By Giulia Piceni. Cover image: Diego Marcon, Dolle, 2023 (still). © Diego Marcon. Courtesy the Artist and Sadie Coles HQ, London
The latest exhibition by contemporary artist Diego Marcon, open until February 4, 2024, at Centro Pecci in Prato, is centred around three elements: a strange sound, dead porcelain dogs and a violent light. And it’s immediately exciting.
The dogs’ shiny porcelain corpses on the walls look like they are enveloped in a smooth, sugary coating, referencing the exhibition name Glassa, meaning icing in Italian. Through videos, animations, sculptures, and an immersive experience, Marcon – one of the most interesting artists on the international contemporary scene – investigates universal themes such as the meaning of life and death, often using the innocent ambiguity typical of childhood or doggies as a useful key to rethinking everyday life.
In the publication that accompanies the exhibition, with an introduction by the curator and Centro Pecci Director, Stefano Collicelli Cagol glassa is defined as a perfectly smooth envelopment, a flavoured pleasure hiding something even more succulent.
After a personal exhibition at Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and his participation at The Milk of Dreams Venice Biennale curated by Cecilia Alemani, the Sadie Coles-represented artist has finally reached Centro Pecci in Prato, transforming the ten rooms of the Ala Gamberini into an immersive experience with a unique setting designed specifically for the museum.
Blending new and old works accompanied by the reiteration of Marcon’s signature elements, such as loops, video installations and sculptures, Diego Marcon at Centro Pecci Glassa is a must-see exhibition that promises to capture hearts with an emotionally-moving display.
THE EMOTIONS BEFORE ENTERING GLASSA EXHIBIT BY DIEGO MARCON
A door separates Diego Marcon’s Glassa exhibition from the more colourful and varied Eccentrica – Le collezioni del Centro Pecci.
While still walking by the futuristic architectural drawings that define the last part of the multi-artist permanent exhibition, visitors can hear frightening echoing sounds coming from behind the door. An anti-panic handle separates the calm of the orange-carpeted space from audible chaos emanating from the unknown environment.
Even before entering the ten rooms hosting Glassa in Centro Pecci’s Ala Gamberini, the irritating and jarring noises create a palpable sense of discomfort.
It takes a kind of courage that is only fuelled by curiosity to push the handle and confront the exhibition behind the door.
DIEGO MARCON AND THE LAND OF THE HOPELESS AT CENTRO PECCI
As you enter the room, you are greeted by the sight of a dead dog, its half-closed eyes gazing at the grey ground, hopelessly lifeless. The scene brings to mind the inscription on the gates of Dante’s Inferno – abandon all hope ye who enter here – serving as a grim reminder that death is the only thing that awaits beyond this point.
Diego Marcon has created a dog cemetery made of porcelain corpses, whose warmth and loyalty are captured underneath their smooth surface (the icing, glassa). There is an unusual silence: none of those fluffy creatures are there to jump on your legs while wagging their tails or barking lovingly to draw attention. The passing of time has crystallised their form, and their breath has been taken away with glassa coating their once warm bodies.
Like ghosts, those dead dogs seem unable to escape our dimension. And so they stay there, hanging on the wall like martyrs of a world that has taken their sweetness without reciprocating the love.
DIEGO MARCON’S GLASSA AT CENTRO PECCI SOUND MYSTERY UNSOLVED
As you turn your gaze towards the entrance, you can see bright electrical dots in red, blue and yellow. It might look like an artwork, but it is actually the back of a massive projection, so big that it almost blocks the passage to the second room.
The almost two-minute looping sequence of TINPO (2006) is a video starring a young boy playing with toy weapons inside a 90s-style middle-class home. A statue of the Madonna, a grandma visibly upset by the confusion and then the kid jumping on the sofa, pointing the toy gun at his temple. The video is intentionally low-quality, with glitches in both sound and images and grainy VHS footage.
The high volume, allowing the sound to be heard across the ten rooms of Diego Marcon’s exhibit, adds to the sensory experience; the squeaking linoleum floor seems to produce a new plastic flavour that is unlocked with each step. Even just looking at the walls, the chemical smell of the fresh paint seems to hug those who pass through the rooms.
But to fully appreciate the exhibition, you need to look up.
DISCOVERING ALA GAMBERINI AT CENTRO PECCI
After years of closure, Ala Gamberini has finally opened, unveiling a new take on one of Centro Pecci’s most iconic and well-known spaces. The current exhibition by Diego Marcon uses a bright light coming from above to illuminate everything, making the dog’s corpses even more tragic. This light seems irreverent for a glossed requiem – why all this white and clear atmosphere in front of so much suffering?
The only solace for the dead-asleep companions is the tenderness of our eyes as we look at them.
After one last glance at the seemingly alive sculptures, I am ready to leave, knowing that the eerie feeling of this experience will stay with me until I pass through the exit door, the intense light heightening my senses.