You ever noticed how when you just randomly think about something then start seeing the ads for it everywhere? Creepy, isn’t it? The last of these kind of ‘adventures’ happened to me a few weeks ago when visiting Florence, my favourite city in the world. And before you ask why there is no blog posts about that, let me tell you that I took my latest visit to Firenze very seriously from a relaxation point of view, so no proper academic research was written down for later times. Just pure enjoyment of bustling streets and spectacular art, experienced through my carefree eyes (for the 6th time nonetheless..).

Getting back to my original thought: a few days before departing abroad my partner has been telling me about the Nephilim, the Fallen from the Bible times. I am not really sure how we came about that subject, but I was pretty amazed how my knowledge did not consist of knowing anything about them. So, imagine my surprise when we visited my beloved Museo Marino Marini, housed in the ancient church of San Pancrazio in Florence and in the basement, there was a temporary exhibition called Nephilim!

A solo exhibition of Yuval Avital, consisting of 60 sonic mask sculptures with loudspeakers, interpreting the myth in a very contemporary way, blending technology and tradition, is positioned in the crypt of the former church. When you step into the museum, you hear a strange noise coming from downstairs and this echo of voices is making you feel a bit uneasy, however very much intrigues you. After your descend, it becomes clear that the exhibition couldn’t be placed in a better location: the amazing position in the architecture of the crypt allows the art to become even more powerful in its interpretation and emotion.

Before you it stretches a vast array of humanoid masked faces that transmit complex ‘choir singing‘. The eeriness of the space combined with chilling meditative screams transport a visitor into the Underworld of ones own mind. And the creepiness of the masks definitely adds to the whole experience.

What I enjoyed the most (apart from the whole quite disturbing, kind of participatory, affair) was the artist’s immersivenes into the local community of craftsmen:

‘The fulcrum of the artistic project is the continuation of the centuries-old collaboration between artists and the artisan ateliers in Tuscany: the masks in exhibition were produced by 24 artisans, expert masters of the traditional method of processing different materials – inlay, alabaster, leather, scagliola, silver thread, papier-mâché, feathers, wrought iron, bronze, brass, yarn, metal, glass, terracotta, ceramic, marble, resin, wood – which have accepted with enthusiasm the artist’s invitation to grant their rare skills to a contemporary creation. To each artisan, Yuval had created a unique design and personalized version of the masks almost as an identity-kit of their mastery, materials, life stories, emotions and inner selves.

The maieutic process between the craft-masters and the artists does not stop at the visual level, but also extends to sound: the heterogeneous voices resonating throughout the crypt are in fact the voices of the same artisans who gave materia to Yuval’s sketches. Moreover, in 15 black terracotta masks resounds the voice of Yuval himself: as the essence of deity was perpetuated in these Nephilìm, the voice of the creator echoes in their matter.’

This collaboration is what makes this exhibition even more dear; it not only includes you as a spectator, but also the ‘overlooked’ masters, giving them, and us, an opportunity to show ourselves and rise from ourselves as ‘heroes of old, the men of renown’.






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