Divine presence: exercises of possession
casaluce/geiger here evokes the elegance of an icon of sublime elegance at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Marchesa Luisa Casati Stampa, creator of a very intense journey devoted to the glorification of her own image, who anticipated body art, actionism and performance art. Within the magnificent Venetian palace on the Canal Grande where Peggy Guggenheim later chose to live, a place that has no traces today of her golden passage, she used to give lavish soirees with artists, nobles, prostitutes, interior decorators, socialites and actors. In Paris, at the spectacular Le Vésinet mansion that made her go broke, dressed as Count Cagliostro during a masquerade, she attempted to defy a sudden storm with a crystal sword and ended up with a ruffled wig while her guests were forced to flee. In Capri, island of sunshine, she managed to transform doctor and writer Axel Munthe’s house into a black sanctum, wandering around like a mournful nightly presence, even in plain daylight. In London, bankrupt but always loyal to her style, she was chased by Cecil Baton, master of photography, who wanted to capture her as a ghost image of elegance; at the beginning of the Seventies, during the creation phase of his Ziggy Stardust character, David Bowie drew on the flamed-red of the magnificent portrait by Augustus John, which is part of the National Portrait Gallery’s collection.
Today, the artist adopts possession as a means to connect to a woman who chose determinedly to go against the rules of the society of her day, to become an icon. The shaman sings, evokes and makes it hers: the ritual allows to remove all the identity barriers, to overcome the boundaries of the self. The title of the exhibition is Il profumo di Luisa Casati, the seer, sleep-walking through Venetian nights along with her wild beasts and black servants that seemed to come out of a Tiepolo’s fresco, is captured like a spirit into a glass ampoule and transformed into a fragrance, a scented presence, in a series of works of art. The places where the lady lived are all new chances of evoking her lure, like the fitting quote from Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra that reads “infinite variety” inscribed on her tombstone, at Brompton Cemetery. The metamorphosis was indeed the Marquise’s favourite contemplation, as we see in Alberto Martini’s portraits, where she is dressed up as Cesare Borgia or as an Indian Chief; but also for casaluce/geiger, who loves to represent herself as the Virgin Mary, as Marilyn or as a man while shaving himself. Thus, possession allows the metamorphosis to take place: the image of the person we look for penetrates the physiognomic traits of the artist-shaman who evokes her and it is not a question of physical resemblance, rather of loyalty to a gesture, a pose, a glance. Master of a metaphysical make-up, Casati used atropine in order to have dilated pupils like a bird of prey, and surrounded her eyes with a velvet mask to recall the deepness of the Night. Like one of the best “noses” in the fragrance industry, a savant in the art of distilling aromas, casaluce/geiger smells the multicolour scent left by the lady in the collective imagination and reinterprets some renowned mise-en-scenes, in the predestined assonance between casaluce and Casati.