.
I am sure Chiara would be happy with it.
Chiara Fumai (Rome, 1978 - Bari, 2017) was one the most prominent artists of her generation. Her work is a hybridization of diverse expressive styles and materials, ranging from performance to video and photography; it also incorporates more traditional techniques such as painting, drawing and collage. A strong theoretical component runs through all her work, often expressed as extreme radicalism, creating a personal universe of references where theosophy, esotericism, philosophical reflections, feminism and criticism of culture combine. A nomadic artist by vocation, she achieved immediate recognition on the international art scene and participated in many important exhibitions, including Documenta 13 (Kassel, 2012); Contour 7 (Mechelen, 2015); the 16th Rome Quadriennial (2016). She also exhibited at MAXXI in Rome (2014); at the MACBA (Barcelona, 2015); and at the Latvian Center (Riga, 2016). In 2013, she was awarded the IX Furla Art Award; in 2016, she won the XIV New York Prize, and the Dena Foundation Art Fellowship. Her work is held in numerous private and public collections in Italy and abroad. Her legacy is preserved at the Chiara Fumai Archive in Bari. She is represented by Guido Costa Projects in Turin.
The Nico Fumai: being remixed exhibition would not have been possible without the commitment and support of the Chiara Fumai Archives in Bari, Liliana Chiari, Nico Fumai and those who supported and believed in the project.