Always-already, 2012 Hunter MFA Thesis Exhibtion
Whether in Prague or West Virginia, Danyel Ferrari mines local historic sites for ways in which the past can be retold through performance and site-specific installations. Her investigative process often reveals forgotten or overlooked histories. By bringing the past closer and imbuing it with new cultural currency, her works foster an enriched community network and a transformed gathering space. Many of her immersive installations incorporate a social aspect and are intended to spark dialogue, interaction, and dance (as the case may be!).
Akin to her curatorial practice, Ferrari often works collaboratively. While at a month-long residency at a Franciscan monastery in Ireland, it became apparent that the monks could no longer house their extensive library and that the books would have to be sold by the meter, since they could not find another place to take them. In a poignant and evocative performance, Ferrari and a fellow artist set up camp in the library and began intuitively cataloguing the books. After each book was cataloged, they added it to a structure that they built around their sleeping bags, and thus, the collection was repurposed for the walls of their temporary house. The performance draws attention to the cyclical nature of objects, while they move from precious commodities to obsolete possessions and then become relevant again, as described by the artist, “Things change status without changing form; junk might have been and might again become objects or commodities.” At month’s end, the form’s unfinished walls highlighted both the futility and yet the hopeful open-endedness of the project, and of learning in general. Indeed, the monks gave Ferrari and her partner the collection after their residency. Since then, the books have been the catalyst for other artworks. In Ferrari’s studio she keeps a picture that she took of the monastery’s wall, where an act of vandalism revealed its many layers of paint. The image is a dynamic metaphor for her practice, as she often renders in the same space past and present.
By Emily Schlemowitz