Italian artist Giulia Cenci's dead dance which was unveiled at the 2022 Venice Biennale, transcends conventional boundaries, offering a profound exploration of the consequences of industrial production. The installation serves as an immersive journey through a 150-meter-long corridor constructed from remnants of industrial farming and auto equipment.
This piece beckons visitors into a surreal world populated by fragments of human and animal bodies, meticulously cast in salvaged aluminum sourced from auto parts. As one traverses this spatial progression of chimerical figures, Cenci invites contemplation on the intricate interplay between industrial production, life, and sustenance, reflecting on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Responsible Consumption And Production.
Cenci's piece emerges as a testament to her unique artistic vision, born out of what can be imagined as a tedious yet meticulously executed process of salvaging materials from industrial waste. The artist's choice of creating creatures from aluminum with discarded melted auto parts resonates as a metaphor for the remnants of a mechanized society. The recycled metal moulded into these figures, becomes a powerful commentary on the ecological consequences of industrial progress and how traces of machine-assisted lives exist within humans, animals and plant life that all living and non-living beings share this planet with.
The installation's architectural design, made out of recycled industrial farming rods, invites viewers to navigate through a landscape rich in symbolism. Each creature hanging on the rods tells a story of transformation, reflecting the cyclical nature of life and decay. This aligns with Cenci's artistic philosophy of entropy — the natural process of decline—and, in the case of dead dance, shows creatures in a state of suspended animation, as if frozen in a moment of transformation to what resembles decay.
This can be seen as a take on how automotive production leaves a giant footprint on the environment since materials like steel, rubber, glass, plastics, paints, and many more that are used in manufacturing auto vehicles arrive ready-made at the factory.
Cenci’s aesthetic of entropy extends beyond the end product. Her hands-on approach to her materials, which have typically ranged from rubber to ashes, and marble dust—all materials that transform when recycled, including the re-cast aluminium ashes in this piece—reflects a commitment to transformation and hybridization.
This deliberate choice to work with recycled and repurposed materials adds layers of meaning to dead dance, it invites viewers to consider the lifecycle of industrial objects like auto vehicles within a non-throwaway culture. A culture where people understand that objects do not necessarily die as organic matter does.
In an interview with ArtReview, Cenci provides a glimpse into her unconventional lifestyle which allows for pieces like dead dance to come to life. Her studio, located in an old slaughterhouse turned farm in the south of Tuscany, symbolizes her rejection of urban industrial culture and embrace of a self-sustaining lifestyle. The farm allowed her to create her foundry where she could melt aluminum from old car parts on her own, reflecting a hands-on, independent and DIY (Do It Yourself) approach to art production that creates as little of a carbon footprint as possible.
In conclusion, dead dance stands not merely as an artwork but as a testament to the transformative power of art to provoke, question, and inspire. Giulia Cenci's exploration of industrial consequences and her commitment to sustainable practices position her as a trailblazer in the contemporary art scene. As the art world grapples with the complexities of contemporary times, Cenci's work serves as a beacon that invites us to rethink our relationship with environment, consumption, and sustainable production.