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Installation view


Installation view

Artist's Facsimile
Laser print, wooden shelf, glass, coloured paper


Installation view


Installation view
Foreground: Wenge wood, eban wood, plywood painted in black
Background: projection, synthetic fur


On Promissory Futures and Speculative Pasts
as observed by the hyperthymesic RK

Emily Verla Bovino

curated by Milovan Farronato

21 June - 29 July 2011


In the second half of the twentieth century, the management of death was participative. A thanatology symposium in 1956 popularized the study of death, dying and bereavement to encourge the exploration of the concept of death and its relation to behavior.

The fictional character RK was born in the midst of this shift, sometime between the Sino- British Joint Declaration and the expulsion of the Italians from Libya. Born to upper middle- class parents of working-class origins, he suffered for a depth of education inappropriate to his social class. After several years of working in the knowledge economy as a low-rank administrator in the private sector, he left the United States to seek asylum elsewhere.

Though the generation previous to his had exhausted the function of art in society, he decided to identify as an “artist” all the same. In an increasingly high-tech world that coveted “creative leaders” for its proliferating social networks, “artistic practice” (as “art” was called at that time) had become obsolete, swiftly replaced by the more utilitarian “aesthetic consultancy”.

As RK approached his seventies, he began to plan his own death. He decided he would euthanize to better serve the donation of his hyperthymesic brain to a brain observatory. If, as has been asserted, the brain of the famous amnesiac Henry Molaison was the emblematic brain of the modern era, the superior autobiographical memory of RK made him the most representative single case study of the early twenty-first century.

Unlike brain banks and archives, the brain observatory where RK would donate his brain was not a storage facility for historical conservation or a cataloguing unit for clinical research. Instead, its objective was to preserve and maintain both the physical material and abstract context of donated brains in the interest of future worthy interlocutors. In the twenty-first century the future defined the present and had become boundless, hence, a brain in the observatory had to be preserved alongside life narratives, objects and photographs.

The first object catalogued in the file of the donor RK is the last artifact he produced: a silent video essay of the day before his death. The video documents RK wandering around the grounds of the Aventine, designed by postmodern architect Michael Graves: a mixed-use development characteristic of the Italianate Neo-classical “carnival face” of Southern California.

Inspired by Giovanni and Gentile Bellini’s Saint Mark Preaching in Alexandria (1504- 1507) at the Pinacoteca di Brera di Milano, the exhibition On Promissory Futures and Speculative Pasts proposes a “chronotopic fold.” Coordinates of time and space twist into geographical and chronological transposition where incompossible worlds are made coterminous.
A scenographic installation comprises a screening of the video essay on a university campus in Biotech Beach, San Diego in display alongside artifacts from one envelope of RK’s immense travelogue.

Wet plate collodion photography realised in collaboration with the artist Noah Doely. Four channel radio drama in collaboration with the neuroanatomist Dr. Jacopo Annese.


Emily Verla Bovino (New York, 1980) currently resides in Southern California where she is a Pre-doctoral Humanities Fellow at the University of California, San Diego. Like RK, she also grew up in Hong Kong following the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984. Upon returning to the United States in 1991, she attended a quaker school in New York, and in 2002, graduated from Columbia University in Urban Studies and Anthropology. From 2003 to 2007, she studied with the artist Andrea Volo and the critic Cecilia Casorati at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Rome. In 2008, she was invited by the Fondazione Spinola Banna in Turin to work with artist Adrian Paci and in 2009, was a resident at the Fondazione Antonio Ratti, where she worked under visiting professors Walid Raad and Jalal Toufic. She has participated in international exhibitions and residencies at FUTURA (Prague, 2010), ETC. Galerie (Prague, 2010), Cité Internationale des Arts (Paris, 2009), Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa (Venice, 2009), Viafarini and Careof (Milan, 2009), and has written for Artforum.com, Frieze andwoodpecker, which has evolved to evade humans.

With the support of the Department of Visual Arts, University of California, San Diego. Thanks to the historian Ned Paynter and the San Diego Architectural Foundation.

With the contribution of Fondazione Cariplo and Gemmo spa
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last update 12-10-2011