Pope Benedict XVI is hosting a lavish dinner party and—as long as you are another world leader—you’re invited! This is the premise of The Ballroom, one of many video installations by artist Federico Solmi on display at Los Angeles gallery Luis de Jesus. The Brotherhood, his solo exhibition at the space, brings together historical figures like Marie Antoinette, Christopher Columbus, and Benito Mussolini in a variety of absurd scenarios in an effort to highlight the absurdity inherent in proclaiming yourself a “world leader.”
The five videos in The Ballroom show a wide cast of world leaders flirting, smoking cigars, and dancing with one another after partaking in a lavish feast. The figures move robotically while smiling diabolically, looking like caricatures of malicious intent. The effect is a result of Solmi’s process, which brings together 3D technology, painting, and drawings that are scanned and loaded into a gaming engine where he then animates the scenes. The final output is shown on plexiglass screens surrounded by elegant hand-painted frames, a true hybridity of analog and digital practice.
While some of the historical leaders involved are remembered for the positive societal contributions, all of them arguably have dubious legacies, an issue central to Solmi. The installation was partly inspired by two of Oriana Fallaci books, Interview with History and Conversations with Power. "In her writing, Fallaci talks about how historians fail to highlight the ridiculous aspects of leaders, like ‘how funny they are, with their ironed uniforms, unearned medals, and invented awards,” the artist tells The Creators Project. “I was drawn to specific figures whose actual histories contradict the mainstream narratives celebrated in popular culture, which I mock formally through the absurdity of costumes, compositions, and colors.”
In The Brotherhood Triptych: The Arrival, The Descent, The Departure, the leaders from the feast have been thrown into a more contemporary setting, flamboyantly parading around a red carpet in a nondescript American metropolis. An eerie, off-tune song plays in the background, evoking a nightmarish carnivalesque sensation straight out of Are You Afraid of the Dark?
The cynical and unsettling feelings that resonate throughout the video installations are a reflection of Solmi’s views on human history. “I definitely see a pattern of wrongdoing, from ancient Rome to the present. Through the deception of politicians, consumerism, and celebrity culture, we have created our own dystopia,” Solmi explains. “The Brotherhood promotes our hypocrisy by mirroring and exaggerating it, becoming obsessive to the point of stupidity and chaos. In the series, this forms a cycle where we are the inspiration for the horrible decisions these leaders made, and they continue to influence us.”