Where emotion meets reason

Brenda Dionisi
December 13, 2007

Left unused for decades, the vast space underneath the Palazzo Strozzi courtyard has been restored to its original splendor and will be home to Florence’s new Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina (CCCS). Explaining how the new venue will showcase different approaches to contemporary art and culture, director Fransiska Nori said that ‘projects will tackle aspects of town planning, economics, social and political development, the sciences, technology as well as aesthetics and ethics.’ ‘Visitors’, she continued, will be able ‘to experience and examine both the heterogeneity of contemporary art and a range of different curatorial and interpretive standpoints’.


The 850-square-metre space below Palazzo Strozzi was the site of the most important exhibitions in Florence from the end of WWII until the 1966 flood. The CCCS reopens the doors to the public with a thought-provoking multimedia exhibition addressing the theme of emotions, entitled Emotional Systems—Contemporary Art between Emotion and Reason.


In light of recent discoveries in the neurological sciences, Emotional Systems intends to probe the sensory and corporal, as well as the rational and cognitive aspects of emotion. Each individual artist employs diverse multimedia approaches, ranging from videos, installations, and digital animations to monumental paintings, in an attempt to more deeply investigate—in art historian David Freeberg’s words—the ‘relations between the formal aspects of an image and the emotional responses’ of the user.


Artworks of particular interest include South African William Kentridge’s animated videos that aim to increase emotional bonding and the collective sense through scenes set in South Africa under Apartheid, and the work of contemporary Italian poets Antonella Anedda, Elisa Biagini and Valerio Magrelli, who seek to present poetry as a fundamental medium for stimulating sensorial and cognitive emotion.


Sure to stimulate, new-media artist Maurice Benayoun’s ingenious multimedia research probes the correlations between emotions and the Internet for the first time. Benayoun monitors thousands of queries involving different emotions, which are fed into search engines by users, cross-referencing them according to the users’ geographical location and then plotting them onto a map.

English artist Christian Nold’s provocative research project, Emotional Mapping, seeks to personalize the artistic experience through the use of advanced technologies. Using a special portable device that detects skin tension and perspiration and a global positioning system, he maps the different emotions that different parts of a city provoke. His product, a Google Earth Map plotted with the collected emotional data is an inventive example of user-generated content in contemporary art.


Whatever your disposition toward contemporary art, one thing is certain: the exhibit and newly restored exhibition space is sure foster discussion and debate on contemporary culture.



Emotional Systems: Contemporary Art  between Emotion and Reason


30 November 2007 - 3 February 2008

Palazzo Strozzi, CCCS, Florence


Opening hours: 11am to 8:30pm, closed Mondays

Tel: 0552645155


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