C’était moi. Journal, 1900-1999 (It Was Me. Diary, 1900-1999) installation on panels (2012)
Appropriating the history of a century, in the first person
Daniela Comani studied fine arts in her home town from 1984 to 1988, then moved to Berlin, where she obtained a MFA (Master of Fine Arts) at the University of Arts in 1993. A multidisciplinary artist, she is equally adept with video, photography, installation and drawing. But, whatever medium she chooses, we find her favoured themes of history, language and female identity.
The quality of her work has won her a place in many international exhibitions: Témoins de l’absence, Centre d’Art Passerelle, Brest (2007), History will Repeat Itself, Goethe Institut, Hong Kong, Focus on Contemporary Italian Art, Musée d’Art Moderne de Bologna (2008), Courier at the University Art Museum, Albany (2010). In 2011 Daniela Comani had her first solo exhibition in the United States, at the Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles. Her work is can be found in the collections of the Museum on the Seam, Jerusalem, the Museo de Arte Moderna, Bologna, and the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin.
From 2003 to 2007 Comani was working on The Happy Marriage, a series of black-and-white photographs describing the everyday life of a married couple, at what are emblematic moments in any conjugal existence: shopping in the supermarket, brushing their teeth together in the bathroom, and walking hand in hand on the beach. Attentive viewers eventually realise that the artist is playing both roles: the man and the woman. Well, as they say, couples come increasingly to look alike over the years. This slight dissonance inserted into these stereotyped images attests the cultural domination of the heterosexual cultural model, and indicates the artist’s seeming desire to question it.
In 2007 Comani invited us to take a fresh look at some great Western literary classics. Printed Women is a series of 52 photographs of covers of books, published in several languages, in which the gender of the hero is reversed. Thus Flaubert’s Madame Bovary becomes Monsieur Bovary, Moby Dick by Melville becomes Pussy Dick, and Der Antichrist by Nietzsche is Die Antichristin. This very legible work conveys the narrowness of the roles assigned to women in the 19th and 20th centuries: after all, there is no Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman or Queen Kong!
The work presented at Les Abattoirs, C’était moi. Journal, 1900-1999, was installed on the façade of the installation of the Passerelle art centre in Brest in 2010, and was presented the following year in its English version (It was Me. Diary 1900-1999) in the Pavilion of the Republic of San Marino at the 54th Venice Biennale. A first version of the work, in German (Ich war´s. In zweiundreißig Tagen um den Alexanderplatz. 1805-2007), was exhibited at the Alexanderplatz subway station in Berlin in 2007.
The installation is like a huge, first-person diary in which the narrator becomes the creator, witness or victim of major events in the history of the world over the last century. 365 notes, chronologically dated from 1 January to 31 December, evoke events chosen by the artist for subjective reasons and not according to the criteria of official history. As often in her work, Comani subverts roles, places the real at something of a distance, in order to make it easier to observe. Setting aside the dizzying effect of these hundreds of names, places and events, this compilation tells us that official History and personal histories, collective memory and individual memories, are all inextricably linked.