Federico Cavallini is an artist with a very unique approach to artistic practise. 1) He is touching and playing with subjects, materials, processes which show the „dark side“ of our cultural value system. 2) He transmits this critical lucidity also to the physicality / temporality / form of an art work itself. 3) As an artist he is also an art activist, collaborating with colleagues on new and intelligent formats of displaying art works and mediating them.
His most recent project is an „Illegal Kitchen“, an industrial container equipped for cooking and eating for max. two persons in the port area of Livorno. It shows no „arty“ gesture, on the opposite: it seems to attack all beauty conventions. It could serve as an intimate place to meet and share, as the nucleus of a social meeting, as a place for homeless people to prepare something hot in winter, as a kind of micro-quarantine space with enough distance between one and the other.
Food - the possibility to nourish yourself and others - was also at the center of „Anatomia Companatica“, a large scale sculptural work which was exhibited together with painted hunger signs (made out of water and flour) as beggars use them on the streets. „Anatomia Companatica“ consists of many hundreds of little handmade objects displayed on a table as if they were archeological objects/bones. But all these sculptures are in a process of auto-destruction because their materiality (water, flour and yeast) is is nourishing flour moths. Basically this work is consumable, eaten by insects. Federico Cavanllini entitled the whole exhibition: „Esthetics of hunger“ as a response to the aesthetic of the minority world of consumption and affluence.
Another field of Cavallini’s almost anthropological research concerns the nucleus of societies: family life, it’s transmission of values, it’s lies, omissions, repulsions. In „Fotocaramelle“ he publishes his collection of family pictures, censoring all family faces by glueing sweet candies onto their heads: the sweet rewards for being well-behaved. In „D’Oro“ the tradition of family jewelry is attacked by melting them into a thin golden thread. Heterosexual Family life means (at least in Christian Europe) also: the absolute rule of monogamy, all other sexual practices and phantasies are discarded as pornography. Cavallini was experimenting with small industrial greenhouses and furnished them as a kind of pornographic depot, reflecting on the hidden presence of pornography in public space and minds. Then in a second step he developed an exhibition „Behind the glasses“ which was filled up with all kinds of small size materials of waste: candy and mouse poison, collectible stickers and porno images, packaging, pictures of saints and cigarette butts, fish-glue watercolors and spray-painted graffiti. What would a work of art look like that retains what has been discarded in the production process - and in society - and makes this visible? In other words, if nothing remains external to the work?
Federico Cavallini’s work is an attack against a consumer aesthetics (including those of art works, too) and about what a society wants to discard, ignore, exclude. Although in the past 17 years he had a number of important and also international exhibtitions, Cavallini still seems to be an artists’ artist. He has been collaborating with Fabio Mauri as an assistant and later with Gianfranco Baruchello as a curator. He is highly appreciated by Jimmie Durham and Maria Thereza Alves. His work deserves a much broader public recognition.