Christian Fogarolli: Phantom Models 6. Video-performance on the facade of the National Museum of Medicine of Ukraine

Christian Fogarolli: Decolonising the Mind

Christian Fogarolli is an artist playing at the intersection between visual art and medical disciplines. He takes archival research as a cue to reject established forms of scientific taxonomy. Spanning across sculpture, photography, and video, his works suggest vanishing points that challenge normative accounts of measurability in favour of epistemological and methodological pluralism. Through his installations, he attempts to deconstruct the binary condition that distinguishes deviance from normality. He fosters an object-oriented approach, which rejects the privileging of human existence over the existence of nonhuman identities. This explicates in his devotion towards production materials – such as stone, marble, and glass, amongst many others. Fogarolli offers us a constellation of works stimulating a critical thinking on decolonising scientific, bio-political, and pharmacological realms.  

Fogarolli’s investigation pivots on the mind, intended as a set of cognitive faculties made of consciousness, imagination, and memory. Differing from the functional processes of the brain, the mind is responsible for our own subjectivity, resulting in personal attitudes and actions. Following these premises, Fogarolli questions paradigms to classify psychiatric disorder. Projects such as Stone of Madness (2019), Leaven (2015), and Lost Identities (2011) respectively speak an urgent voice on the cruel legacy of proto-surgery, normative attributions of mental illness, and the control over the bodies. Since the very first development of medical diagnosis, the patient’s subjectivity has been too often jeopardised, with complacency towards a whole spectrum of dehumanization of their bodies. This comes out from the photographic documentation of the series Clair (2014), where the artist brings to the fore the 20th century practice of mug shots and elevates pictured naked bodies to artistic models. Shedding light on patients’ wounded manifestations of creativity is at stake in a researched-based project such as Satelliti (2013-2017). On this occasion, Fogarolli undertakes archival research to disclose artefacts by the patients of a medical hospital, whose aesthetic value is remarkable. It is a series of statuettes echoing a primordial (dis)order, where gods co-exist with humans and animals. Such a scenario seems unattainable if one considers the dichotomy of Chaos and Chronos – biologically exemplified in decay against maintenance, which agitates human history in the form of memory. The project Le Monde du Ticqueur (2016) pivots on this opposite tension of destroying and recovering both bodies and memories. The artist expands this reflection to animals and other organisms, wondering how they cope with loss and physical harms. Juxtaposing fragments of ancient marbles to medical prosthesis, phials, and anatomical plaster casts, Fogarolli seems to adopt the psychoanalytic technique of free association. He works through his own mental archive of images to produce an overlapping of narrative paths. Thus, an image of an elephant proboscis is entangled with a nose-less bust, evoking diseases and syndromes such as anosmia and phantom limb. In particular, the installation Lithos (2016) marks a seemingly counterintuitive correlation between the materials it is made of. A copy of David’s white marble forearm is coupled with a pile of lithium carbonate. The first refers to a public loss – which befell Florence in 1527, when Republicans damaged Michelangelo’s sculpture over a revolt in Piazza della Signoria; a symbolic act against cultural heritage akin to the recent terroristic attack in Middle East. The latter is conceptually bound for the medical use of lithium carbonate as a cure for amnesia or bipolar disorder.

At the zenith of Fogarolli’s artistic production stands Phantom Models, whose sixth iteration has been selected as Special Project in the frame of Kyiv Art Week 2019. Phantom Model is an open-ended research project traversing medical centres, anatomic institutes, and museums with the aim of tracing back the existence of a model of brain devised in 1885 by anatomist Ch. Aeby and engineer A. Büchi. The pioneering three-dimensional visualisation of the brain, coupled with the detailed definition of its nerve fibres and emotional areas, made this prototype an educational devise, purchased by over twenty institutes around the world.  Directly interacting with archival records and documentation, Fogarolli attempts to map provenance, change of ownership and above all actual condition of each model he found, or not. Beyond the medical and museum purposes, the model has a distinctive value. It is a milestone speaking to the unique entanglement of scientific progression supported by visual art.

Venue: National Museum of Medicine of Ukraine

Address: Kyiv, 37 Bohdan Khmelnytsky Str.

Entrance: 55 uah