The Nicola Trussardi Foundation presents “A Friend”, a monumental intervention by the artist Ibrahim Mahama at the toll booths of Porta Venezia, a site-specific installation curated by Massimiliano Gioni visible from 2 to 14 April 2019.
The Ghanaian artist, as happened on the occasion of other important events including the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015 and Documenta 14 in 2017, wrapped Milanese bastions with jute bags from African markets that have been used for different types of goods, circulating around the world.
To completely cover the 5,000 square meters of the two structures, as many as 10,000 jute bags were used, mounted by 8 Alpine guides by special clamps, in order to avoid the use of nails that would have permanently altered the monuments.
The chosen place is emblematic for the memory and symbolism of the city as an entrance that marked the border with the countryside for centuries and outlined the relationship between Milan and the outside.
Porta Venezia, as a multi-ethnic neighborhood with a strong presence of other cultures, helps to read Ibrahim Mahama’s work both in the context of Milan and that of today’s Italy: the reflection on the concept of threshold, of the relationship between oneself and the other, the external/internal dichotomy is extremely current in a historical moment full of tensions towards everything that can be defined as “foreign”.
The toll booths, places closely connected to the outside world, also evoke all the complexities of the ethical and political aspects concerning the traffic of goods destined to travel around the world, in clear contrast with the alienation of the manpower that creates them.
The Ibrahim installation has the merit of entering the fabric of society so that it can be enjoyed by all and arouse an interesting public debate in a context that is connected to Christo’s interventions in the 1970s. If the “packaging” of the Bulgarian artist was a criticism of growing consumerism, today the intervention of Mahama tells and denounces worrying global tensions.
The worn and jammed jute bags, which in Ibrahim’s work are synonymous with gauzes that plug the wounds, also refer to the research conducted by Alberto Burri.
The title “A Friend” has the function of remembering all the people who have worked and still work in the creation of the bags and in the trade in objects, people forgotten and erased from the collective memory despite each of us dealing with these goods and products on daily basis.
For Ibrahim Mahama this work is a way to remind ourselves that behind every object, behind each of these bags there are hundreds of millions of stories and potential friends, voices and thoughts.
“The shades of the art rainbow are endless: choose your favorite!”