Christian Fogarolli: Stone of Madness
Mazzoli Gallery, Berlin, 13 September - November, 2018
A streak of madness appears to run through today's politics, environment, and visions of human subjectivity. It is tempting to imagine that its kernel might be discerned, and perhaps removed. Christian Fogarolli's STONE OF MADNESS explores this desire through a process of (historical) displacement. Through a series of works that situate an archaic technical and psychological paradigm within an up-to-date stylistic frame, his first solo exhibition in Berlin stages a strange explanatory logic—perhaps casting new light on our own unreason.
The photo works and sculptures that feature in STONE OF MADNESS draw inspiration from a strange belief, common in Northern Europe's late Middle Ages and Renaissance, that certain derangements were the fault of a small stone forming inside the brain: "Soul imbalance," namely, insanity and social deviance, was thought to issue from the presence of this foreign body. A host of questionable surgical techniques for "extraction" were associated with treating this problem, as documented in contemporaneous engravings and literature. Further back in history, practices of opening up the skull to allow for the efflux of malign "spirits" were common, as mentioned by Hippocrates, and uncovered by archaeologists.
The works which comprise STONE OF MADNESS turn around the visualization of an interior malady, methods of excision, and corporeal analysis. They comprise found objects, such as medical instruments and archival photographs, as well as stones with unique properties: Fluorites borrow their name from the Latin fluere (melting). When exposed to ultraviolet rays, some of these stones present the phenomenon of fluorescence, which takes its name from them, disclosing an aspect of their nature otherwise unseen. Some beliefs attribute healing powers to this class of stones—which are said to ward off loss of memory, disorientation and lack of concentration. In conflating the symptom with a kind of cure, Fogarolli, stages a paradox—that the doxa of visibility and technical reason may, itself, be part of the problem.
Fogarolli's exhibition invites viewers to peer more deeply in the social body of madness, and to seek new instruments to discern its causes. Further, to meditate on the material underpinnings of collective intoxication, including the mineral substratum of digital imaginary (our so-called collective intelligence). STONE OF MADNESS probes the pharmakon of contemporary unreason. It is a procedure, and a dreaming.