New Rooms for the Gam

Domus 929


On 23 October the gallery of modern artin Turin reopens with the inauguration of a new project set up by director Danilo Eccher to showcase one of Italy's largest art collections


The new plan to reorganise GAM’s exhibited works by theme, rather than in chronological order, is a highly fascinating prospect. The notion of rethinking GAM’s collection in terms of a morphological and anachronistic logic is an alluring way to get round the

epistemological obstacle presented by historical categorisation. It entails undermining the usual narrative model and turning to a narrative structure based on alternative interpretations. However, the current organisation of GAM’s spaces, divided indifferently on two levels, would appear somewhat impervious to this kind of re-narration scheme. Hence the need for a radical rethink of the spatial distribution, organising the spaces as “rooms” or places in which spectators can have an individual visual experience and

appropriate pictorial and sculptural works (or perhaps even poetic and musical). Thirteenth-century poets described the essential nucleus of their poems with the word stanza – Italian for room – in other words a seat or receptacle, because it contained all the formal elements of the verse: the stanza as the womb, the matriarchal place of creation, the imagination and consciousness. The room defines a space via the delimitation of its walls and the style of its furnishing. Each room embodies a world, manifesting an interior universe through sensible meanings. This is why a room is also called an “environment”. Those who inhabit the room perceive a system endowed with a lexicon of judicious meanings, of images that are collected and absorbed within the visitor’s mental map. The idea was therefore to arrange GAM’s galleries as if they were a sequence of rooms belonging to four imaginary buildings (corresponding to the four themes that will structure the collection). The rooms are made up of fragile and inconsistent elements: plasterboard walls but also screens and drapes that recall the indooroutdoor relationship that tends to be removed in contemporary museums, which increasingly adhere to white box poetics but are for this reason removed from the memory of the 19th-century museum-palace. The rooms might develop as a labyrinth in which to lose and rediscover oneself. The image of the labyrinth is attractive because it is a fundamental archetype of western culture. The spiralling labyrinth is a metaphor for knowledge gained by degrees and through experience, an archaic model of dialectic thought. The principal fascination of the building’s plan as a labyrinth of images and imagination is of course Mnemosyne or Atlas of images, the unfinished work by Aby Warburg, who in making an inventory of the most representative iconographic material of European civilisation, following the synchronic order of the Wunderkammer, intended to capture “the kinetic potential already present in images, to hand it back to their posthumous life” (Agamben). The labyrinthrooms allow the development of the hermeneutic (interpretation) that encounters and crosses over with the heuristic (discovery, unexpected experiences, event), but without renouncing the pedagogic moments that are always present in historicalcultural institutions such as GAM. Thinking about the diaphragms that configure the gallery space, breaking up its dimensions and proportions, white surfaces have been proposed for the fixed, defining parts and the masonry, with colours for the lighter more mobile elements, the fabric divisions and coulisses. The chromatic references serve to

accompany the visitor’s path without leading or ordering. It is mainly a case of adhering to a form of visual synechism or continuity that allows different works to dwell under the same roof and occupy the same rooms. A founding or re-founding act of diverse unities brought together in a single entity.