Francys Alÿs, Exodus, 2013-2018

Looking for Free Knots

February 9-May 28, 2024 – Monaco

La Società delle Api is delighted to announce that Le QUAI will host the group exhibition “Looking for Free Knots” curated by Maria Katia Tufano, from a selection of artworks from the collection of Silvia Fiorucci. Maria Katia Tufano is interested investigating concepts around memory and identity. To showcase her thoughts she chose creations by Joana Escoval, Mirella Bentivogliol, Simone Forti, Laura Grisi, Rodrigo Hernandez, Joan Jonas, Nino Kapanadze, Liliane Lijn, Eftihis Patsourakis, Lisa Ponti, Cinzia Ruggeri, and Sergueï Eisenstein

Maria Katia Tufano
Graduated in Visual Arts at the University of Bologna, she specialised in the restoration of contemporary works of art, favouring conservation and minimal intervention. She has been managing private collections for over twenty years and also works as an art advisor. She has collaborated with CNR research groups on scientific publications focusing on the conservation and degradation of materials. Since 2006 she has been curator of the Alessandro Maccaferri Collection. She lives in Italy.

Curator’s Essay, January 2024

Words that come from the heart are never spoken; they get caught in the throat and can only be read in ones’s eyes. (José Saramago)

What can be read in the eyes and what can the eyes read? Three quarters of the information in the human brain comes from vision. Perceptual control is governed by the central nervous system, but how much of perception changes in each of us at the next stage, as the information is processed in sensory experience? We know that in the cognitive process, other senses come into play, mixing everything up into a tangle, and the brain again goes into action in an attempt to bring order to the cupboard of memories, an imaginary cabinet of our house/body in which visual memory is often more effective than any thought. How do I, as a human being, perceive the rainbow, and how does an owl perceive it? Does the decomposition of white light into the colours of the iris provoke the same enchantment in this enigmatic creature as it does in me? Light, colour and vision dominate our daily lives. Besides form and possibly colour, what else do we see? The gut, the second brain for us humans, very much thickens our perception.

In front of a work of art, our senses become inquisitive. It’s not just visual perception but a perception that expands thought. The artistic work goes beyond representation; it offers us a possible way to reflect on the world, both the social and the natural. The undecidable becomes form, sign, rhythm, colour and space, narrating to us what has no form. 

Leafing through the catalogue of a vast collection opens up so many possible ways of walking through it, a vein path underlying a large artery, a path with many beaten tracks in a forest to be explored. We must walk barefoot and with a free mind, trying not to be influenced by external agents, taking care not to injure ourselves, carrying the human baggage that is our collective memory, a memory that uses images and manifests itself through symbols.

What is a knot? How many different definitions and meanings can we associate with it?

Certain knots can generate pain. Others are fallacious in their attempt to take shape and lock themselves, as in the repeated movement of Francis Alÿs’ video loop where a young girl is absorbed in the act of wrapping her hair which keeps unravelling. A repetitive and delicate anti-Gordian gesture becomes a symbol of identity and an affirmation of one’s freedom. The soft overcomes the hard. Some religions forbid women to show their hair, with the obligation to wear a veil or something else. The gesture shown in the video also becomes a revolutionary act, signifying the impossibility of controlling women. In perverse ways, the Western world, too, continues to seek ways to “knot” the feminine. 

Do not cut the thread when you can untie the knots, says the Indian proverb; untying knots implies great patience, strength, constancy and above all intention.

Knots can also be obstacles to thought. Human history has insistently created dogmas not to untie knots, thus hoping to drive away what disturbs and frightens.

The primary emotion of fear is useful to humans and animals because it predisposes them to defend themselves against possible dangers; if it is taken to extremes and extended to everything around that is different from themselves, it can only unhinge any form of individual and collective equilibrium. Hence the urge to identify someone to fear and then punish, in the belief that one can control and tame the primitive human fear. While it is necessary to identify dangers and escape from them, when prolonged and taken to extremes it becomes a threat to the individual and collective mental balance. Art can bring us closer to the undecidable, to the uncanny, without generating terror and above all without generating castrating dogmas.

With Silvia Fiorucci we have often discussed these themes, recognizing a common tendency to look also with the gut, the head and the heart, thereby untying the knots of a tangle to free up all possible channels – as in a profound yogic activity involving breathing, meditating, stretching and exercising, aimed at unlocking the knots of the chakras.

The exhibition includes a guest work, not part of the collection, by Joana Escoval. The first, epiphanic encounter with the sculpture Solar Plexus took place in the company of the artist, in the space of the Milan gallery that hosted her solo exhibition Armonia. Proceeding slowly through the exhibition space, we discussed fluids, matter, energy — the perception of the body as a connection between earth and sky. We talked about the physical, visible, and the gaseous, non-visible, in continuous interaction and transformation, the need for a vision that is not only perceptive but also implies a sense of interaction with each object and its constituent materials. Works and viewers are the conductors of these impermanent energy flows. Air, as stated in the work’s caption, is one of the constituent materials. The circle of brass and air is installed at the height of the artist’s plexus. Since my height is similar to hers, the work interrupted our verbal communication for a moment, giving way to other flows.

Speaking of Solar Plexus, the mind immediately drifts to Manipura, the corresponding chakra, associated with the intuitive understanding of who we are and the surrounding environment with which we relate. The etymology of plexus is “intertwined”. Anatomically, it is a network of nerves and ganglia of the sympathetic nervous system. If the human body is a conductor, we can define the solar plexus as an electrical junction box that distributes cables in the abdominal area and all its organs. 

The work Solar Plexus is the key to the pentagram of this exhibition project.

The selection presented here is intimate, emotional, and related to my relationship with the collector.  It evokes free associations of thought linked to moments experienced together, or shared thoughts, discussions and human encounters. Ours is a nodal relationship, a free knot that does not imprison or block the throat.