4 January till 14 February 2012


Review by Rosa Juno Streekstra

translation: Pieter de Bruyn Kops

It is a white, winter scene: the bread in Kunsthuis SYB is made of gold. The Italian artist Francesca Grilli has invited us for a remarkable lunch. As small gifts, golden bread buns have been placed between glasses of water on a long table. Subtle, and with an amount of humor,  the house has also been adorned with some golden details; two bricks in the ground have been replaced with gold nuggets, and on the wall we see golden splatter. A pot of gold is nowhere to be found, but the colors of the rainbow – we find out later – are. It is busy. All of the chairs are taken, and people stand in groups talking while the gentle voice of a soprano fills the space. First we are still hesitant; can we really eat this? But then we crave it. Gold sticks to our fingers and to our mouths. The artist stays in the background, and leaves this ‘performance’ to run its course.

The lunch is a symbolic reaction to an approaching catastrophe; the end of the world in 2012. Countless birds recently fell out of the sky across the entire world, perhaps because the magnetic poles of the earth are moving. This mysterious account inspired Francesca Grilli (1978) to, as the alchemists; welcome it, not as the end, but as a transformation, so that in our iron-time a return to ‘The Golden Age’ becomes possible. Gold has become money, and has nothing to do with our spiritual health. The contemporary crisis has even generated a deep fear of it. We don’t wear gold close to our bodies, we put it in the safe. Perhaps we can feel the positive power of this metal again if we literally eat it, Grilli thought. ‘The experiment is a ritual for luck, to give Beetsterzwaag, and the guests in Kunsthuis SYB a new energy, and luck for the future’, it lauded in the invitation.

Gold is a thread in recent works of the artist. The film ‘Oro’ (2011) tells, for example, the story of king Midas who wished that everything he touched turned to gold, and so, through his greed could no longer eat. At the beginning of the short film Grilli takes the hood off of a falcon, and lets it fly along religious frescos in an Italian cloister. The mythic story is told in ‘silbo gomero’ (under titled), a wonderful whistled language that is ‘spoken’ on the Canary Island, la Gomero. Only near the end – just before the falcon can bite into a piece of meat, and Midas is perhaps freed of his last word – we see that the meditative birdsong comes from a girl that whistles through her fingers. It is this sensual communication, somewhere between the private, and the public appearance that often characterizes Grilli’s performances and videos. Her work speaks to our emotions. A deaf boy dances on vibrations, children sing in sign-language a bedtime song, a singer lets light wave on her pitch. These are examples of what Grilli calls the ‘daily wonder’; when reality suddenly gets something magical, and the unseen suddenly pops out.

The wonder of communication is also central at SYB. During her work-period, Grilli has primarily been busy getting to know the people of the village, winning their trust for the final feast. She has also invited curator Alessandra Saviotti to deliver an informative lecture about art and food one week before the closing. Saviotti made the distinction between, on the one hand, and as an example, Daniel Spoerri, who presented the leftovers of a meal as material on the wall, and on the other hand, artists like Rirkrit Tiravanija, who focus on the creation of relationships between people by cooking for them. Afterwards I come to understand that Grilli’s project is remarkable, because she has found a combination: she connects both the abstract, and the communal experience of eating, through an improbable but tangible, material form: energy. Because, besides being an enjoyable gathering, the golden lunch had a second aim.

In the antechambre the colors of the rainbow lie, spread out. They are the pictures of our aura’s that were taken by the aura reader Odette Buntenbach, with the Auracam 6000. The snapshots of our aura lie familiarly next to one another, arranged by color. When, after eating the bread, and having our pictures taken again, the question begged, if the unconscious transformation in our body, and our being, could be captured. When the light in the images of the Polaroids slowly comes forward there is amazement. Everyone exudes a golden-yellow mood. With some the magnetic field is total color. The lunch has quickly done us good. Others seem to need a little bit longer to process the gold. But that something has changed, is indisputable. Relieved, I see Grilli admire the result. The gold has worked. Or was it also the communal, artistic experience that has changed the energy, I hear her think. And I wonder curiously, how this will finally get its form, when ‘The Golden Age’ will soon be continued in the Italian exhibition-restaurant L’Ozio, in Amsterdam.

The danger of such an artistic event is that the focus changes. And that happens. We can’t contain our curiosity: what do these colors say about me? ‘How is my aura?’ someone jokes. But when we almost lose ourselves in the spiritual aspects of our own photos, a nice, unexpected interruption, and the magic of an art experience is put into words. A whisper: ‘Someone wants to say something’. It is Hanna ter Horst, a community member, and herself also an artist that Grilli has met in SYB. ‘Dear Francesca’ she begins her beautiful, and sincere speech, and everyone is quiet. Beaming at the head of the table, she tells about their encounter, about how Francesca Grilli embraces the basic principles of life in her work, and that this awareness has enriched her. A wonderful, golden moment, and then the wine comes on table, and the glasses are raised. Salute!