Milena Carbone (Mylena1992) opened her latest art installation on September 23rd, 2020. Entitled Plead Guilty, its an installation of for distinct, but locationally and thematically connected exhibition in which the setting – the Adult-rated Noir’Wen City. As with all of Milena’s work, Plead Guilty is intended to get the grey matter sitting between the ears chugging on a four cylinders; it’s also an installation in which the location plays something of an integral role, given the way it struck a chord with Milena as she explored it ahead of her exhibition.
When visiting Noir’Wen City, I was struck by the density: density of urban planning, density of shops and the almost suffocating presence of the pleasure of the flesh…
Noir’Wen City illustrates for me the dead end of our civilisation of pleasure, the headlong rush into hedonism, the need for more and more dopamine for less and less desire …
Within the exhibition Plead Guilty, I wished to denounce this massive massive drift towards addiction, this infernal cycle of the hedonic system of our brain…
– Milena Carbone
Given this description, it might be said that Plead Guilty stands as something of a treatise through art, and as such, its four parts are best visited in the order suggested by Milena through her introductory note cards and the wearable book she has produced on the installation, which can be obtained at the landing points for each of the four installation exhibitions.
The first of the four parts, Nude Is Art, is located within the Noir’Wen Castle above the Adult club, Les Boudoir des Libertines (the front entrance of which forms the landing point – take the stairs to the right as you look at the club). As the exhibition’s name suggests, it is an extensive collection of nude studies located in the castle’s enclosed courtyard and surrounding rooms on the same level. Ten of the images within the courtyard’s cloisters represent the relationship between a couple, and the natural role nudity plays within it. Thus, it could be said to be a commentary on “nudity as innocence” – an act entirely free from the vice-driven lust, but which, in the privacy of their home, is a simple expression of love and comfort a couple can feel for one another.
The remaining images within the various rooms are more general in nature, drawn from Milena’s admitted enjoyment of imaging the nude avatar form, and which continues the theme of the more innocent presentation of nudity as a statement of art. However, they are faced by images from real life that show homophobia, violence towards the LBGTQ community, people of colour and women; images that remind us that while society may see itself as “enlightened” and free to accept the needs of desire without love and guilt-free gratification, in actual fact it is still often driven by the intolerance bigotry and petty hatreds that long marred humanity’s development, and which remain all too present in the world today.
The Sermon of Madhi, located in the city’s church, offers further commentary on the intolerance our society can express. building on a situation Milena first explored in Locked. It tells the story of a homosexual relationship in the style of renaissance religious paintings, with the central triptych expressing the tragic core of the story.
Nine Levels of Love, located within the City’s art centre, takes as its core, Diotima’s Ladder of Love (also referred to as Plato’s Ladder of Love), together with five virtues – knowledge, empathy, concord, spirituality and justice. These are arranged so that visitors can sit on a ring of five seats, each with an image representing one of the virtues on its upright back, facing the nine paintings inspired by Diotima’s Ladder. The aim is to encourage discussion (amongst multiple visitors) or consideration (if on your own) on the place of virtue in modern life, and the nature of love itself in today’s physical, self-centric world. A mosaic again depicting the crueller, baser aspects of modern life hangs on the wall at the entrance to the exhibit, challenging us to further consider the virtues and idealisms of love espoused within the gallery in the context of the world at large.
The final part of the exhibition, Plead Guilty, is a collection of images found hanging over the main streets of the city. These feature those responsible for Noir’Wen together with friends and volunteers, each study framed against a Police arrest backdrop, and collectively presented by a poem inspired in part by Dante’s Divine Comedy, which can be viewed on-line by touching any of the little cube vendors that sit with a extract of the poem, below each of the portraits as they are strung across the city’s main streets.
This is a complex exhibition to untangle, containing what might at first appear condemnatory statements given the artist’s opening statement. Take the Plead Guilty portraits hanging over the city streets for example.
The use of the Police mugshot backdrop might initially be seen as accusatory – those pictured being seen as guilty of aiding and promoting through the development and operation of Noir’Wen, the selfish hedonism the installation is attempting to denounce. But look again: the poses within the images belie this; they offer a genuine take on the individuals feature as they are seen through Milena’s eyes – they are genuine portraits. It is perhaps with a third or at least longer look that the the underlying message might be revealed – the mugshot backdrop hinting that in fact we are all guilty of leading lives driven by a pursuit of happiness that has perhaps turned increasingly selfish over time, and which allows us to use it as veil to ignore the increases in intolerance and bigotry that once again become increasingly apparent in society.
Given all of this, Plead Guilty perhaps isn’t the easiest or most comfortable of installation to face. Each exhibition element requires time to absorb and interpret – so it is as well that (I believe I’m correct in saying) the installation forms a central part on Noir’Wen City’s Autumn Festival that runs through until December 20th, as this offers time to visit and revisit the installation and absorb it. However, for those who appreciate art that carries a theme or social statement, I would encourage taking the time to visit; and for art lovers in general, I would also note that these are all pieces worth viewing even if you prefer to separate them from statements or thematic interpretation, as they are exquisitely produced and presented.
- Plead Guilty: Nude as Art (recommended start point), Noir’Wen City, rated Adult