Dramoletti by Diego Marcon

Dramoletti: modern dramas in the wicked imagination of Diego Marcon. A one of a kind exhibition – curated by Massimiliano Gioni – that will excite, frighten or distress you, but certainly will not leave you indifferent.

Dramoletti is the bizarre title of the latest exhibition designed and set up by the Nicola Trussardi Foundation in its twentieth year of nomadic activity. The protagonist of this umpteenth artistic intervention in the heart of the city of Milan is Diego Marcon, a young interdisciplinary artist whose artistic practice moves easily between film, video, installations and sculpture. But what are the Dramoletti? Literally they are mini-dramas. The author who made them famous was Thomas Bernhard, Austrian writer, playwright, poet and journalist, who transformed them into small humorous, but also ferocious, portraits of German and Austrian political and social life. Marcon’s exhibition is divided into chapters, each of which is a small drama in its own right, but similar to the others in terms of the topics covered and the profound sense of melancholy and despondency they convey.

Diego Marcon. Ph. Marco De Scalzi

The exhibition takes place inside the Teatro Gerolamo, a small puppet theater known as “la piccola Scala”, due to its tiny proportions and fine architectural details. The small theater is located in the historic center of the city, a few steps from the Duomo. The entrance is discreet and could easily go unnoticed, but this historic and architectural gem is certainly worth a visit. As soon as you cross the threshold you find yourself immersed in an enchanted place, halfway between the dreamlike and the tangible, fantasy and reality. The exhibition opens inside the main hall with a new version of Ludwig (2018), a digital animation in which a child sings a sort of disturbing lullaby declaring his illness to the world. The child’s crude words clash with his candid voice – lent by a member of the Accademia Teatro alla Scala’s Children’s Voices Choir – and his incessant playing with a match. The feeling of anguish is amplified by the pressing pace of the music which is also reflected in the scene: in fact, the young protagonist seems to be alone on a ship at the mercy of the storm. The child first appears close to the spectators, then distant in the dark: a swaying motion that recalls that of the puppets on stage. The disturbing aria sung by the animated character is interrupted only when he burns his finger with the flame of the match; what he still wanted to tell us remains an eerie mystery.

Diego Marcon Ludwig, 2018 [still] Video, CGI animation, color, sound loop of 8’14’’ Credit: © Diego Marcon Courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London

A mystery that thickens in the other spaces of the theater that host Marcon’s works. In the galleries, the artist has installed 16 mm film projections on which he has drawn or engraved faces that seem to fall asleep. Hence the title, Untitled (Head falling, 2015). Here the incessant noise of the projectors overlaps Ludwig’s tune while the images flow without stopping in a sort of hypnotic dance. The most heartbreaking scene, however, is the one that takes place in the hall at the top of the stairs, where Marcon stages the drama of The Parents’ Room (2021). In a typical middle-class home, a family sings a harrowing song about death, loss and abandonment. A modern family drama made even more grim by the impassivity of the four actors who wear monstrous masks molded on their faces that eliminate any type of facial expression. A disconcerting scene fit for the Grand Guignol, but also for the more recent The Rocky Horror Picture Show and American Horror Story. A few steps from that macabre scene, sketches of beds hanging on the wall pave the way for reflections on the absence, disappearance and end of childhood, which usually coincides with the awareness of the cruelty of the world. Yet, what is striking is that the dramas staged by Marcon are alienating and tragic at the same time. Although the harsh reality depicted in these works may seem distant from those we experience every day – or at least we hope so -, it is impossible not to empathize with these ailing creatures halfway between human and post-human.

Diego Marcon The Parents’ Room, 2021 Film 35mm trasferito in digitale, animazione CGI, coloure, suono, loop di 6’23’’ Courtesy l’artista e Fondazione Donnaregina per le arti contemporanee, Napoli Realizzato grazie al sostegno di Italian Council (2019)

An apparent semblance of peace is granted to visitors only on the lower floor of the theater with Il Malatino (The Little Sick Boy, 2017), a short animation of a bedridden child. The protagonist sleeps peacefully, but his heavy breathing awakens memories of distant and near pandemics, while his deep sleep could be the representation of an ominous metaphor. With just a few works Marcon gives us back the portrait of a wounded, suffering, but also bored and discouraged humanity, whose repetitive actions chain the viewer in a macabre dance. Dream and reality, human frailties and the imperturbability of technology, everything merges to offer the public a disturbing and enchanted show that raises important questions related to the present and future of society.

Diego Marcon Untitled 01, 02, 03 (Dolle; Sketches for the Moles’ Bed), 2023 Pencil, ink, and highlighter on paper 210 x 148 mm Courtesy the Artist and Sadie Coles HQ, London
Agnese Torres
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