"OMELIA CONTADINA", GALLERIA CONTINUA, 2020-2021
"OMELIA CONTADINA", GALLERIA CONTINUA, SAN GIMIGNANO, ITALY
September 26, 2020 - May 2, 2021
JR’s first solo exhibition in Italy presents his latest cinematographic project, Omelia Contadina, a short film made with the Italian director Alice Rohrwacher, which premiered in the Special Screenings section of the 77th Venice International Film Festival (2020). The film denounces the decline of traditional agriculture in favor of monoculture, which gradually undermines existing landscapes and ecosystems.
Omelia Contadina was born out of JR’s concern for the difficulties encountered by a large number of small farmers and inhabitants of the Alfina plateau, in Italy.
Alice Rohrwacher explains the origins of the project: “Last autumn, during a walk on the border between Umbria, Lazio and Tuscany, I told my friend and artist JR of my concerns about the destruction of the agricultural landscape, violated by the intensive monocultures with which major corporations are shaping entire territories. I told him, as the daughter of a beekeeper, of the mass death of insects that such changes bring about, and of the struggles of small farmers as they try to stem the tide of speculations, subsidies and pesticides. At one point, we stopped at a crossroads: on all sides, uninterrupted rows of hazelnut trees filled the landscape as far as the horizon. As we looked upon this, we commented to each other that it looked like a war cemetery. On the way back we decided that since it looked like a cemetery, we had to hold a funeral. But it had to be a funeral full of life, like a hymn of hope dedicated to all those who keep us alive day after day, producing the food we eat. ».
Alice Rohrwacher and JR returned to the region in early November 2019 to implement their project. The portraits taken by JR of 2 women and 2 men farmers, standard-bearers of traditional agriculture, were printed on large tarpaulins, which the farmers of the Alfina plateau, as well as the inhabitants of the villages of Castel Giorgio and Onano, carried in a filmed procession to the sound of a traditional local brass band. The portraits were then placed in tombs dug in the fields belonging to the farmers. Eulogies were given and the graves were filled in, marking the end of both the film and the symbolic burial.
JR elaborates on this theme in his San Gimignano solo show via a series of works made on glass, paper and plaster, along with a site-specific installation which transforms the stage and the stalls area of the former cinema and theatre that houses the gallery.
Through a series of artworks and texts on display in the rooms on the first floor of the gallery, the exhibition also illustrates JR’s entire artistic journey, from his early projects in Paris to his most recent installations all around the world.
The exhibition was accompanied by a performative event by JR and Alice Rohrwacher, entitled “Processione Omelia Contadina”, which was set out from the Cathedral of San Gimignano on September 26th.