July 13 - September 12, 2021

Sensitive devices
Pavilion 9b
Sensitive devices
Pavilion 9b

Padiglione 9B
curated by Angel Moya Garcia

Prinz Gholam is an artist duo consisting of Wolfgang Prinz and Michel Gholam, they have been developing a performance practice based on using the body to reinterpret a highly varied assortment of cultural references ranging from old master paintings and sculptures to contemporary art, films and images from the media. 

Prinz Gholam is an artist duo consisting of Wolfgang Prinz and Michel Gholam. Winners of the Villa Massimo Rome Prize 2020/21, they have been developing a performance practice for the past two decades based on using the body to reinterpret a highly varied assortment of cultural references ranging from old master paintings and sculptures to contemporary art, films and images from the media. Their work, which they often produce in such historically significant venues as museums, archaeological sites and public areas, hints at and reveals the ways in which our existence is influenced by processes of cultural assimilation. A series of gradual or sudden intakes that induce individuals or groups towards the progressive and passive abandonment of one's own culture in an attempt to take on an overriding culture considered more sophisticated or prestigious than one's own, resulting in the loss of many or all of the cultural features that made the group different and identifiable. In this way Prinz Gholam, themselves having their origins in different cultures, conduct an investigation made of minimal, restricted, subtle and choreographed gestures and actions into the formative process of the regulatory and formal standards conventionally recognised in the field of aesthetics and mythology, shining the light on our fascination with, and our subscription to, certain dominant cultural standards.


In their While Being Other project presented at the Mattatoio's Pavilion 9B as part of a three-year programme called Sensitive Devices, the artists expand their research into the perception of the self and the body as cultural assumptions through performance, objects and large-scale drawings. The programme's structure is configured to resemble a constantly developing choreography in which a sequence of works, appearances, moves, gestures and intervals between movements are conceived on the basis of specific cultural references and interwoven with each other through a multiplicity of masks that invade the exhibition space.

The ritual use of masks is recorded since the Late Stone Age and is still fairly widespread on every continent today, albeit not in all cultures, as it is taken as a given that the act of conceiving and wearing them normally implies a desire to temporarily cancel out or conceal the wearer's human individuality. Yet this ancestral approach has now been completely uprooted and reassessed in the light of the spread of Covid-19 which has literally given centre stage to the basic concept of the mask, recognisability in the face of the risk of anonymity, the debate between protection and ornament or the social, cultural and economic assertion of the individual within his own referent context.


From this standpoint, the intuitive and subjective approach with which Prinz Gholam works on masks allows multiple historical aspects linked to this symbol to be associated, though they build it into a topicality that subverts any original significance it may have had, creating an ambiguity that is highlighted in the project by the continuous succession of echoes and by the circularity in the reading of the works. The exhibition space is crossed by a series of large drawings, produced during their residence at Villa Massimo, which derive from their incessant and daily creation process of visual material and performative elements. These drawings are overlaid and accompanied by masks that observe us, motionless and static, irrespective of their functionality. An attention to the gaze that is amplified by an environmental installation built of countless small-format stones collected on various continents since 2017. Through minuscule alterations, the stones become individual faces, bizarre characters or masks, thus activating our ability to project man's presence onto natural and geological elements. A plethora of faces gazing at us become, in its turn, as choreographic material activated through a series of performances in which the artists accomplish gestures that are baffled by the absence of specific up-front references from those accomplishing them, protagonists of their work yet concealed in their own anonymity. Gestures originally devised, studied and prepared yet which gradually become behavioural habits, standard and conventional practice whose specificity urges the audience to relate to what they are seeing and to their own behaviour.


The project presents a world subjected to the dominant gaze, activating, repositioning and declining the interaction between the cultural dimension and the world in which we live in a variety of different ways. A research in which individuality is concealed and which points up the need for otherness in order to define the self, but also a critique of the need to hide behind a physical or behavioural mask in the face of stereotypes, criticism and such clichés as, for example, the political, social and sexual condition of those wearing them when they step outside what is codified as normality, often from a simplified and unilateral viewpoint.


An environment in which historical and cultural references are relocated and which is therefore intent on seeking a negotiation between the collective conventions associated with the body, the conception subordinated to given archetypes of the self and the social context in which we live. A project which analyzes how paradigms and inherited cultural heritage often become fantasies and phantasms used to establish standardised societies without considering geographical or temporal diversity or the individuals that form them. A stratification of meanings and references that probes the correspondence between the ancient world and the contemporary world or between diversity and cultural standardisation and, at the same time, which asks questions such as who is the observer and who is the observed, who is acknowledged and who is ignored, who is managing to cause their identity to emerge and who is remaining trapped in anonymity, in a constant correlation between presence, self and loss.


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In collaboration with the German Academy in Rome Villa Massimo



Special thanks to Julia Draganović, Director of German Academy Rome Villa Massimo, and Galerie Jocelyn Wolff in Paris.



Prinz Gholam's While Being Other project is the third chapter in the three-year Sensitive Devices programme devised by Angel Moya Garcia for Rome's Mattatoio, focusing on the convergence of method, aesthetics and practice in the visual and performance arts through a constantly evolving presentation model.

Padiglione 9B, Performer: Prinz Gholam
13 luglio, ore 12-13
13 luglio, ore 12-13
13 luglio, ore 12-13