I started by making art a den in which I have the chance to survive, in the subsoil, remaining a stranger and protected by a reality that I have always lived as unbearable. [...] Faced with being in the world [...] that you always perceive as aggressive towards all that you are and as you are, only art has offered me the possibility of creating a silent lie that has become my only truth.
It is an extract from Pepe Espaliù’s article published in El Paìs, a Spanish newspaper, on December 1, 1992, 11 months before the artist died after a tough fight against AIDS.
Espaliù is one of the most important contemporary Spanish artists, famous above all for having at the center of his artistic practice the reflections on his own identity. "My homosexuality was my first sign of exclusion from this world. We homosexuals have accepted as cowards to live in an imposed social scheme, from which we are excluded and with whom we have nothing to do. The world around us does not concern us at all: we are not in keeping with its model of social structure, based from the beginning only on the idea of family. We are not in keeping with its legal model, which does not at any time consider the possibility of the legal existence of the homosexual couple and which does not completely contemplate our rights. We are not in keeping with its religious model [...]. We are not in keeping with its political model, in which we never see ourselves represented as a community. We are not in keeping with its advertising model because the means of communication are the reflection of a single form of couple relationship, excluding from its images our different way of being and loving.”
Therefore, Espaliù's analysis starts from not recognizing himself in the given social structure and art becomes for him the "den" in which to find a vital dimension. A dimension, however, parallel to reality at least until the disease takes over. It is the disease, in fact, that gives Espaliù the strength to get out of that "den" and affirm his diversity head-on. Unforgettable, about this going out and looking for a "support", the Carring performance of 1992 where on the international day of AIDS a human chain carries Espaliù, already seriously ill, from the Madrid Parliament to the Reina Sofia Museum.
This performance has been the starting point of the exhibition The last Espaliù and the Italian context held recently at the Real Academia de España in Rome where Espaliù was a scholarship holder shortly before his death. This is the first exhibition in Italy dedicated to Espaliù with works from the Museo Nacional Reina Sofía, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo, Fundación Coca-Cola España, Center of Art Pepe Espaliú, Galería Pepe Cobo and Real Academia de España and it was a great honor to curate it together with Rosalía Banet and Xose Prieto Souto.
The path of the exhibition was marked by various common threads such as: illness, vulnerability, isolation, misunderstanding and consequently, the need for support. That of Espaliù still remains an open wound and it is enough to read any newspaper to understand how the themes he tackles are still today, unfortunately, on the agenda.
The section of the exhibition simply entitled "The Italian context wanted to recreate an atmosphere in which those same suggestions were reworked in different forms. There were videos, paintings, drawings, photographs, installations. The video section included works by Bruna Esposito, Cesare Viel and Marinella Senatore.
In E così sia by Bruna Esposito the artist placed legumes and cereals on the floor of the museum to form a left-handed swastika with a stove and a glass bowl with water and laurel in the center. A sort of propitiatory rite of positivity and hope.
Cesare Viel in the performance Dialoghi d’Identità interviews some people in the center of Milan, reflecting on topics such as the modification of man in the contemporary world, homosexuality, marriages and adoptions by people of the same sex.
Marinella Senatore's artistic practice revolves around the theme of community, community creation, social relations also through the form of the procession. Rosas, the work on display, is a 3-part opera that involved a cast and troupe of 20,000 people.
Then there were the works of Francesco Impellizzeri who dressed up in a kitsch way creating tableaux vivants to personify stereotyped characters as they emerge from the media; two works by Alessandro Moreschini that reflect on the regenerating power of art, trying to overcome the combination of life and death in a harmonious and balanced dimension where the pictorial sign revitalizes shelters and skulls; finally, Vincenzo Marsiglia has shown a project related to illness and the possibility of creating a social space through art. This is a project that will be implemented in the departments with terminal cancer patients (after AIDS, the place of horribilis disease was occupied by cancer) in the coming months, creating interactive spaces to relieve pain.
A context rich in numerous points of reflection that I hope can be explored in the coming years.