Venice || Italy
The small island of San Servolo rises in the Venetian Lagoon between the Biennale Gardens and the Lido, long home to Benedictine monks with a medieval monastery and an extensive park that, for centuries, were used for the pharmacological arts and medical care, until being turned into a lunatic asylum in the 19th century that was only closed in 1978. The complex is an alluring, beautiful structure having been restored such that it now offers accommodation, hosts conferences and houses various university departments. The facilities are run by the San Servolo management body, which also allows the complex to be used for art exhibitions.
The 2019 Venice Art Biennale is one such event that also uses this space, with various countries displaying works in the garden pavilions and the main monastery building housing artworks displays.
The enclosed, shiny entrance hall to this building is an ideal space for artworks that effectively introduce a visitor to the international context of art and architecture found both in the main building and in the garden pavilions. The powerful, intense installations become a form of welcome that urges you to stop and reflect before heading on.
This is the setting for Valentina Fisichella's work entitled The Moon in the Well, the most central installation in this hall, flanked by Fabrizio Plessi's work in which, against the side wall, flowing water reflects the movement of time.
The Moon in the Well is an art installation that has been developed using an architectural design approach, with a careful examination of the materials, building techniques and space usage to forge a creation that becomes pure architecture captured in a single, but complex three-dimensional element filled with meaning and suggestion.
A self-supporting glass cylinder rests on the elegant Venetian floor in the middle of the entrance hall. The cylinder itself is a complex construction with its curved surfaces that meet seamlessly, but it is also cut diagonally at the top, adding a dynamic touch through the sensation that something might move if the uneasy equilibrium slips. On top of the glass walls sit a crown of gilded, corrugated cardboard with concentric flutes and, seemingly suspended in the void in the middle of the cylinder, a golden sphere that encourages a sense of assonance both with the idea of elegant decoration and the nearby Fabrizio Plessi installation.
Valentina Fisichella's work has the clear artistic sense of both physical and metaphorical reflection. The golden sphere is reflected by the dark background of the cylinder to take on an immaterial form, recalling the connections between the physical object and the reflected shape. At the same time, there are allegorical hints as the piece forces you to contemplate the interpenetration of material and perception to find a realistic configuration of reality and the multiple levels of knowledge. The work assumes and provides insight into doing and practicing as it is project, architecture and even existence through the senses we perceive the installation with.
The creative spark for the project came from the story of the Turkish trickster Nasreddin Hodja (13th century), an Aesopian fairytale that explores experience and the human condition, things and their perception. In the tale, there is the relation between what the Hodja sees and what is real, as the moon reflected in the well becomes "real" and has to be saved from its improper positioning in the well so it can be returned to the sky. This moral and philosophical tale comes to "demonstrate" the nature of truth and perception. So, the installation in San Servolo - to be donated to the managing body following the event to continue the sense of welcoming - becomes a universal pathway through the reality of things, something to appreciate and share.
Completion Date: 2019
Gross Floor Area: 8.45 m2
Architect: Valentina Fisichella
Main Contractors: Attico Interni, Staygreen, Universal Selecta, Yuga
Photography: © Giuseppe Miggiano / Universal Selecta, © Matteo Cirenei, courtesy of Valentina Fisichella
Fisichella is an architect who believes design is a rigorous tool for learning about the world and increasing the value of spaces, buildings and cities. A Ph.D. in Architectural Design (2009), she obtained a Master’s in Modern Architecture Restoration from the Politecnico di Milano (2006), and attended a postgraduate specialization Trade Fair Layout Designer course at the Fiera Milano Foundation (2005). Already a Contract Professor at the Architecture and Architectural Composition 2 Lab at the Politecnico di Milano, she is a twentieth-century architectural recovery design enthusiast and has advised Coni Servizi to support design and works management at MilanoSport. She helmed the Team Zero network of companies, eight well-known major Italian manufacturers that distinguished themselves in their construction of pavilions and open spaces at Expo Milano 2015. She conceived and designed Carousel for Life for FederlegnoArredo, an installation generated by research into child-oriented development of a groundbreaking approach to architecture for presentation at Made Expo 2017. She runs Carousel for Kids, an association of professionals that develops industrial design and architecture projects for younger people. She has been involved in public works, private commissions, temporary installations and specialist consulting for innovative brands in the architecture world, designing installations to foster tangible relations between art venues and industry.