Stefano Bombardieri

Criticism

Welcome to Gardaland. Sorry, to Bombardieriland.
Stefano Bombardieri is the Puppet Master of that strange, weird, bizarre, almost unprecedented and timeless, phantasmagorical and breath-taking adventure playground of which only he knows the rules and reasons. Perhaps he would have wished I’d never used that word.
Gardaland. Oh, Gardaland! Gardaland, my dear. I, however, have used that name, and may my tongue - or my pen - run dry, if I don’t do so every time one of his sculptures - a flying rhinoceros, or whale, or typewriter, or luggage with rhino, or rhino-sofa, or sign with the shape of a mouth, appears in front of me suddenly, as if by magic.
Bombardieri knows every nook and cranny, every hidden secret of Gardaland. Bombardieri is the natural son of Gardaland, this is where he studied, took his apprenticeship; this was his school. Gardaland is, whether you like it or not, just as much his workshop as the story of his making. In Gardaland, at a very young age, Bombardieri worked, lived, sweated, perhaps even loved, suffered, and discovered. He learnt all the tricks of the trade, one by one; how to make whales and rhinoceroses, sea monsters, or fantastic or prehistoric creatures, or anything else for the show. As I said, Bombardieri is the natural heir of Gardaland, Bombardieri the artist, the creator of giant whales pulled by tiny children (the Gardalandian version of David and Goliath, where Goliath is represented by the weight of our childhood fears and desires, desires we drag around, knowingly or not, for our entire adult life). The creator of suspended rhinoceroses, and sumo wrestlers, and huge luggage bags in African style, like some improbable comic film. Bombardieri the artist is the natural child, the heir, and the ambassador, even though he doesn’t know it - but luckily for use, we are the critics, and our job is to show artists what they are blind to see.
To understand what Bombardieri wants us to know, with his rhinoceroses and funny typewriters on elegant fibreglass legs, the first thing to do is buy a ticket for that strange place that is Bombardieriland, the home of wonder, where nothing is what it seems. A place where the show follows its own rules instead of those (predictable, but sometimes perfect) of big business, infantile consumerism; rhinos stand on the roofs of cars, or are packed into sardine cans.
In Bombardieriland, the signs talk, but to understand what they say you’ll have to read their lips as they whisper “I’ll be back” and then you can wonder at the non-sense of a talking sign that says something it will never be able to do: to return. From where, from when? Nothing and no one could ever return on that mystery trail, in Bombardieriland, half Toontown and half New Dada, a trail where Walt Disney meets the talking mountains of Vim Delvoye, and where it should be almost impossible to run into a sign that tells someone it’ll be back, it doesn’t know when or where (although you may well raise your head to the heavens, expecting to see a small plane appear, with a banner fluttering behind, saying: “right away”; or: “when you’re ready”).
In Bombardieriland, the foosball tables are sealed tight in boxes, and the matches are played “blind” (the perfect metaphor, in effect, for the great game that is life. A game we think we can play to the rules of reason and ambition, but which we inevitably end up playing, blind).
In Bombardieriland, mirrors are disposable (those who stop to admire their reflection are lost), the sofas have horns, trucks drop out of the sky, and spoons have more holes than a sieve, like the famous forks used to empty the ocean. In Bombardieriland nothing is what it seems. The rule is always just as right as its opposite, and thought is stimulated by the exceptional force of visual short-circuitry.
Stefano Bombardieri, the juggler of reason, has learnt that in life, as in art, the communicative force of the show and the event (something present in almost every instant of our daily existence) must be weighed with linear thought, in the logic of time, life, space, and individual or collective memory; and that in order to amaze and amuse spectators, but also to help them think about those apparently banal things we take for granted every day, a combination of intellectual precision and passion, reason and show, critical thought and play, style and great artisan skill, are just what you need.

Alessandro Riva

[Dal catalogo della mostra "Bombardieriland" febbraio-marzo 2006]