Massa sepolta (Burgos, Benedicta, Batajnica 02, Ivan Polje)

Metal, wood, ground;
125x125x680 cm, 190x190x680 cm, 255x255x680 cm, 110x110x680 cm

Francesco Arena’s works deal with historic events and the semantic and ethical desiccation of socio-political symbols from recent history, understood as the result of human actions and the dynamic relationship between the individual society. The work Massa sepolta is a reflection on man’s loss individuality. Taking a cue from the idea expressed by Bulgarian writer Elias Canetti in Mass und Macht (1960), which analyzes mass sociology and the natural tension that compels man to take part in it, Arena reflects on one of the most atrocious symbols of the negation of individual identity: the mass grave. Graves in Burgos (Spain, 1935-39), Benedicta (Italy, 1944), Batajnica 02 (Serbia, 1992-95) and Ivan Polje (Kosovo, 1992-95) were chosen by the artist to symbolize all of the mass executions of our contemporary era. Through historiographic investigation, Arena tracked down the number of cadavers buried in each of these graves, and multiplied the number by his own weight, using his own body as a unit of measurement. This mathematical calculation gave him the amount of earth he utilized to construct each of the pilasters that make up the work. The soil contained in the formworks is the concrete substance of this mass: the material, ideally removed from the ground to make room for bodies, is thus transformed into the monument that conveys the enduring memory of tragedy. As always in his works, Arena does not neglect the aesthetic aspect: the mass, which is the protagonist of the piece, refers not only to the historical events evoked, but also, in its form, to the rigorousness and precision of minimalist sculpture, “humanized” by the explicit references to the artist’s physicality and body weight.

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