Emilio Prini “Not Made Not Chosen Not Presented” ML Fine Art / London by

by November 2, 2020

Among the most elusive artists of the 1970s European art scene, Emilio Prini has systematically worked on subtraction and withdrawal. This methodology permeated not only his practice — in which he avoided, whenever possible, the creation of physical objects — but also his life and stance toward exhibitions and social interactions. His involvement in the public display of his work was sporadic and often effected through stratagems. An exemplary instance of this tactic was a solo exhibition held in 1975, subtitledUna esposizione di oggetti non fatti non scelti non presentati da Emilio Prini,” in which the artist presented a vitrine of objects to which he claimed no relationship whatsoever. The title of the present exhibition, staged by Düsseldorf-based artist collective Studio for Propositional Cinema, is a literal citation of that memorable show. However, and fortunately for us, the exhibition does contain objects and artworks that were indeed chosen, presented, and in some cases even made by Emilio Prini. The mobile walls by Christopher Williams provide an apt setting for the display of twenty works (a relevant number given Prini’s scarce production) demonstrating the artist’s polyhedral practice. The exhibition spans from a 1968 printout reproducing the now legendary telegram sent to confirm his participation in an exhibition (Confermo Partecipazione Esposizione — for which the telegram became the very object that the gallery had to display, rather than the artist having to produce and provide an artwork), to the rare and seldom seen Fogli da un taccuino di legno (Sheets from a Wooden Notepad), sculptural works from the 1990s that become architectural elements. This exhibition was designed to change over time: after the first month, some of the works by Prini will be gradually replaced by works of various contemporary artists whose contributions testify to the enduring influence and relevance of Prini’s practice. A limited-edition pamphlet by Studio for Propositional Cinema, titled Emilio Prini’s Conscientious Objection, is integral to the exhibition and is an acute critique, through the analysis of Prini’s work, of today’s art system and market dynamics. The short essay places a particular emphasis on those demands and constrictions that the artist must face if they are to achieve validation and “success”: instant recognizability (i.e. a stable signature style), marketable persona, and reliable production. These are exactly the constraints that, through his multifaceted, precarious, and intentionally marginal practice, Prini eluded throughout his life in order to maintain his creative freedom from the system. The pamphlet concludes: “The goal of a system is to subsume our behaviors into its own desires […]. To fight to retain cultural space for the unexpected is a small first step in the direction of hope.” “Not Made Not Chosen Not Presented” is a noteworthy contribution toward a kind of intellectual liberty that seems forgotten in today’s contemporary art discourse: the freedom from expression.

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Piero Tomassoni