Roberto Cuoghi keeps his distance. He lets his fingernails grow for an entire year in order to complicate even the simplest actions, to open the breach between himself and the world. Or he spends a whole week wearing glasses that turn the vision upside down, rotating the world by 180° degrees: at school, at work, on the bus, and all those curious, upside-down faces stopping to steal a glance at him. At age twenty-five, Roberto Cuoghi decided to reverse the arrow of time by turning into an old man, dyeing his hair white, putting on a paunch, growing out his beard, and wearing only his father's clothes. His rhythm attenuated, his tastes changed. For an entire year Cuoghi assumed the mannerisms and the semblance of his father, of any father, vanquishing the Oedipus complex with a little help from Bergson. Little remains of these performances. The documentation is scant, just a stolen snapshot, a few drawings, some short accounts. The performance becomes a daily practice, something like an unbroken mantra, a limitless living sculpture that must intertwine with the exigencies of daily life: the steps that have become too steep, the old friends and their frantic pace that are now part of another life. This explains why Cuoghi always acts his parts out alone, silently, without demanding any time (any space) of anyone. And we are left to carry Cuoghi's artworks with us, inside our heads, just as he carried the weight of his father's being. For the most part his performances live on in the stories that surround him, stories that he passes along to acquaintances and friends, critics, gallerists, or anyone else who has met Cuoghi by chance or simply heard about him. This kind of oral account is also at the heart of In Camera Caritatis, Cuoghi's project for Der Standard. While constituting yet another episode in the artist's flight from self, this project also establishes some distance from his preceding works and from the irrefutability of At the same time the theme of the family reappears as Cuoghi draws an awkward genealogical tree of the contemporary artworld, a portrait of an exploded Superego that's more cumbersome and oppressive than the parental one: Critics, museum directors, curators and gallerists are selected and presented in a random looking map – the names of the included reproduced in various dimensions according to their importance and notoriety. Cuoghi didn't just invent these people and their pecking order but based all of his decisions concerning inclusion and relative importance on artworld gossip and common sense, turning to insiders for help. He asked his friends and acquaintances among artists, gallerists, and critics to each provide him with a list of names and then to suggest changes in his growing hierarchy – like increasing or decreasing the size of certain names – out of loyalty, as an act of vendetta or simply in an honest attempt to represent this international Who's Who from a skewed, Italian perspective. But, as with all maps, Cuoghi's has little to do with reality. It reflects our subjective point of view, the way we imagine the world, and the tools we use to shape it. So with its absent and forgotten names, the spelling mistakes and the erratic sizes, In Camera Caritatis insinuates that all sources of information and all choices depend on mechanisms of exclusion, as cruel and inevitable as the guest list for a wedding.
Roberto Cuoghi was born in 1973. He lives and works in Milan.
Massimiliano Gioni (1973) is an art critic. He works as editor at Flash Art magazine in Italy.