As part of his artistic practice, Antonio Riello subversively transforms the spaces and architecture of different museums, masking them, camouflaging them or even proposing a different approach to their normal use. His working methods often mix “Popular Culture” with “High Culture”, creating displays of sophistication and irony.
BE SQUARE! is the name of his ongoing artistic project concerning various important museums of contemporary art from around the globe, whereby the artist wants to take care of the so-called “human factor” of an artistic space, to create a new focus on the people who work there (from the museum director to the guards and café staff).
The artist seeks to highlight the particular identity of a cultural institution, related to a specific place, local traditions and working experience. So he studies the historical background of the museum, visits the venue and interviews the museum staff. This process, establishing contact and maintaining collaboration with the director and the curators, usually takes several months.
In practical terms, the artist’s idea is based on the design and production of a specific fabric (the “museum’s own Tartan”). This fabric is used to produce the outfits for the entire museum staff, a type of cultural uniform, elegant but at the same time comfortable.
The uniforms have been conceived by a young team of outstanding fashion designers, under the direction of Antonio Riello, and custom-made in northern Italy. The usual working process of the fashion system has been inverted: the artist involves in the designing process some young designers from the “so-called” Third World and the production is located in Europe.
WHY A TARTAN ? In this project, the artist works with a raw material that is normally considered to be “obvious and squared”, but which is in fact infected by small mistakes and errors difficult to recognize at first sight (in this way like a virus or a genetic mutation inside an organism). This is part of Riello’s viewpoint of the “wrong side” of social contexts, always balancing on the precarious edge between the politically incorrect attitude and the politically correct one.
Tartan fabric from Scotland is recognized as a worldwide symbol for a certain sort of square, regular Modern-Classicism. It is something that we know well, which recalls the strong traditions of Western civilization, a sort of reassuring home-like feeling, especially in Continental Europe.
However, in this case, Riello’s Tartans are all distinguished by inbuilt mistakes (some small malfunctions in the repetitive grid). At first, these errors are hidden. It is necessary to pay attention..... what is apparently perfect at first sight is full of problems when you look atit more closely. Every real identity is in some way controversial, and not really “squared” at all.
The difficult task of producing flaws using a high-tech industrial loom is an artistic challenge in itself (almost a “virtuoso-conceptual” artwork) and someway comparable to a “perfectly squared” Tartan pattern that has been entirely hand-painted.
BE SQUARE! has already been at Kunsthalle Wien (Vienna A), BALTIC (Gateshead UK), GalleriaArteModerna (Torino I). The Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, UK) is incoming.
Different outfits have been created for each venue. Each project is conceived as a temporary project, for a duration of 3/6 months.