MY BODY IS NOT NOBODY
a cura di Irene Biolchini
5 Marzo – 7 Maggio 2022
CRASH might seem to be a work about the pandemic, domestic constraint, imprisonment and fear. Instead, Loredana Longo had started to conceive this series long before the lockdown and everything that followed in the last two years. In the works on show it is clear that oppression is not determined by events or by the limitation of mobility. Freedom is not achieved by leaving the house or destroying what physically blocks our movement. The barrier, or the guardrail, is not an external limit. In this sense, the CRASH exhibition marks a shift from the artist’s previous production in which the obstacles to be demolished were the wall (as in PIEDIPORCO, 2017), the bourgeois furniture (as in the EXPLOSION series begun in 2006), the prison walls (NOTHING AS IT SEEMS, 2009). In CRASH Loredana Longo seems to ask us: what is the border, the limit, the cage? The answer is only one: the body.
The body is the only instrument for grasping reality, the place around which the scars of experience are measured. The skin is a shell, a wrapping and a container: the artist probes its boundaries and extensions, imagining a body-machine subjected to a continuous drive towards self-destruction – the challenging and the overcoming of every barrier. As if only through pain we can feel alive. This is reminiscent of Ballard’s Crash in which we read: «For him, such wounds were the keys to a new sexuality, generated by a perverse technology; and their images hung in his mental gallery like exhibits in a slaughterhouse museum». The scar is the indelible sign of the clash and of the pain, but it does not generate a new awareness, or as the artist says: «Experience is of no use, we know what things hurt us and we do them again. Because after all we like that mistake, the mistake is life itself».
Life passes through the body, through its signs. Within a long history that precedes her, Loredana Longo dwells on the body to measure a political and private dimension. In her research one might see the strength of the great artists of the Sixties and Seventies, particularly from body art and performance: one cannot look at the video ARMOUR without thinking of the body imprinted in the earth by Ana Mendieta, but one must recognise that the panic balance between man and nature is here brutally interrupted in favour of a mechanical representation. A video loop in which liberation from the shell is associated with the sculptural work lying on the ground: what remains on the ground is not the cast of the body, the pink colour covers the negative, the skin remains inside the armour resting on the ground. ARMOUR is therefore a protection, but it is also a ceramic shell-armour, a material which in its fragility denounces the impossibility of defence. This is why the armour is the symbol of opposition, the shell within which the clash is played out. After all, if we think of the historical woman in armour, Joan of Arc, we can understand the strength of ARMOUR. The long trial of Joan of Arc ends with the abjuration of the woman who, in front of the burning pyre, signs confirming her heresy, her demonic visions and swears never to wear men’s clothes again in her future life in prison. And it will be precisely the denial of this promise, when inside her own cell Joan will once again wear men’s clothes, that the Inquisition can meet again, determine Joan of Arc’s “relapse” and condemn her to death. In Loredana Longo’s shell-armour lies this long tradition of violence on the woman’s body, on the normative system that has always imposed what a woman must and can be, on the patriarchal system that has always imposed a look, a vision. The conventions that the artist exploded in Explosion, in the CRASH series are brought inside the armour, they inhabit it. The prison is no longer an external limitation, but lives within ourselves, reduced to machine-bodies, forced to mechanically execute the conventions imposed on us. The clash is not with the outside world, but with the set of neuroses, fears and limits that we place on ourselves every day. This is another reason why we do not get out of the cage, as in CRASHING THE BOX, a video (and sculpture) in which the struggle against the guard-rail does not lead to any exit. Moreover, the artist herself describes her research in these terms: «CRASH becomes the space of the indescribable emotion you feel when you are forced by something into something or by someone into something and finally you don’t even look for the way out anymore, as if the aim was just to hurt yourself in order to feel, then everything else goes after it, it is an icy atmosphere that describes lonely spaces».
The point of connection between the artist’s previous production and this new cycle of works is undoubtedly CAPITONNÈ SKIN WALL, a five-metre wall made of padded leather, stitched together in such a way as to forever bear the impact of the body that hit it. In this case too, a video accompanies the work, allowing the spectator to watch the performance in which Loredana Longo, all painted black, throws herself against the wall, leaving the imprint of her own body. It will then be the artisans who will follow that trace, sewing the mark left by her on the animal skin.
In ALL MY SKIN the animal-artist parallel is repeated: the work has the exact dimensions of Loredana Longo’s skin, but it is open and dissected as in butchers’ cuts. Stapled sutures are inserted into this skin: the body displayed here does not heal and it continues to show the memory of the operation. What we see before us is the artist’s unique body, but a body inhabited by the fears, constraints and anxieties that continually populate us. In this sense, his body is no different from that of the others, although it remains unique. Unique is the shell that contains the neuroses that unite us. This is how the subtitle of the exhibition MY BODY IS NOT NOBODY was born, a sort of mantra that returns in a series of works exhibited in the two venues (a neon sign, a large skin, a metal box) and that relies on a new language, a suspension of English grammatical rules that gives life to a sentence that is only apparently incoherent. Something that the artist describes in these terms: «MY BODY IS NOT NOBODY means nothing to me, or perhaps everything, it is a nursery rhyme, a repetition. The whole exhibition investigates the sense of the repetition of mistakes and small actions that make us unique (equal and different from everyone else)». So Longo’s sentence does not mean anything, but as Lacan taught, «language, before meaning something, means for someone».
Loredana Longo takes us inside her language and in doing so she does not respect any kind of grammar, not even those of the techniques used: she burns wool and velvet to create fabric works, she sets fire to ceramics before firing them, she destroys highly detailed settings with explosions. In this new series of works, too, the artist overturns the sense of the expected: she exposes the inside of a suit of armour, destroying rear-view mirrors to erase any possible retrospective vision. After all, there is no past and no future in the compulsion to repeat, there is no escape from this continuous clash with ourselves. The imprint of the body remains forever recorded in the seat of SITTING CRASH, further blocked against the wall by a guardrail.
What Loredana Longo inherits from her research of the 1970s is the idea of an expanded field of sculpture, the possibility of shaping the consciousness of the spectators and activating a sculptural process. Walking inside the gallery in Milan we are also inside the cage-guardrail (thanks to the series of GUARDRAIL CRASH prints that entirely cover the walls), watching the video ARMOUR we also feel the constriction, stopping in front of the brightness of the neon box MY BODY IS NOT NOBODY we feel we have a unique body and for this, our uniqueness binds us to that of all. The pain of confrontation is private, but it happens within each of us, so it affects us all.
 James G.Ballard, Crash, Jonathan Cape, London, 1973.
 J. Lacan, Aldilà del principio di realtà, in J. Lacan, Scritti, Vol. 1, a cura di G. B. Conti, Einaudi, Torino, , 2000, p. 77.