Italian artist blends art and technology to create new waves

Abu Dhabi - Fabrizio Plessi's month-long display marks the public opening of the Italian Cultural Institute in Abu Dhabi.


Ashwani Kumar

Published: Tue 19 Oct 2021, 8:04 AM

Fabrizio Plessi, an 81-year-old internationally renowned video artist, is making waves with his ‘digital wall’ exhibition, which he terms as a metaphor for life.

The month-long display marks the public opening of the Italian Cultural Institute in Abu Dhabi — the first and only Italian cultural hub in the Gulf region. And the Venetian artist is in the capital city with five sets of his acclaimed video works that present water as a vital element.

“I have been working on the theme of water for decades. I live in Venice, the ‘city of water’. Since living there, I have become more fluid and elastic like the water as it’s the main element there. Water is a super important element for me and my art,” Plessi told City Times.

But, on entering the pristine institute, where the much-anticipated digital creation is placed, you are startled, for it’s just a bunch of free-standing LCD screens juxtaposed on the wall featuring colourful frames of water echoing sounds of waves. You wonder what the big deal is, but as soon as Plessi starts to explain, the master turns you into a student of art.

“This is a very emblematic piece. You don’t have to see this work as a physical piece on water. But it is a metaphor of our lives. The liquidity and fluidity are always the same. In this flow of water, sometimes a stone falls, and then the water changes colour. This is metaphorically our lives.”

Each set of installation conveys a message of hope and happiness. Depicting deepness of water, still frames, stones falling in at different times and splashing of waves, the artwork portrays the continuous flow of life despite conflicts and disruptions.

“The stone that falls is our ideas, thoughts and sensations. The water will not be the same after the stone has fallen, it will change. This is also a picture of myself, because with my ideas, I wish to change some things in the world, like helping society. So, this is a metaphor of my life and all our lives,” he said while describing his urbane presentation.

Asked if a layperson will be able to understand the intricacies and depth of such works, the octogenarian noted: “My work is very democratic. It is not a static work of art that sits on the wall. It is a philosophical way of thinking. You can interpret things the way you know them. How you read such works is at different levels.”

The first Italian artist to experiment with video art embraced technology as early as the 1960s, an era when handheld cell phones weren’t even invented.

“In Venice, there is a saying: Don’t make waves. But my aim is to create waves, change ideas and things. Thanks to technology this is possible. I was the first artist in Europe to work with technology. I was the first Italian to use video installation. Historically such work is very important.”

The contemporary video-artist aims to humanise technology by striking a balance between man’s historical consciousness and the new technologies that occupy an increasingly important place in our daily lives. He has also taught humanisation of technology at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne, Germany.

“Technology is very important in our lives. But it is also a big threat; if we don’t control technology, it will control us. It’s easy to get addicted and be a slave to technology.”

‘Culture is the most important thing’

Plessi, who travels to up to 30 countries a year, is pleased to be at the institute and in the UAE.

“I have come to the UAE a couple of times. I like the climate and the sun. For me the light is very important. And there is always good sunlight here.”

Till date, he has held 570 personal exhibitions globally and displayed works at nearly 140 major museums in Paris, New York, Madrid, San Diego, Cologne and more.

“The UAE should continue to give more importance to culture. Abu Dhabi has one of the best museums in the world in the Louvre. It’s amazing and beautiful,” Plessi said and added: “Such an exhibition is a very important message to the UAE: culture is the most important thing.”

Catch Plessi’s life in a digital format

A digital presentation of Plessi’s book, My Life in a Book, with 1,000 images, projects and art works, is also part of the exhibition. The original book is 6 metres high, and the pages are turned using a fan.

“This is the first time that I am displaying the digital version of the book at any exhibition.”

The eBook along with the ‘digital wall’ will be on show later at the Burj Al Arab.

Dubai has hosted the acclaimed artist before. In 2010, Plessi erected a vertical fleet comprising 12 vessels measuring 10 metres each, with video installations, in front of the Burj Khalifa.

The new Italian institute is located in the Al Bateen area and the exhibition will be open to the public until November 7. Entry is free but you need to show ‘green pass’ on the Al Hosn app.

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