Move on Asia 2007: Silvana Mangano and Gabriella Mangano

Silvana Mangano and Gabriella Mangano – If…So…Then…, 2006

Vikki McInnes & Simon Maidment, Australian curators; Essay for Move on Asia 2007.

At the outset of If…So…Then…, Silvana Mangano and Gabriella Mangano stand facing each other in a confined space. The oppositional stance, the spatial configuration and the grainy black and white video recall performance works by Abramović/Ulay – most particularly Imponderabilia (1977), in which the artist couple stood naked against the walls of the narrow entrance to the gallery forcing the audience to squeeze between them if they wished to enter the exhibition space.

This work, however, is less concerned with the relationship of the artists to their audience and rather more engaged with the artists’ intuitive response to their medium (drawing) and to each other. If…So…Then… unfolds with the Mangano twins engaged in a synchronised, yet seemingly spontaneous, action that might be located somewhere between choreography and embrace. Though ostensibly a dual act of simultaneous portraiture, the work is predominantly a dance of identity. Now leading, now following, now separated, now joined; the artists propose how discrepancies between the self and the other and the relationships between object and space might articulate a new form of visual language, with inter-dependency and mutuality as its key determinations.

The collaboration of Silvana and Gabriella Mangano, of course, engages with the practices of a number of other artist duos who are also twin sisters: Jane and Louise Wilson create home movies together about secret places to illustrate their continued preoccupation and engagement with modernist architecture; Amrit and Rabindra Singh have developed a particular and personal style of miniature painting which articulates their experience as British Asians; Marie-France and Patricia Martin stage scenes through which boundaries between fiction and reality are blurred yet complementary. In each instance the significance of the work rests, at least in part, in the strategic assertion of their status as identical twins. As the Martin sisters have posited, ‘A twin is the phantom of the other one. Which one is the original? Which one is the copy?’ These questions not only perplex, but also lead to fascinating possibilities in the discourse of identity politics – as such practices depict and enact the traditional dichotomies of modern- traditional, original-copy and high-low, they also imagine and offer means through which these hierarchies might be reconstituted.

In equal measures graceful, elegiac and controlled, the work shares a formal relationship and conceptual concern with ritualistic performance art of the 1970s that explored extreme states of consciousness and their relationship to architectural space. Abramović/Ulay formed a collective being called ‘the other’ and spoke of themselves as parts of a ‘two-headed body’. They even dressed and behaved like twins in an attempt to create a relationship of complete trust, most successfully negotiated in Breathing In/Breathing Out (1977) during which the artists inhaled each other’s exhaled breaths until they had used up all of the available oxygen and both fell unconscious

Silvana and Gabriella Mangano echo the physicality as well as the emotional intensity of Breathing In/Breathing Out. However, while that work explored the idea of an individual’s ability to absorb the life of another person, exchanging and destroying it, If…So…Then… uses the symbiotic relationship of the twins to manifest an alternative form of communication. At its climax, the twins are separated again, but rather than having absorbed or destroyed each other through this work, the hypnotic and repetitive actions of the artists have created instead a new, pre-language, persona full of life and hope.

Vikki McInnes and Simon Maidment October 2007.

SILVANA MANGANO

Born Stanthorpe, Queensland, Australia. Lives and works Melbourne, Australia.

2001 – 2003                  Bachelor of Fine Art (Drawing), Victorian College of the Arts.

Selected Group Exhibitions

2007                   Materiality, Monash Museum of Art, Gippsland.

If…So…Then…, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne.

2006                   Outside in, Johnston St Studio, Melbourne.

2005                  Salon Defreehands, Seventh Gallery, Melbourne.

A Work in Progress, Johnston St Studio, Melbourne.

2003                  Wallara Travelling Scholarship, VCA Gallery, Melbourne.

Segue, VCA Student Gallery, Melbourne.

2002                  May, VCA Student Gallery, Melbourne.

2001                  Noxious Laughing Gas, VCA Gallery, Melbourne.

GABRIELLA MANGANO

Born Stanthorpe, Queensland, Australia. Lives and works Melbourne, Australia.

1999 – 2001                  Bachelor of Fine Art (Drawing), Victorian College of the Arts.

Selected Group Exhibitions

2007                  Materiality, Monash Museum of Art, Gippsland.

If…So…Then…, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne.

2006                  Outside in, Johnston St Studio, Melbourne.

2005                  Salon Defreehands, Seventh Gallery, Melbourne.

A Work in Progress, Johnston St Studio, Melbourne.

Linden Postcard Show, Linden Gallery, Melbourne.

2001                  Noxious Laughing Gas, VCA Gallery, Melbourne.

Wallara Travelling Scholarship, VCA Gallery, Melbourne.

The Pedagogical Vehicle Project, VCA Gallery, Melbourne.

2000                  Nino Sanciolo Prize, Italian Institute of Culture, Melbourne.

Campus Art Prize and Exhibition, George Paton Gallery, University of Melbourne.

Mandorla Art Prize, New Norcia Art Gallery, Perth.

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