Amalia Pica

Argentinian artist Amalia Pica is interested in what makes an image nostalgic. When we remember a time and a place, our mental representation of it can be an inaccurate, abbreviated or extended version. Pica sees this symptom of nostalgia as inevitable and productive, though she accepts that historicisation can sometimes homogenise the past. In Untitled (fiesta lights) for example, a string of coloured light bulbs hanging outside the gallery continue inside into its interior through a letterbox, but inside the space (with its associations with collecting, archiving and display) all the bulbs are clear glass and thus devoid of lively colour.

Pica’s work often deals with nostalgia in relation to past politics and pedagogy. Spaces of education – or indoctrination – such as speakers’ platforms and classrooms are constructed and sometimes form stages on which Pica performs. In Babble, Blabber, Chatter, Gibber, Jabber, Patter, Prattle, Rattle, Yammer, Yada Yada Yada (2010), Pica projected a series of slides of herself wielding semaphore flags forming the title, and thus a somewhat pointless or circuitous task, reminiscent of political slogans that merely advertise the leader and announce their own vocality.

For her room in the IllumiNATIONS Pavilion, Pica explores Argentinean schooling in the 1970s and specifically, the state’s ban of Venn diagrams on the grounds of their propagation of subversive thought in schools. She uses two theatrical lamps that project the Venn interlocking circles of colour onto the gallery wall. Under the diagram is a statement about exclusion and inclusion, Venn and the Argentinean ban.  On an exposed brick wall adjacent to the Venn projection hangs a line of paper bunting used for sporadic performances throughout the Biennale. For each performance, entitled Strangers, two actors ‘who have never met before’ hold the bunting ‘for hours at a time’. Similar to the semaphore performance Babble, Strangers is as much about the uselessness of collective political actions as it is their power. Form and structure in the action of holding bunting, messaging by semaphore, or organizing the school day is shown to be intrinsic to power and propaganda. Pica has placed a metal school bell on the floor opposite the Venn projection, and on the wall above it, a typed timetable that contains no subject titles, but simply class, BREAK, and * (denoting the bell). Not only do we think of meticulous time keeping, but also the experience of being a child not quite understanding the content of the school day or lessons, but only its authority. School sheets in adjusted scale is also an exploration of being small, and this time Pica has painted large imitations of school notebook paper, corresponding in scale with her size as a child. The pages loom large and dauntingly empty, simultaneously inviting and overwhelming in potential.