When Art and Politics Collide

G. Cunsolo discussing the meaning behind his 2016 installation series “Study of a Watchguard”

On Monday, November 7, a small gathering of artists and students was held in a tiny room tucked away upstairs in Palazzo Strozzi. This gathering was the second of a short series of artists’ talks directed at an elite group of photography students who were individually selected to create personal projects focused on the concept of politics. The best of these projects will be privately presented in December and subsequently published in a zine. This specific talk was by international artist Gaetano Cunsolo, for him to present and discuss some of his own work related to the subject matter.

The artist himself was surprisingly young for someone already so well-travelled and so artistically accomplished; Cunsolo mentioned that he had only just recently finished school himself. Within a few minutes, though, he was easily slipping into Artist Mode, effortlessly explaining his personal approach to art and revealing the passion he felt for each of his previous projects and works.

Cunsolo held a certain fascination with philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s idea of apparatuses—essentially anything that models or controls people’s behavior, from prison buildings to language itself. Since apparatuses are meant to be a form of control, Cunsolo began to use art to play with that concept, juxtaposing the idea of it and manipulating what it really means to have that form of control over people.

This fascination is evident throughout Cunsolo’s art. A clear example of playing with apparatuses is his series of drawings and collages titled Disobedient Fairy Tales, which consists of images of himself interacting with military equipment and soldiers in a playful, fantasy-like way. Similarly, Cunsolo’s piece 115 Plazas (named for the amount of plazas in the Florence city center) is an installation designed to use maps in a way that ruins their purpose, creating in the artist’s own words “a useless reading of the space.”


G. Cunsolo explaining the process of creating his installation “115 Plazas”

The talk did not last very long, ending within an hour and a half and breaking off into scattered pairs and small groups of people discussing the art or comparing Cunsolo’s concepts and ideas to their own plans for upcoming art projects. Cunsolo even gave audience members the opportunity to have a personal, one-on-one conversation with him to either talk about a particular piece of his or compare his work to their own. Everyone in attendance seemed to enjoy the conference, and Cunsolo’s work left each person with a reminder that one’s art can—and should—be used to shake things up every once in a while.



Desiree Carpenter has been both drawing and writing since she could pick up a pen. She is currently a Creative Media major at Champlain College in Vermont. While studying at LdM, she is a member of the Professional Opportunities Program, where she writes for the Fine Arts and Restoration blog.

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