The objects created by Giorgio di Palma (Grottaglie, Taranto, 1981) for the exhibition Festa di compleanno (“Birthday Party”), all modeled in terracotta and laid out on the two levels of the Meme Gallery in Milan, are so many Proustian madeleines, powerful activators of memories that draw on personal and collective associations.
On the first floor only the guests seem to be missing, while the set-up in the basement reproduces the scene in a garage or cellar, with a worktable complete with tools and a set of utensils and consumer products scattered on metal shelving.
“We got the idea a couple of years ago, when the guys at the Pigment collective in Bari asked me to work with them on a project to be exhibited at the Museo Pino Pascali at Polignano a Mare,” explains the master ceramist. “We had just come out of lockdown and were coping with a new situation, unsure whether gestures that before Covid were trivial, such as hugging someone to wish them well or blowing out candles, would still be possible. For this reason, I thought of going back to childhood, a recurrent theme in my work, and the parties we organized with family and friends in rented premises or even garages”.
The work on the packaging, as always, is very realistic. “The objects are all linked to that period, including their aesthetic. The Fanta bottle has a certain form, the crisps and snacks come in very specific wrapping,” explains di Palma. “One thing I remember from those years, for example, is plastic beading, and I worked hard to recreate that situation at the Museo Pascali and in other spaces like the Meme Gallery, which is also very sensitive to Pugliese qualities.” (The gallery, founded in 2019, is an extension of the Frutteto Garibaldi, a historic Milanese workshop clearly with origins in Puglia – ed.). Then in Polignano the artist engaged in a sort of excavation of citizens’ memories, asking them to send vintage photos, souvenir pictures of past birthdays, which were included in the catalogue, alternating with images of the exhibition, creating a short circuit between past and present.