This month we are delighted to show “The Paragerm Robot” a work by the artist Gaetano Muratore.
The Paragerm Robot and the Corona virus emergency
by Marcello Pecchioli
Here we are in the fascinating territory of Gaetano Muratore, an artist who has a long acquaintance with robotics, and who has built large and small robots, exploiting and using recycled and recycled materials, throughout his career. In particular we are focussing on his Etruscan germ-shielding robot (Paragerm), which belongs to a family of historical military automatons that includes a Templar and a Teutonic knight. Muratore’s robots are historical characters, ironically quoting the language of the past as if to leave their imprint on the narrative of history, but the artist also quotes the history of robotics itself: some of his larger works recall Nam June Paik’s robotic assemblages of recycled radios and used monitors.
The Etruscans, in the manner of whom this robot is armoured, had the greatest weaponry in the ancient era prior to the domination of the Romans. Surviving sculptural and bas-relief evidence testifies that their equipment far exceeded that wielded by other ancient Italic peoples such as the Samnites or the Sabines, who possessed a skirt and little else.
At the same time, the robot evokes the present. The artist has named his robot ‘Paragerm’, after an inscription he saw referring to sanitising equipment in the railway carriages during his travels through Italy. Looking closely at the structure of the robot we see the spear is tipped with two snakes twisted around a stick, evoking the rod of Aesculapius that has come to symbolise the practice of medicine.
Despite its historical Etruscan basis, this robot relates in its circuits and in its internal workmanship to today’s war, waged against the Covid-19 pandemic: the strange historical outfit and futuristic robotic associations form a curious contrast that speaks to the terror that pervades the present age, foretelling the protective equipment that will surely become a part of our everyday lives in the months to come. The Corona virus pandemic is hardwired into its body, its mechanisms.
This hybridisation and retranslation of human history into the realm of technology mirrors the ongoing development of immersive virtual reality systems such as Oculus, Quantum Leap and others in which we are able to read and project fragments of past stories making them enter into known environments, and of experiments in mixed reality that allow us to cross cognitive and ontological barriers to enter a a kind of virtual multi-universe. The robot presents a form of time travel in which the timeline has become muddled, difficult to interpret. Muratore’s conception of history is as a mobile entity, susceptible to modifications, implementations and hybridizations.
The Paragerm robot is a robotic entity that carries two types of memories: one linked to the ancient history of the Etruscans, their alliances and rivalries, and the other linked to our contemporary concerns in which the crisis of pandemic has carved a space in the hardware, software and operation of our technology. The artist presents us with a curious paradox in which today’s confusion is translated into a mythical, remote, unknowable past. Muratore’s hybrid history in which the human element becomes an accessory to the history of robots recalls the science fiction storytelling of Philip K. Dick and J.G. Ballard, two authors who have continuously reinvented and tampered with historical settings from the perspective of the present, looking to the future.
Gaetano Muratore was born in Pantelleria in 1959 and lives in Invorio (Novara), in the laboratory studio-home where he creates his robots, called, “Dreamy Androids”, true jewels of recycled technology.
A long past of self-taught painting, marked by continuous growth and research, led him to retrace the path of modern art.
In 1987 he created “The Time Machine”, which coincided with a turning point in the artistic career of the artist. Designed as a reinforced concrete pinball machine, the “Machine” aimed to open the box of childhood, containing fragments of the past, broken toys, memories, waste materials, and consumptive technology, all embedded into the concrete block; all animated by dozens of mechanisms in an ingenious electric-interactive ensemble.
The story of Muratore, divided for many years between work, when he was a conductor for Wagon Lits, and his career as a painter, becomes inseparable from that of his ever-increasing number of robots.
He collaborates with the association “Age of Future” directed by Marcello Pecchioli, participating in art-science events, exhibitions and conferences. He has exhibited his robots widely, most recently at the Regional Museum of Natural Sciences in Turin, at the Art Fair in Bologna, at the exhibition Techno Medioevo: Age of Future Reloaded shown in 2018 at Museum of the Order of St John in London, and at the Festival of the Two Worlds in Spoleto in 2019.