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Hortus Nocturnus

Reflection by Camilla Marraccini

Gardens are, by definition, paradises of peace and tranquility, order and pleasure in a world perceived as chaotic and hostile. They are places where nature is simultaneously excluded and highlighted, where the ethics of aesthetics suggest precise geometries and floral species, forming the archetype of heaven on earth.
In architectural terms, however, the garden is linked to the vastness of the landscape and the nature that animates it. It is a microcosm reflecting the macrocosm, a rigorously condensed unit of something intrinsically vast. 
This leads to a paradox between control and disorder, isolation and symbiosis.
Martina Cioffi's installation, Hortus Nocturnus, visible at spazioSERRA from May 30 to June 30, 2024, responds reflectively and paradoxically to the theme proposed for the 2024 exhibition season: suMISURA. 
Imagining herself within the tradition of the measured and ordered nature of the garden, of which the medieval Hortus Conclusus becomes the archetype, Martina Cioffi creates a site-specific work that challenges the anthropocentric imagination of nature.
A harmonious succession of pointed arches created with dark masking on each glass panel frames and encloses the octagonal space of the installation, visually recalling the architecture of the medieval hortus. 
A continuous cycle of gurgling water flows from a central ogival basin, its dense color alluding to lava stone. Thus begins the first natural paradox of the garden, lava stone, created by fire, yet containing water. The earth appears as the protagonist in the material of the sculptures, predominantly molded from clay.
The lightness of air is reminded to us by dandelions, suspended without stems in the greenhouse, concentrated around the central fountain, becoming sparser as the gaze moves outward. Eight ceramic and iron sculptures develop vertically along the sides of the octagon, creating an imaginary crossroads. Filiform and sinuous, the sculptures are modular in relation to the Gothic-inspired arches that intersect and define the perimeter of the greenhouse.
Yet, one glance is enough to realize that the colors and creatures of this nocturnal garden have little to do with the ethics of geometry and the mathematics of control. The visual impetus of the ceramic and iron vegetation, globular and angular, with metallic and bipolar colors (black and white), unleashes an imagery belonging to the world of the unconscious. 
Whether real or metaphorical, the creatures of the night inhabit the enclosed (or perhaps imprisoned) unconscious of spazioSERRA's Hortus Nocturnus.
During the night, moths, bats, Datura flowers, and Queen of the Night cacti, once liberated, become the iconographic models from which the garden's flora originates. This metamorphosis, from model to sculpture, is not only artistic but also biological, as the symbiotic and coevolutionary relationship between flowers and their pollinators becomes central in the poetics of nocturnal synergy.
The same themes of night and metamorphosis unify these beings in an abyssal, demonic symbolism, vehicles of uncontrolled anxiety that is, in reality, innocent, and thus victim of the same human presumption to decide the appropriateness of nature and the fate of species.


Thus, the “misura” Martina speaks of is only apparently formal. It is a “misura” that actually speaks of balance, reuse and transformation of matter, and respect for that deeply natural world systematically excluded from the architectures of heaven on earth.

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