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Urban Panorama as Cosmic Beauty: Venetian Wanderings, Part 8
by Bertsch Georg-Christof | 8/15/2009
Orbite Rosse (Red Orbits) by Grazia Toderi Studio, Video Installation 2009

What Grazia Toderi has created in the form of "Orbite Rosse" exerts a magnetic attraction and has the potential to be truly addictive. And the artist shapes her very own style, a kind of apocalyptic Baroque. Her chosen means: the view from an elevated position of the weird and wonderful aesthetics of that which we call megalopolis. Grazia Toderi orchestrates animated lights: airplanes landing, freeway intersections, big wheels, signal rockets - they are all there. Her ten-meter-wide and almost four-meter-high double video projection cannot be fittingly reproduced in pictures. Neither on YouTube nor in photos. Toderi sternly champions physical presence in front of the wide screen original.

The structure is simple, easy to follow. Two projection screens are positioned next to each other at an obtuse angle. There are benches for viewers a certain distance in front of the screens. These things mark the actual space the work occupies. The projections on both screens merge into each other at the point where they join and are in sync with each other. An oval area on each side offers a kind of insight or overlay over the background projection. You could equally interpret these two oval areas as glasses or eyes, through which we see the scene. In this way, the projection is also transferred into the observer, as an inner projection so to speak, a vision, a fantasy.

Italian Grazia Toderi, born in 1963 in Padua, has of course read Dante's "Divine Comedy", in which Hell, a funnel-shaped structure, is described over 100 pages. Like most of us, she too has flown into large cities at night, has seen the sea of lights of Los Angeles, Tokyo and London. She has most certainly studied the technique Jackson Pollock developed for his "Drip Paintings". And she has used all this to make something completely new. It is something new and wholly in keeping with Daniel Birnbaum's Biennial motto, namely, "Fare mondi - Making worlds".

In his novel "Invisible cities", Italo Calvino, one of the intellectual role models of numerous "Fare mondi" artists, described the fictional city of Andria, where "every street follows a planet's orbit". Toderi takes up the idea of this city of Andria, whose inhabitants, according to Calvino, are "self-confident and prudent". She creates from it a visual maelstrom, which is acoustically accompanied by a penetrating buzzing, a distant droning that only large cities generate in this form. She has succeeded in creating an amazingly strong image of urbanity. "Urbanity" - a term which is often used in architecture and design, reduced beyond recognition, as synonymous with street furniture and "lots of people on the streets". Toderi designs a future city, one which is not attractive; a metropolis at a distance, but which contains an enormous amount of pulsating reality and poetry. In her Metropolis collage memories, media images and panoramas overlap - from the magical "cité de la lumière", Paris in the 19th century to the live commentary in the rocket-filled night of January 17, 1991: "This is CNN. Peter Arnett, live from Baghdad." Toderi embraces the fascination, the pulse, the power, the size and frightfulness of this infinite urban space. An urban space which the British urban planning theorist Deyan Sudjic gave the name "The 100 Mile City" in his epochal book of 1993.

However, as yet no designer, architect or artist has been able to forge a positive image of this megalopolis. The closest were perhaps Ron Herron with his then purely utopian "Walking city" (1964) and Yona Friedman with his floating "Space city" (1959-63). Nowadays, we know huge cities of these dimensions only as negative realities, as urban sprawl, uncontrolled development and "slumification". Naturally, the artist is aware of the fatal ecology and brutality of these behemoths with their 20 million inhabitants.

Nonetheless, Toderi shows in a crystal-clear way that the super-city of today and the inevitable future does indeed contain its own, almost cosmic beauty. She presents this terrifying bellezza with such certainty that we repeatedly return to the projection, speechless, to surrender ourselves to it in awe.

53rd International Art Exhibition in Venezia
7th June to 22nd November 2009
www.labiennale.org

Orbite Rosse (Red Orbits) by Grazia Toderi Studio, Video Installation 2009