The first edition of ARENA 1999, Contemporary Art Meets Montagnana, held from 24 July until 5 September, has been an experiment for an annual contemporary art exhibition, especially planned for the town of Montagnana. Twenty-two artists have been invited to create twenty-two distinctive flags (whose dimentions are 1.30m x 1.30m). From the next edition the flags will be standing on the 24 towers which strenghten this medieval town's walls. The project, curated by Cinzia Fratucello, is meant to offer the opportunity for contemporary art to meet the history and the architecture of the town, as in an arena. The twenty-two flags, after having waved in the sky during the opening day, have been exposed in the interiors of the Mastio of Ezzelino, a 42-metres tower dated 1242. To complete the event, the artists have presented their artworks in an old barn used for corn selection.
Amongst all artworks displayed, Giorgio Cattani's video installation entitled Di terra persa (Of lost land) refers to our present history, and has raised much interest. A no-where space delimited by charcoal traces represents the walls of a house that has been destroyed during the war, and whose now only ruines remains. The war in Kosovo has clearly inspired the artist to represent this tragic moment made of obsessions and egotism, in which identities are lost. Within this no-where space a television shows a female figure shaded in a sort of framed picture in black & white, a sort of religious icon. This icon has descended from the picture on the walls to include a new space: the television. This work highlights the power and influence, both positive and negative, that television as a new media has in our society. Our generation carries this media's mirabilia and it is stolen of its dreams by it, without even realising the damage. The artist's hope is that everybody one day will develop a more critical and more active approach to television and its programmes, and most of all that youngsters will learn how to make an active use of it without being completely swallen.
Marco Brandizzi's work is entitled Sopra la testa (Over the head): it was born casually, as the artist found in a newspaper an interesting photo of an African seller who holds his goods over his head, as it is common in African culture. Brandizzi found this picture very challenging, as he believes that artists are like dealers of culture, sort of Marco Polo travelling around the world, truly or virtually, looking for truths, exploring new boundaries, making and receiving messages. Originally the work was to be installed on the granary wall, under the word « TERRA » (« LAND »), but then the exhibition space inspired the artist to leave the work on the floor as if the sculpture come out from it. Every traveller, even only for a moment, looks for a landing place, an objective, a place to be his definite or temporary « LAND ».
Salvatore Falci, instead, has chosen to put some stickers in various locations in the centre of Montagnana. Five stickers (located in the town's central square, in a bar, in a chemist's shop, and in a tobacconist) have been left to quietly enter in people's lives, intercept their thoughts, and offer them an "advice" in form of assertment, exclamation or motto (such as « Please ! Smile ! »). People were supposed to interact with these stickers, and hopefully be directly challenged by this work. Only one sticker has survived, to remember the intervention, while the other four have been taken away from their space. A dose of uncertainty in the result of this intervention was part of the game, which is meant to investigate and collect information. Although the loss of some of these stickers can be seen as a negative information (as a sign of people's poor consideration of the project), this is again part of the work, and this loss itself has given a different meaning to the whole intervention: the media within which contemporary art develops and analyses some issues is not relevant, what is relevant is the outcome. Therefore, the creative act is considered as a tool to challenge people's attitude, rather than repeat cultural and social stereoptypes. The surviving stickers is now the only witness of all thoughts absorbed during its journey, and the final work is not the actual coloured strip itself but all smiles which spread from it.
The twenty-two special flags, as well as the reproductions of the artworks displayed in the granary, can be viewed on the website
The artists involved in "ARENA 1999" were:
Felice Levini ,