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Federico Nessi: Emotional Response Can Be Deconditioned

Installation view after closing performance of Federico Nessi’s exhibition Emotional Response Can Be DeConditioned at Spinello Gallery. Courtesy of Spinello Gallery.

Spinello Gallery, Wynwood Art District - Miami

September 13 - October 3, 2008

 By Thomas Hollingworth

The recent exhibition Emotional Response Can Be Deconditioned by lens-based, media-turned-performance artist Federico Nessi ended recently at Spinello Gallery with a closing reception the likes of which Miami has never seen.

Nessi, whose uneasy aesthetic and tortured sound pieces have featured prominently in Miami’s media since his self-funded production, Wire Wire Wire in April, outshone many of his contemporaries last September with an exhibition of tense photography, video and installation.

Completely remodeling the interior of Spinello Gallery, Nessi divided the already diminutive space diagonally with a skewed video room. He then painted the walls and ceilings jet black, smashed mirrors on the floor and refused traditional track lighting– favoring instead to festoon every available surface and corner with entangled bunches of rope lights.

A special performance, which took place on September 13th directly outside of the gallery, saw Nessi and a group of like-minded individuals (Victor Barrenechea, Ricardo Guerrero, Ana Mendez, Alex Puentes and Alex Senf) giving an extended, chaotic rendition of Haunted When The Minutes Drag by Love and Rockets. Nessi, who took center stage, exposed his grief-stricken soul to an abundance of gallery walk revelers; inducing feelings of voyeurism, which were echoed in the exhibition’s works. From videos evocative of interrogation, to a series of nine anxious images depicting two men absorbed in an aggressive precursor to fellatio, each piece resonated with a similar sense of privacy exposed.

In contrast to the spectator event upon opening, the closing reception on Friday October 3rd saw the artist (this time with just Mendez and Guerrero) within the space; scratching around with samplers, distortion pedals and a rapidly depleting bottle of Dewar’s Scotch Whiskey.  Whereas attendees for the exhibition’s opening had constituted the majority, here very few dared linger– the thunderous cacophony and thrashing, drunken occupants creating an uncomfortably claustrophobic atmosphere. One patron drew the comparison with a freak show; another said Goth karaoke.

At some point, probably half way down the bottle of Dewar’s, Nessi and his cohorts began to focus their flailing, angst-ridden vigor upon the destruction of the space. Initially walls were scratched with available implements, but over the course of three hours holes began appearing. Small at first, they soon became large enough for Mendez to crawl through; adding a forth dimension to her already transgressive performance.

In the context of attempting to reconcile tortured emotions and desperate longing, the performative element - projected in fits of painful exasperation - conveyed very well the frustration (and acceptance) that anguish is perhaps not as cathartic as we might think. Instead of a conclusion to his tempest, all Nessi offered was a fatalistic gesture; confirming that emotional response, at least in this instance, could not be deconditioned. Today there is a tendency to attempt to negate mental pitfalls with pills, but perhaps our focus should be on the process of healing rather than the promise of happiness. If we ignore that, then we ignore the point of the exhibition: that it’s totally OK to be completely overly emotional.

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