Among the many reasons why I love Set Up there’s the fact that last year I had the first proper date with a very special person just there. And, in a situationistic moment, I took a series of photos of him performing as a dead corpse on the staircase to the entrance. This comported tons of likes on his Facebook page and my debut as his artistic/mortuary photographer.
On a less personal scale, I love Set-up – the brainchild of Simona Gavioli of Alice Zannoni – because I’m intrigued by parallel, underground stuff, and this Contemporary Art Fair is the well-balanced counterpart to the official Artefiera.
It started up 5 years ago, giving new life to the obsolete and yet very active, but most of all very unfashionable, Autostazione (on the same area where adjacent bike-station Dynamo was born three years later), and proceeded to give new meaning to an apparently soul-less and anonymous location. If you’re familiar with Milan’s Salone del Mobile and its counterpart Fuorisalone, you get the idea: the wild child becoming the hottie of the city. Also, it’s closer to everything, you can walk there from Piazza Maggiore or Mercato delle Erbe, prices of parties and drinks are human (and you often manage to enter for free), the exhibition is free and the vibe is nice and easy.
When I moved back to Bologna four years ago it was already “the place to be” during the Artefiera long week-end. And it grew steadily, becoming a little, vibrant cultural landmark of Bologna’s winter season, other than a spot attracting a more vibrant, younger and diverse crowd. And, mind you, “young” has a very peculiar meaning in Italy and Bologna makes no exception. For example, in the spirit of helping and promoting emerging talents, Set up requires a curator’s project that has at least an artist aged under 35 and a critical text written by an under-35 critic.
This year’s edition is actually quite rich, with about 50 independent galleries plus special projects, solo shows and a bookshop. This edition’s special emphasis is, among other things, on street art, as well as on the monographic (but quite widely interpretable) theme of “balance”. And even if Set Up isn’t so underground anymore (like the plethora of sponsors and excellent communication and pr show), it still aims at promoting the underdogs, like the section P(I)IGS CAN FLY, curated by Eleonora Battiston, demonstrates: Portugal’s Módulo–Centro Difusor de Arte of Lisbona, Greece’s ALMA GALLERY from Athens, Spain’s galleries Blanca Soto of Madrid and Tenerife’s Artizar, plus Irish di Tenerife e Steambox Gallery from Dublino are all involved in a project echoing the last decade’s acronym PIGS, which used to be referred to Southern Europe’s slowest economies, with the later addition of Ireland.
Talking of additions, the capacity of autostazione isn’t sufficient anymore to the effervescence of this Festival within the festival, so much so that new locations have been added, still under the Set-Up name: there’s Dynamo – La Velostazione with Ciclismo Epico (“Epic biking”) exhibition, Terme di San Petronio with MP5’s Blue Narcissus wall painting, the eclectic bnb La casetta dell’artista, fair-trade coffee shop Cafè della Paix with a small photographic selection and many more. Once again, all I can say to you is take a moment to study the program, dress cooly but with comfy shoes and just go hang around in search of inspiration. And if you manage to photograph a fake death, it could be the beginning of a love story.