An American in the 21st Century
Martha Rosler

Martha Rosler / Galleria Raffaella Cortese

Galleria Raffaella Cortese is pleased to announce the third solo show by Martha Rosler, An American in the 21st Century, occupying all three spaces of the gallery.

The exhibition brings together three key works by the artist – spanning video, photomontage, and sculpture – in a discursive dialogue with one another that reflects her longstanding engagement with theory, criticality, and the written word. At its heart is a concern for the most insidious operations of authoritarianism, and the manifestation of proto-fascist tendencies and policies in the current political climate.

 

Martha Rosler / Galleria Raffaella Cortese

Martha Rosler / Galleria Raffaella Cortese

At via Stradella 7, the large-scale installation Reading Hannah Arendt (Politically, for an American in the 21st Century), dating from 2006, highlights the significance of the political philosopher’s writings on totalitarianism, censorship, and the culture of fear. Arendt, a refugee from Nazi Germany, fled to the United States where she became a public intellectual, and continued to write and publish in both English and German. Passages from Arendt’s writings are printed in English and her own German versions on translucent panels, which are hung from the ceiling, allowing visitors to encounter the selections from a distance, up close, or overlapping one another.

Many of the excerpts are taken from Arendt’s 1951 book The Origins of Totalitarianism and other writings, which offer scathing analyses of the roots and historical import of totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. The texts Rosler has chosen highlight the salient characteristics of these political tendencies for any “American in the 21st century.” The role of ordinary citizens, both active and passive actors in these global scenarios, are fundamental to Arendt’s political themes, just as they are in Rosler’s reflections on them. Along the lower edges of each panel, Rosler includes commentaries on each selection, translating Arendt again into her own poetics, while speaking to – and, literally, through – her words to reflect on the contemporary moment.

 

Martha Rosler / Galleria Raffaella Cortese

Martha Rosler / Galleria Raffaella Cortese

Screening at via Stradella 4, the feature length video A Simple Case for Torture, or How to Sleep at Night (1983) is an indictment of US government support for regimes which practice torture, and a sardonic reworking of the title of a chilling 1982 opinion piece by American philosopher Michael Levin, The Case for Torture. Published in Newsweek, the piece unabashedly asserts the moral necessity of the use of torture in a world beset by terrorist threats, arguing that “there are situations in which torture is not merely permissible but morally mandatory.” The article was written at a time when torture was widely and unremittingly acknowledged as illegal and immoral, and an irreducible mark of barbarism. Rosler’s video follows Levin’s argument through to its totalitar­ian implications, featuring accounts of death squads in Latin America that maintained the power of authoritarian governments through extraordinary brutality. It notes that the United States government openly supported these governments and covertly assisted others, even as it claimed to support freedom and oppose terrorism around the world. The work centers particularly on the American press and its role as an agent of disinformation on behalf of the aims of state.

Among its tools are its use of language, selective coverage, and the implicit legitimation of a point of view that attempts to establish a justification for torture and domination. Rosler couches her consideration of the ethical stakes of torture in an impressionistic barrage of visual and aural clips from radio reports, comic books, newspaper and magazine articles, and television advertisements and features. This tornado of information passes across the screen at breakneck speed – too quickly to be read or fully absorbed – while standing in for images of bodily torture that never appear, except in words and historical scenarios. Occasionally, the onslaught of data is interrupted by views of the Manhattan skyline and its bridges, or glimpses of Rosler herself: in a hand mirror, in a parked car, in front of piles of political books, or manipulating war toys. Through its juxtapositions of media reports, superimposed slogans, advertising imagery, newspaper clippings, and scripts read by ordinary people, as well as excerpts from philosophers Foucault and Adorno (his words are placed in the mouth of a television journalist), Rosler offers a reflection on the written word, its writers, and its readers, who must make their way through the multifaceted narratives of the power and authority of the state.

 

Martha Rosler / Galleria Raffaella Cortese

Martha Rosler / Galleria Raffaella Cortese

Martha Rosler / Galleria Raffaella Cortese

The photomontage series Off the Shelf (2008, 2018) takes via Stradella 1 back to its origins as a Milanese bookshop. Started in 2008 and expanded ten years later, the series comprises a selection of scanned book covers and spines covering diverse categories ranging from War and Empire (2008) to Art, Education, Activism (2018). To create these digital photomontages, Rosler arranged books thematically from among the 9000 books that constitute her library, allowing subtle visual and verbal dialogues to emerge through juxtaposition and repetition. The perspectiveless gradient backgrounds – a common device of digital design – remind us that books and texts increasingly circulate digitally, a technological manifestation of the ways in which they have always transcended their material existence as objects.

These works are not reading lists, but points of entry into certain areas of interest and concern. As both real and digital objects, they serve as a commentary and a series of indexes that supply the fundamental element to the function of education, arranging the complexity of the world and the way we think of it.

 

An American in the 21st Century / Martha Rosler
May 7 – September 7, 2019 / Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milan
Visit the exhibition page >

The Path of Totality
ARTPIL / Prescription .149
A total solar eclipse occurs today with its path of totality traversing North America, starting over Mexico, crossing through...
+
World Press Photo 2024
Winners & Exhibitions Announced
From devastating conflicts and political upheaval to the climate crisis and the safe passage of migrants, the award-winning works...
+
Fight Against the Sea Rise
Participatory Public Action by Andrea Stefanelli
Tracing methods typical of conceptual art, of performance and participatory art, Stefanelli seems to welcome the lesson of De...
+
Alex Webb: Dislocations
Publication
Dislocations presents a contemporary update of Alex Webb’s long out-of-print 1998 book by the same name first published by...
+
David van Dartel: This Time Tomorrow
Mar 7 – Apr 26, 2024
David van Dartel, acclaimed Dutch Artist, presents a curated selection of his first two captivating and exceptionally successful series,...
+
BAM Winter/Spring 2024
Jan 15 – Jun 9, 2024
Experience the power of artistic community with BAM’s program. As bands play, dancers whirl, voices raise, and audience members...
+
Truth Told Slant: Contemporary Photography
Mar 1 – Aug 11, 2024
This exhibition will feature the work of five photographers who take unique approaches to documentary photography that challenge the...
+
International Women’s Day / 2024
Artpil / Prescription .148
Founded over 100 years ago evolving through various names and dates, this fulcrum of women’s rights was adopted by...
+
The Path of Totality
ARTPIL / Prescription .149
A total solar eclipse occurs today with its path of totality traversing North America, starting over Mexico, crossing through...
+
World Press Photo 2024
Winners & Exhibitions Announced
From devastating conflicts and political upheaval to the climate crisis and the safe passage of migrants, the award-winning works...
+
Fight Against the Sea Rise
Participatory Public Action by Andrea Stefanelli
Tracing methods typical of conceptual art, of performance and participatory art, Stefanelli seems to welcome the lesson of De...
+
Alex Webb: Dislocations
Publication
Dislocations presents a contemporary update of Alex Webb’s long out-of-print 1998 book by the same name first published by...
+
David van Dartel: This Time Tomorrow
Mar 7 – Apr 26, 2024
David van Dartel, acclaimed Dutch Artist, presents a curated selection of his first two captivating and exceptionally successful series,...
+
BAM Winter/Spring 2024
Jan 15 – Jun 9, 2024
Experience the power of artistic community with BAM’s program. As bands play, dancers whirl, voices raise, and audience members...
+
Truth Told Slant: Contemporary Photography
Mar 1 – Aug 11, 2024
This exhibition will feature the work of five photographers who take unique approaches to documentary photography that challenge the...
+
International Women’s Day / 2024
Artpil / Prescription .148
Founded over 100 years ago evolving through various names and dates, this fulcrum of women’s rights...
+
  • Georg Kussmann: FRG
    Publication
    MACK
    International

    The German dramatist Heiner Müller observed that German history lies as if smothered by a rheumatism blanket: beneath there is warmth and stagnation, just enough to give the impression all is well, while the peripheries are freezing. Georg Kussmann’s photographs in FRG were created under this metaphoric blanket. Made in the Federal Republic of Germany over a single summer, they depict everyday scenes of life, work, and leisure (more…)

  • Ritual in Transfigured Time
    Mar 22 – May 26, 2024
    NW
    Aalst, Belgium

    The new NW is inaugurated with the opening exhibition Ritual in Transfigured Time, named after the 1946 short film of the same name by Maya Deren (Kiev, 1917–New York, 1961). Deren, whose life was driven by a desire for freedom, was a guiding light for us in devising the exhibition and film programme, as well as the principles of our revitalised organisation: dialogue, collaboration, experiment and the breaking down of boundaries. (more…)

  • Leda Papaconstantinou: Time In My Hands. A Retrospective
    Dec 14, 2023 – Apr 21, 2024
    EMST
    Athens, Greece

    Time in my hands represents the first ever major retrospective exhibition for Leda Papaconstantinou (b. 1945), one of the most important artists in the history of contemporary art in Greece. For over almost five decades, Papaconstantinou developed a diverse body of work that took on a range of forms – performance, sculpture, video, site-specific installations, painting, etc. – in order to explore issues of gender, sexuality, collective and personal memory, history, politics and ecology, centred always on the body. (more…)