exhibition at bologna.cc, Amsterdam 2020

Blanche DuBois of Tennessee Williams’ pen is conveyed as socially snobbish and sexually proprietary; a fading and fallen belle of the former Southern aristocracy. Her sister’s working class husband Stanley Kowalski attempts to ‘unmask’ Blanche through his actions. Her mental health deteriorates, and at the close of the play, when taken to a mental institution by a ‘doctor’, she speaks her final line: ‘Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers’. Speculation abounds on how Williams’ family history might seep into his writing – on the trail of more violence, Williams’ sister’s internment following a lobotomy. The play arrives on theatrical marquees as a star vehicle and box office draw, and as a classic has the privilege of interpretation: the chasms between suggested reality of the script, degrees of domestic fantasy and desire between characters, as well as the absurdity of comprehending the actual sociocultural discourse that might have become diluted or repurposed. What is the status of class in your reality? Delusion is foregrounded as spectacle filled with discomfort and pathos. The following text exists without suggestion from the artist: The works that constitute Alexander Iezzi’s exhibition itchy cherub can be seen to move on a similar axis of tropes – so within this (unendorsed) comparison, we can see Iezzi as pantomiming the role of the doctor, whose assembled coterie drag bespoke dining furniture for dessert in the ambience of a basement. Three diminutive fondant devils can be seen to be supportively bracing ladders made of skewers, or their limbs could be contorted to proffer and tear away at outsize walls. Scale is uneasy, with three dolls constructed from repurposed textiles perch on this furniture, which sensibly elevates them off the ground. A doll can be a site for projection and a device for expressing gesture, behaviour and trauma, and domesticity that it can propose is a by-product of psychogeography. The doctor is a silencer, that who reconfigures yelps and complexities into composition. Tropes are given the possibility of articulation and silenced. In the corner, a tour de force of proposals of touch – a plush cat sits on an upturned bin which has been drizzled in marbled alginate, which smells sweet and has cracked in the sun. By design, the alginate is a clogged curtain that partially reveals Iezzi’s parents in photographs as young adults, and a cut in the bin exposes a plastic bag filled with woodchips inside, a marble and hanger number hung over it. Petri dishes with cultivated bacterias lurk high in the room, samples cultivated from exposing agar plates to the atmosphere of Amsterdam. Empty mugs are placed around the room, of the print-your-own variety. They work as merchandising does, with a cocktail of sincerity, irony – a stable signifier with a tendency towards extra-functional expressivity. Iezzi uses an image based and abject typography to spell ‘Live’, ‘Laugh’, and ‘Love’. A figure appears on the screen in the corner, dressed in costume from the artist’s wardrobe; a sweater and bucket hat. Henrietta Müller, an artist who has previously collaborated with Iezzi in sound and as a performer, gamely sniffs, tastes, and comments on the petri dishes of mould, undergoes attempts to make her sneeze, and dances with a yellow velveteen figure that she has named Tapioca. The footage is cut together with synths and chopped screwed samples from songs which lyrically relate to bacteria, though the most recognisable formulation is the pre-chorus of Britney Spears’ Toxic, which accompanies footage of Tapioca animated by strings and flashing lamplight. Thus the synthesised notions of infection and desire in a filmed concrete cell gleam into recognition, with of Müller’s processed and diegetic voice – the linguistic anchors for Iezzi’s installation – distorting the sense of temporality or relation to Tapioca’s apparition on a child’s version of a Jacobsen butterfly chair, painted Dutch orange with a sweet but sickly angel on its back. Tennessee Williams used music as a device throughout the play, the ‘blue piano’ and polka written in to immerse the theatre in the emotional signifiers of Blanche DuBois, as if to eradicate any doubt of how Williams would prefer her to be perceived. If Iezzi is the doctor of the play, and Müller is cast in the role of DuBois, then Williams might be a distilled form of Iezzi’s experience of Holland as a cultural expatriate. The insidious violence of design and its shaping hand are present in the diminutivising cuteness of the exhibition’s aesthetic gestures in earnest. With distance of audience, one sees Iezzi continually deferring the appearance of the author, using footage of Müller’s reactions to external materials inflected by chance and imposing another system of sound upon them, taking and reworking found pieces of furniture, textile, and image to opaquely suggest meaning or narrative, and invoking shock in exposing cultivated bacterial and mould growths in suggestibly cardinal points of the room. The printed mugs are empty but for dust, and the small devils, standing by bamboo skewer ladders, are wire bundles clumsily wrapped in red fondant. To continue from Benedict Singleton’s suggestion of relating the plot-former in 1600s theatre practice (platforming) to the plots formed and worked for the king, the audience comes to witness a suspicious microcosm in Iezzi’s exhibition, one often overcome with the spectacle of the screen. Mystery remains in the pendants and charms that are incorporated into the room as pocket-sized for touch. An amethyst bracelet, a glass marble, a coatcheck number, epoxy amulets shaped like lovehearts, a marble formed of pencil shavings and resin, an empty salt shaker. What interests could a doctor have, in evacuating a leading figure, then configuring some form of scenic trace? text by Ivan Cheng