Daniel Rothbart

Daniel Rothbart is a new-generation American artist whose interests do not stop at investigating the language of art, but include the various interactions that the art system can offer to artistic operators today. As a scholar of cultural systems and of the environments with which art interacts, with his words and his work he promotes global revisions of the cultural foundations of post-war American Art, stressing its distinctiveness in comparison with Europe. Through a new formalisation of the American identity in its multiracial and multidisciplinary aspects, Rothbart states the necessity of tackling the complexity of the North American context from a completely new point of view, bringing values to the surface that have not been explored before, such as religious, social, historic and cultural questions.The world of cabala becomes in his work the central foundation of artistic symbology, which is displayed as the ideological mythology of an autonomous hinterland, the point of resolution of a historical matrix that accompanied the formation of new art in America. Rothbart’s work opens up a paradigmatic front where conceptuality abandons the self-reference of “art for art’s sake”, to become a cultural driving force, able to bring forth new potentialities and functions for art itself: the myth becomes a place of active memory, which can bring to the surface new attitudes for the languages of creativity and at the same time promote a renewed attention to the needs of a shocked and crushed humanity, that still wants to confirm its presence and identity. In the work of this artist we find the culture of the non rational and unreal memory linked to the world of myths, displayed as a historic sedimentation of knowledge and experience and strengthened by its opposition to contemporary culture, that is to a culture linked to the irreversibility of scientific development in its headlong speeding up of information and communication and to the world of genetic and mental cloning. The fantastic world of myth thus becomes the foundation for a reconsideration of the sacred as an interactive deposit that is able to formalise the codes and paths of cultural contexts."Semeiotic Street", a term invented by the artist, becomes the stage on which symbolic exchanges of social and cultural events take place, the place where the signs of collective behaviour come together in their emotional and spiritual aspirations.The street therefore becomes the place where the signs of life build up, as well as the experiences of social relationships among individuals.

Continuously developing the possibility of a relation between things and individuals as the foundation of human experience, Rothbart is now working on the myths of the art of the cinema and on the myth of gambling, as elements that animate life and culture. In the social imagery they become operative and emblematic elements, able to create an articulated semeiotic environment of cultural and behavioural identities. He is interested in working outside, above all in the street, as a collective place where the signs of life build up and experiences accumulate. When he finds a place that attracts his attention, Daniel sets out aluminium bowls and documents the action with photographs. Thanks to the contribution of external and unforeseen factors, the objects are filled with transitory connotations and may be subject to different interpretations and unexpected shifts in meaning. This character of transience and uncertainty, of nomadism and geographic and semantic uprooting, forms the central element of the project of Daniel Rothbart. His art becomes above all "the efficacy of artistic practice" which substitutes the representation and simple appropriation of reality and nature. In fact, on many cases he does not stop at the use of the camera, but uses the video camera to record real performances which he likes to provoke, both with people that he invites and with members of the audience who take part spontaneously. He calls this performance “Mediation/Meditation”. This action is guided by the artist himself, who films the various actions that he provokes with a video camera. The device from which the performance originates is a large aluminium bowl with a clapper inside it, which the audience is obliged to use as a necessary element of the scene. The two objects provided by the artist and the presence of the video camera are the essential component of each performance, but at the same time they offer the opportunity for the individual participants to give a free reign to their own creativeness, or indeed to short-circuit it. In this device the terms Mediation/Meditation form a dialogue with each other, as the two terms are reciprocally compared and highlighted. “Meditation” is in fact the opposite of the concept of “mediation” or “pacification”, and the meaning of the last definition characterises the previous one: “meditation” takes place by means of pacification with oneself and with “mediation” between body and soul. “Mediation/Meditation” probes the relationships between object and context and between different identities, that is the artist, the work, the audience and the social relationships among individuals.

Text by Enrico Pedrini