Luca Coclite at Toast Project Space / Florence

Luca Coclite, Concerto di Fabbrica

Curated by Toast Project Space

14 - October 15, 2023

Toast Project Space
Via delle Cascine, 35, Firenze

I believe that the Apulian territory - the Salento area in particular - like few others on the
peninsula, is characterized, articulated, and in a certain way "lives", under the sign of the trace.
Walking through its places means coming across, at once, what has been, what remains and, without too much imaginative effort, what might be. A weaving of heterogeneous traces, integrated into a single body, that bears witness to an interaction between natural and anthropic dimensions without equal.
It is natural to say that the territory of Salento reveals by images the violent conflictuality which characterizes the relationship between nature and culture. Conflict that can also take the form of poignant astonishment, as in the case of the erasure, due to time and humidity, of the frescoes in the Basilica of Santa Caterina in Galatina, as well as in the evidence of a destructive imbalance. Proof of this are the effects of the radical changes due to an entirely tourist economy and to the phytosanitary problems with resulting forms of desertification which, in recent years, have dramatically marked the structure of this ecosystem, but we will come back to that.
Luca Coclite's research, through different aesthetic and narrative strategies, takes on the task of untangling and critically analyzing this warp of traces, to recover the complexity of a territory radically transformed and, above all, to restore the historical and political implications of this process. In that sense, when I think about the artist's path, I must admit that in this exhibition he seems to muddle up the cards. Not thematically, of course, but linguistically.
Coclite's most significant works - or at least those that in my eyes distinguish hisresearch - share a kind of deliberate coldness, detachment, often generated through themanipulation of images as elements of large-scale projects.
Concerto di Fabbrica is not about the staging of an abstract gaze but an attempt to construct an haptic and physical experience. And it is not limited to the simple fact that these works are sculptures, they are instead the result of a conception and narration based on their creation process and historical origin. In the series Ceramiche Popolari, in fact, the artist creates an original sculptural complex by referring to the great tradition of the potter's culture. On the one hand he takes up its intrinsic communicative function over its original one, on the other he gives each element a degree of spatial and morphological sculptural autonomy. Three large vases whose presence in space activates a reflection to be read both through what they graphically display, as well as through their form. Each of them bears, as pictorial decorations, signs, writings, - traces - that the artist has found traveling through some places dear to him. It has become a recent habit of his to look for symbols, political slogans, or simple words that have survived from bygone eras, on the aforementioned walls eroded by time and moisture, with the power of unexpected testimonies, almost like Warburg’s Pathosformeln. Traces that unfold the narration in three central moments: the historical, political and cultural vicissitudes of an entire territory from the beginning of the last century to the present.
The phrase "Viva Colosso Adolfo deputato", dating back to 1901, appears on the first ceramic. It was found on a wall in the historical center of Ugento, in the province of Lecce. Adolfo Colosso was a landowner entrepreneur and olive grower, appreciated by many for his contribution to the innovation of the local agriculture.
The second vase is decorated with the inscription found in Galatina, "Decreti Gullo", in reference to an important but forgotten figure in Italian politics and southern history. Fausto Gullo, a reform-minded communist, was minister of agriculture immediately after the fall of Fascism and became best known for the so-called "Gullo Decrees," which initiated in the south, therefore also in Salento, a process that led to the end of latifundia in favor of agricultural cooperation as demanded by the farmers’ movements.
The last vase is surmounted by a lid composed of 5 handles ending in the shape of an Acanthus leaf which is a common feature of the “Pumo”, a traditional Apulian object, now a typical good luck souvenir. This vase is marked in red along the belly as it explicitly recalls the red markings on trees affected by Xylella, a bacterium that has devastated Italy's most important oil-producing region.
These works present traces, as flashes of memory, of a seemingly forgotten history, politics, and economy - namely the intrinsic value of working the land, and the events associated with it - and compose a path that ends, I think, in a form of ironic symbolism.
In the closed and seemingly ready vase, there are in fact contrasting elements that clearly evoke both touristification, as an idea of development, and the crisis of an ecosystem that was once quite the opposite: a clear image of a paradoxical present caught in the ambivalence between the optimism towards an already lame industrial and strategic monopoly and the evidence of the substantial breakdown of a balance between man and nature that is now difficult to heal.
I have just anticipated above that such a historical-mnemonic narrative is not developed only through the decorative elements chosen for each work. The great strength of the vases is also given by their sculptural presence and the linguistic solutions adopted by Coclite: on the one hand, the formal resumption of the traditional vases that contained oil, wine and wheat - centuries-old cornerstones of the Salento economy -, but mostly the choice to create them without handles. Vases made not usable through which the artist wants to allude to an actual loss of grip, of contact with practical living and of what is real in general.
And it is perhaps in this metaphorical use of the object, with reference to the impossibility of making a use of it, that the analytical coldness, typical of Coclite's work, emerges in a language that is now purely sculptural.
The exhibition closes with the work that enables us to understand its title. Gentil Drone is
a sound installation composed of nine air pianos programmed by timers. The keyboards are operated by debris of furnishings and, not by chance, by handles made of decorated terracotta: the loop generates a texture of sound that pervades the space and spreads out like a requiem for a territory that seems to have lost touch with its own values and its own cultural and political history.
If Ceramiche Popolari crystallizes key moments of an issue that has lasted
centuries, the concert, providing a context for the sculptures, seems perhaps to suggest a glimpse into the future where - on a path already traced - what was originally associated with popular, ordinary, identifying tasks will inexorably become furniture, ornament, souvenir.
A brief final remark cannot ignore the context in which this exhibition is taking place.
Concerto di Fabbrica, actually, is not limited to the development of a reflection on historical and morphological changes circumscribed to the Salento area. There is no doubt that Coclite’s works themselves tell us this, but it is also true that the exhibition space influences their legibility, expanding their boundaries and perspectives. Thus, Manifattura Tabacchi does not function as a mere container of a self-referential narrative, but expands its field and raises the stakes. The concert we are witnessing is the memorial of an Italy that, in its centuries-old ambiguities, no longer exists: archaeology of territories now reconverted for speculative purposes, archaeology of an industrial power that is now little more than a skeleton.

Text by Enrico Camprini

Luca Coclite (1981, Gagliano del Capo, LE, IT) lives and works in Lecce. Has been active since 2006, has participated in several exhibitions and residence for artists such “legami” as “Centro Cultural Borges” of Buenos Aires or “Experimental Intermedia” of New York on a scholarship by “NCTM e L’Arte”. He has been involved since many years in many artistic projects, national and international, both as an artist and as a curator, such as “Ramdom”, “Casa a Mare” and “Studioconcreto”. His work has been exhibited in various foundations and museums such as the la Galleria Nazionale in Rome and Fondazione del Monte in Bologna.