Codex: Antonio Biasiucci
Antonio Biasiucci’s fourth solo show at Magazzino focuses on his recently-made Codex series, exhibited in 2016 at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples in a show curated by Gianluca Riccio. La Fondazione Banco di Napoli invited Biasiucci to use his eye to tell the story of the materials conserved in its historical archive – the oldest and largest collection of banking documents in the world.
Spread over 330 rooms, the archive houses more than 60,000 meticulously-catalogued binders, each of which bears an apparently indecipherable numerical code. Adopting an anthropologist’s approach, Biasiucci spent three months going back through the silent history laid to rest within each folder, encompassing a chronology of Naples and the Mediterranean from the mid-1500s to the present-day. These archives tell the stories of families and individuals; of cities and communities. Like fossils from the past, Biasiucci profoundly unearths once-forgotten collective memories. The archetypes Biasiucci portrays evoke an ancestral view of what it is to be alive.
The artist instills voice and dignity to each individual subject in this plethora of archived materials. The stylistic cipher that is the hallmark of his black-and-white rendering perfectly restores the solemnity of the elements he has captured to present us with a primordial memory.As Gianluca Riccio writes: “In so doing, the containers used to store the manuscripts are laid bare, transforming into narratives of universal stories that arouse feelings in the beholder. Enchanted by the effect of the images and their layout, the highly visible numeric codes – their dates – offer up the beauty of their brush-penned writing and the possibility of multiple readings.”
As a place of memory and the transmission of memory, the Archive – and indeed the city where it is housed – becomes a theatre of the public dimension of everyday living, apparently reconciling a vision that embraces the intimate dimension of the individual identities concealed within the archive documents with the collective experience of history that is safeguarded and evoked by the archive.