site/situation-specific art

exercise in transmission / 2020

Works by year

19 September 2020 – Habitat /scenari possibili, “Cultural Aperitif” curated by Francesca Guerisoli, Cernusco sul Naviglio, Milan.


This exercise defined the beginning of an exploration process that I am interested in continuing regarding the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) as tools to inhabit, in order to set up relational and performative work on concepts such as trust, risk, consent, desire and care.
I was invited to take part in a live event about Public Art at Cernusco sul Naviglio (Lombardy, Italy) with the task to explore the concept of “transmission” in Art; I produced an exercise for the public to be involved with.
The exercise began by me explaining to viewers that, in my way of thinking and producing performances, the relationship with the participants always involves a mutual act of trust and exposure for the realisation of the piece. I went on to say that in order to reason together on the chosen theme of the event, I was inviting everyone to take part in an exercise I had prepared which involved wearing a surgical mask provided by me (either in place of their own or over their own) and which I previously manipulated but without explaining in that moment how, also asking them to sign a release form in order to fulfil H&S legal requirements.
When this step was meticulously done by each of the people willing to participate – a surprisingly large number,given that Lombardy has been the most hit by Covid in Italy – I sat on my chair, wearing one of my manipulated masks and I read a short text, lasting about 5 minutes. It was a cut-up that I made of some newspaper articles reporting the last phone conversation of Gloria Trevisan and Marco Gottardi with their parents, before they died in the Grenfell Tower fire in London, June 2017.

After the short but difficult reading which made me repeatedly break into tears, I faced my moved audience which at that point was aware that the masks provided were smoked.

I then opened up a conversation about the concept of transmission I had just expressed, associating sensoriality and emotional content within a relational dynamic that involved each of us in perceiving, albeit for a few moments only, the same imaginary with all the emotional drifts that stemmed from it. We analysed together the value of having overturned the use of the mask which, from being an item of PPE and an element of separation between people, had become an element of sharing, a “bridge” (as defined by a participant) for an intense, collective experience.

credits: Serafina Melone, Francesca Guerisoli, Nicolas Ceruti