Everything in life is changing constantly, whether the urban environment or the countryside, both of which have been in uenced by humans; the urban environment so obviously built, while the countryside has been moulded to t the needs of humans. Through this exhibition Pettena is asking us to look with new eyes at urban and rural landscapes, non-judgmentally, paying close attention.
Hunting the Baron refers to a novel by Italo Calvino about a man, the Baron, who decides to leave the city to live in the trees. He soon discovers that he enjoys living in the tree tops better than living on the ground, so he stays there, communicating with people below but refusing to come down. He is detached from urban life, viewing it from a di erent perspective. Pettena will exhibit a video of the Baron leaping from branch to branch through the tree tops, followed by someone we perceive but cannot see, someone who is unable to catch up with the Baron. He will also exhibit his Jungle junction installation, a bar built from green saplings and planks, which will focus on the fascination people who inhabit an urban environment have with the natural environment from which they are alienated. There will be large format photos of scenes from nature, each containing a discordant note: in one case a super eight lm camera: to represent the recording, analysing, studying and eventually coming to the defence of the natural environment; in another a record player, to produce sound. This re ects the futility of trying to conquer nature, much as Herzog does in his iconic film, Fitzcaraldo: the Conquest of the Useless, where nature always wins in the end. There will also be a performance in which Pettena will entrap a young woman within a wooden structure. This again speaks of the ways in which we are trapped within the urban environment. This installation is a meditation on the relationship between the urban and rural landscape and our perception of them. Alongside photography, video-art and installations, his work includes performances and site-speci c projects involving other players besides himself, often hailing from the artistic underground in which Pettena has identi ed a potential and an energy that he transfers and channels into a variety of situations, sparking a short-circuit in his audience’s senses. His art can be both massive and “destructive”, like his excavation inside the Gum studio in Carrara, or minimal, like his insertion of a record player into the desolate panorama of the arti cial lake of Santa Barbara, entitled Alla conquista dell’inutile (Conquering the Pointless).
Robert Pettena has taken part in numerous collective exhibitions both in Italy and abroad, including: Watou Poëziezomer 2001 Een lege plek om te blijven, curated by Pier Luigi Tazzi and Ann Demeester, Watou (Belgium) 2001; Palazzo delle Libertà, curated by Lorenzo Fusi and Marco Pierini, Palazzo delle Papesse, Siena, 2003; Fuori uso, curated by Luca Beatrice, Pescara 2004; The Food Show: The Hungry Eye, curated by Robert G. Edelman and Gina Fiore, Chelsea Art Museum, New York (USA) 2006; Pan Screening, Art Radio Live, WPS1.ORG Broadcasts, Biennale di Venezia, Venice 2007; Rites de Passage, curated by Pier Luigi Tazzi, Schunck, Glaspaleis, Heerlen, Netherlands 2009, and Jump in to the UnKnown, Future Rhythms curated by Mike Watson, side event of the 56th Biennale Internazionale d’Arte of Venice 2015, and Florenz Contemporary, curated by Angelika Stepken Embassy of Italy, Berlin 2015.A sweeping anthological exhibition of his work was held in several di erent sites in the historic centre of Prato in 2008: Second Escape, curated by Pier Luigi Tazzi. His most recent personal exhibitions in 2014 include: Robert Pettena Noble Explosion, curated by Marco Pierini, Galleria Civica of Modena; and in 2016: L’Enigma di Nobel curated by Valentina Gensini, PAC, Florence.