Art Interview Interview

“It’s a story of fire, water, and a phoenix rising from the ashes,” explains acclaimed artist Fabrizio Plessi about his latest work, Fenix DNA.

Whilst these are recurring themes throughout Plessi’s artistic research, Fenix DNA holds particular significance for these primordial elements. Held in Venice’s opulent Teatro La Fenice (fenice meaning phoenix in Italian), the venue has suffered three serious fires, in 1774, 1836, and 1996. But time and time again the landmark was rebuilt, carving an incredible determination into its very foundations.

By chance, Plessi came across plaster cast moulds of original ornamental sculptures and facades made by the craftsman Guerrino Lovato to rebuild the theatre after the fire of 1996. “I was like an archeologist,uncovering and examining these incredible artefacts,” says Plessi.  Having removed all the stalls, the Italian artist then placed 200 of these casts – still protected by wooden frames – in the venue’s auditorium to create an eerie labyrinth in the vast space. Laid on black ash, they represent the theatre’s rebirth. 

While one of the founding fathers of video art, Plessi draws across mixed mediums to create an immersive experience. Here, as light floods the theatre representing fire and water and video projections lead the narrative, a powerful and emotive piece specially composed by Giovanni Sparano and sung by mezzosoprano Francesca Gervasi soundtracks the piece.

“The infinite capacity of reproduction in ferocious contrast with the ground’s black ashes symbolises our insecurities,” says Plessi. “As audience, we are lost in the magic of the labyrinth of emotions. Suddenly: a fire… and all the theatre shines with digital red light. Suddenly: the water’s blue devours all the metaphorically flooded stalls. Then, darkness. The mould’s white light lightens the secret shadows of perception. The labyrinth of moulds is the labyrinth of reason: we walk round reason to find ourselves: we are the castaways of today’s culture.”

Fenix DNA runs until 6th August at Venice’s Teatro La Fenice, promoted by Generali Valore Cultura. Tickets are available here