Galleria Franco Noero

10154, TORINO

Simon Starling
Three Birds, Seven Stories, Interpolations and Bifurcations

29 March — 29 October 2008

For his third solo exhibition at Galleria Franco Noero in Turin, Simon Starling (1967 Epsom, England) winner of the Turner Prize 2005, opens the new gallery space in the ‘Fetta di Polenta’, with the project Three Birds, Seven Stories, Interpolations and Bifurcations.

The project draws on a number of different versions, both real and fictitious, of the same story - the story of a European architect being employed by a Maharajah to realise an ambitious building project in India. Central to the work is the “real- life” story of the German architect Eckart Muthesius, who was commissioned in 1929 to build a palace for the young, European educated, Maharajah of Indore, Yeswant Rao Holkar (1908-1961). What Muthesius and his patron achieved was an ambitious “gesamkunstwerk”(total art work) that represented the best of European modernist design and technology in the 1930’s and, accompanying a large number of original designs by Muthesius himself, included countless examples of avant-garde art and design from many of the most celebrated practitioners of the day - Le Corbusier, Eileen Gray, Marcel Breuer, Lily Reich, and Constantin Brancusi.

The story of Muthesius’ involvement in India parallels very closely three versions of two films originally scripted in 1921 by Fritz Lang and Theo Von Harbou, The Tiger of Eschnapur and The India Tomb. The first two of these films was directed by Joe May in Berlin and begins with an Indian Yogi master “teleporting” himself into the home of an architect and persuading him to sail to India to work for the Maharajah of Eschnapur. The subsequent re-workings of the films were made by Richard Eichberg under National Socialism in 1938 and then finally in 1959 by Fritz Lang himself. The last of these films were shot on location in Udaipur, Rajastan and Muthesius was brought in as an consultant on the film.

The 'Three Birds' of the exhibition’s title refer to the ‘real-life’ Maharajah’s relationship with Constantin Brancusi that began in 1933 when the young prince acquired a bronze version of Bird in Space and the subsequent commissioning of two further Bird in Space sculptures in black marble and white marble, with the idea of bringing the three sculptures together in a meditation temple. This had long been a dream of Brancusi’s and seemed to coincide quite perfectly with the Maharajah’s desire to modernise the Hindu faith.

The discovery in Turin of a pair of photographic portraits of the Maharajah and Maharani of Indore in wedding dress was one of the initial starting points for the project. The other major source of inspiration for Three Birds.. was the extraordinary house built on a tiny slither of land in the centre of Turin by the architect Alessandro Antonelli, (around mid nineteenth century) and known locally as Fetta di Polenta, (Slice of Polenta). This audacious, joyful, assertion-of-a- building, referenced in the Seven Stories of the title, seems to exist as a virtual projection of an impossible structure rather than real bricks and mortar, and its repeated triangular floor plan was key to the structuring of the work, which in part takes the form of three marble sculptures. The first of these, a rough-cut, quarried stone of now-rare Belgian black marble of the type used by Brancusi, has been laser scanned and using a computer guided milling machine, its form replicated in two subsequent types of stone, an India black marble and finally an Italian white marble. This transference of form from one material to another, from one floor to another, marks a vertical passage through the Turin house from bottom to top.

This journey is accompanied by a series of photographic images and texts, the ‘interpolations and bifurcations’ of the title, interjections that will collapse the aspirational architecture and design of Manik Bagh onto that of the Fetta di Polenta, and the fictional, cinematic narratives of May, Eichberg and Lang onto the real-life story of Muthesius in India. These photographs include a number made in a purpose built reconstruction of one floor of the Turin house fabricated in Berlin - adding another layer of geographical shifts to the project – folding Indore back onto Berlin and in turn Berlin onto Turin. As such Three Birds... aims to chart the transference and translation of ideas and forms through time and space, from Berlin to India, from celluloid to brick and mortar, from the virtual model to the stone replica, from the first to the seventh floor.


Simon Starling (Epsom, 1967) lives and work in Copenhagen. The winner of the Turner Prize in 2005, his work has been shown in solo exhibitions at public and private institutions, including CAC, Malaga (2010), Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima (2011), Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (2011), Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Wien (2012), Tate Britain, London (2013), Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2014), Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Montreal (2015), Casa Luis Barragan, Mexico City (2015). He has also taken part in many festivals, including the 50th Venice Biennale (2003), 26th Bienal de São Paulo (2004), Biennale de Lyon, 8th Sharjah Biennial (2007), 53rd Venice Biennale (2009). Forthcoming solo shows in 2016 include Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham and Common Guild, Glasgow.

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