Retrophuture is a music/media project presented by Fabrizio Passarella for his new solo exhibition at The Gallery Apart in Rome, in which not only he plays the part of the visual artist, but where he also assumes the role of the composer and of the poet. Temporarily laid aside his brushes, but certainly not his method to create images through sampling, Passarella formulates his own interpretation of that universe made of sounds, styles and suggestions so well known to any electronic music buff. Art and music have been Passarella’s greatest passions since he was a child and, on such occasion, he takes his technical and theoretical approach to the extreme, aiming at deconstructing or rejecting all traditional languages. The result is, as a first conceptual step of the project, the exhibition contained in a box, consistently with a popular tradition related to the enjoyment of the creative process, an artist’s multiple, each complete with the whole creative kit that composes Retrophuture, namely a CD featuring 24 songs composed by the artist, a booklet containing 24 poems plus 24 images inspired to the tracks, and also a DVD featuring a video.
Retrophuture is a project influenced by musical minimalists such as Steve Reich, Terry Riley and La Monte Young, Bowie’s decadent Berlin Trilogy, Eno’s ambient sounds, the frozen romanticism of John Foxx, the first “mechanic” pop of Gary Numan, Krautrock and the industrial post-Riley mantras of Kraftwerk, the experimental eccentricity of Steven Brown and Blaine Reininger, as well as the hundreds fleeting flexi/synth-pop groups discovered on the Internet.
Passarella, moreover, makes extensive use of the iconographic and propaganda material from 1930s Germany and Russia, obviously without any ideological linkage, though the artist is perfectly aware that he is walking on thin ice, faced with due irony, highlighting the aesthetic connections of totalitarian regimes and the use of rhetoric as a sort of a basic poetics (as in the Stadium of the Marbles, the monument to kolkhoz workers, or in the refined films of the Riefenstahl), extolling the Titans’ as well as the machine heroism (later drawn on by Bowie for what became the hymn of the last fin de siècle), symbol of the reactionary and modernist acceleration of time towards a hypothetical bright future. Applied to the music, the result is a composition derived as from an automatic, surrealist and fast writing, consequence of the perfect mastery of easy-to-use music software, maybe recreating analog sounds through a user-friendly and genial Mac software designed for beginners; perfect means for non-musicians as well as artists having a well-trained eye, working more as a sort of video editing or a sound photoshop than as a traditional blank sheet music. Real design-music or sound painting achieved by adding, subtracting, deleting, copying.
In addition to scoring the music, Passarella also wrote the lyrics (terse metrical structure, basic rhyming, visionary language from the texts of the aforementioned musicians), and worked on the images, creating for each piece a poetic and visual counterpart.
He is not interested, however, in performing an operation that harks back nostalgically to the past or in carrying out a technological archaeology work but, rather, in reflecting on the deep sense of the clear and definite collapse/decline/decadence/downfall/demise (in a word, Untergang) of a historic era characterized by the combination of an abiding European romantic heritage with the post-war industrialism and the contemporary omnipresence of technology. The strength of the project conceived by Passarella is the objective and crude evidence whereby the artist depicts the ideological and cultural deepening crisis that Western societies and Europe in particular are currently experiencing. The economicist drift whose current interpretive frameworks cause the crisis, according to Passarella should give way to new categories of thought, starting from the History of mankind and of the ideas from which we can draw inspiration for a possible future.
However, the essence of the Retrophuture project is the video, conceived as a fast synthpop video clip featuring a soundtrack whose lyrics characteristically read: Art is like an old toy/ a cumbrous museum piece of junk / We build in solitude/ the beat of the multitude/ We create sound sculptures/ immaterial paintings/ monumental minimalisms/ portable/ Visionary detoxifying artistic conceptualisms/ which can be carried everywhere/ in a small music case/ to stimulate the brain/ We are electronic (audio) Engineers / Romantic constructivists / We are electronic (sound) designers / Oxymoronic Retro-futurist.
The video includes historical clips downloaded from YouTube and then edited: among others, documentary films on Mao’s Red Guards, on the Hitler’s Pimpfe, the Red Army choir and dance ensemble, Carmen Miranda, Rudolph Valentino, tango dancers, a rare video on the “The Monument to the Third International” by Tatlin, the “Lichtskhatedrale” from the “Triumph des Willens” (“Triumph of the Will”) film made by Leni Riefenstahl, on the utopian urban plans of Stalin’s Russia and on Speer’s model planned for the new Berlin. The protagonist is the actor Michael Rennie who starred in 1951 film “The day the Earth stood still”, the archetype of the retro-futuristic spirit of the scientist who neutralizes the electric power (here transformed in electronic sound), and drawing on the 1980’s robotic poetics, in the robot-like and stereotyped motions realized through a primordial animation.
Thus, the exhibition in the box becomes an exhibition in an art gallery featuring visual works, unique pieces mounted on aluminum, eye-catching black and white digital images that throw emphasis on the atmosphere where deco, retro pre- and post-war and futuristic elements are combined.
Finally, a fanzine purposely devised and realized by the artist will also complement the project.