Benni Bosetto exhbition: Slippery Orchid

Current exhibition

Slippery Orchid

23 November 2023 - 07 June 2024

(By appointment only)

48 Foro Buonaparte

Benni Bosetto

Emanuela Campoli is pleased to announce its second exhibition in Milan. ‘Slippery Orchid’ is a carte blanche given to artist Benni Bosetto to play with the limits between art, the body, and the mutability of the different environments that constitute the apartment at 48, Foro Bonaparte.

When the mind travels beyond the body, one can experience an oceanic feeling. Bodily boundaries become slippery and overflow into other places and people, bringing them close, almost as if to touch them. At best, this feeling creates an indissoluble bond between oneself and the ‘external’ world, the power to be one with it and to see it as a whole. This sensation can be experienced in different ways, through a movement of contraction, release and relaxation, like the motion of waves in the sea – the same movement that occurs in the body during an orgasm. Psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich – a controversial and far-seeing intellectuals of the twentieth century who dedicated his life to understanding the complex link between sexuality and freedom – argued that this ‘orgastic’ movement is not limited to itself. While releasing a wave of fluid and libidinous energy capable of dissolving the rigid, defensive ‘armour’ built by trauma and unhappiness, it also generates connections with deeper vital currents. This can lead humans to feel something akin to the pulsating moves of a jellyfish, the peristaltic squirms of a worm, or the division of cells; evoking in us a sense of unity with other worlds. According to Reich, this energy can liberate not only the human body but also the public body, alleviating violence and conflicts. However utopian and controversial, Reich’s ideas were not without practical foundations. His thinking was instrumental in the struggle for sexual liberation, helping to separate sex from the act of procreation and as an instrument of control. Although orgasms are not enough to stop oppression, according to Reich, they could play a fundamental role in breaking down the ‘armour’ we carry, to reconcile with our natural environments.

It is in the conception of the body as an object whose freedom is limited and, at the same time, an instrument of liberation in its own right that rests Benni Bosetto’s practice. With Slippery Orchid, Bosetto reveals apparently restrictive architecture – caves, cells, domestic and exhibition spaces – as fluid and welcoming places, in an act of poetic reconnection with our bodies and their vital forces. Through sculptures, drawings, and environments, the artist proposes a systemic view of the body as a conductor of multiple realities and narratives, continually interacting with its environment.

In a series of drawings, bodies unfold into one another, merging the vegetal and the wild. Their scenes seem to recall the emotional liberation that Reich termed ‘streaming’, wherein the touching of specific points in the body during guided medical sessions released stagnant and hidden emotions. Dark and intense lines, some liquid and diaphanous, enclose a disturbing atmosphere, at times lightened by ornamental motifs and playful elements, including beads, puppets, and kittens.

The boundaries between worlds are further blurred through sculptures and installations that reflect seduction and naivety. Biting bronze filaments cover the walls draped in sagging lace, forming structures that draw inspiration from feline toys. The figure of the cat, seen both as a wild animal and a companion and as a symbol of a dangerous woman (the witch, the femme fatale, the sex worker), further abolishes set roles and binary distinctions between the human and the animal, the domestic and the wild. Bosetto mixes materials and symbols, crafting a careful balance between opacity and figuration, innocence and play. She creates afterimages of a sexuality that goes beyond genital parameters and eludes univocal classifications, challenging constructions of nature, gender and crime, as well as the (mis)conception of certain behaviours as being ‘against nature’.

These bold elements are contrasted against spaces of intimacy and retreat. Laced works hide subtle symbols and pencil drawings – spaces through which stories flow in rivers. At the entrance, silhouettes of locks printed on lace curtains evoke veiled scenarios, alluding to the secret and the private. A bronze branch with winding lines shaped like the letter Z reference the waves of breath during sleep. This branch contains the figure of a Vespertilio Bruno, one of the animals that sleeps the most in the world, signalling a change of atmosphere: an invitation to take care, to rest and to recover.

At the centre of the exhibition space the artist presents a series of wooden cells inspired by Reich's Orgone Accumulators. Initially conceived by Reich as healing devices where one could sit in solemn self-confinement, the cells are redesigned by the artist as hosting spaces for visitors and for the works of other artists. These interstitial and cavernous places, which feel both protected and loving, (as suggested by their heart-shaped seats), become sites to let go of the structures imposed by coercive morals, a place to form new unions.

In my last encounter with Benni Bosetto, we both carried the footprints of two islands that hosted us: visions and glares that manifested physically and imaginatively on us, which still return to me today as I write this text. Among the protagonists of this oceanic feeling is a flower that the artist encountered on the island – the Cypripedioideae or ‘Slipper Orchid’ – from which the exhibition title stems. What distinguishes this flower is its sac, which invites insects to enter and receive the pollen necessary for its fertilisation. Inside this humid and hairy space – which feels like a trap but also a gentle organ – possibilities for new life emerge. By re-imagining different organic architectures, Bosetto reclaims spaces for liquid bodies, offering an intimate journey through the liberated body as a naked source of power.

– Giulia Civardi

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