Installation view

Equorea (di mari, ghiacci, nuvole e altre acque ancora) – 12/12. Ignazio Mortellaro

ph. Ilaria Maiorino


Ignazio Mortellaro
Umfangsbestimmung, Tavola II (Milano), 2023
brass sand casting, brass lost wax casting, red wax, minerals, plants, bones, books, engraving on paper, pearls, nylon, nails

site-specific installation, environmental dimensions

Equorea – 12/12. Ignazio Mortellaro

28.11.2023 – 09.01.2024

From November 28th, 2023 to January 9th 2024, BUILDINGBOX presents the installation Umfangsbestimmung, Tavola II (Milano),  by the artist Ignazio Mortellaro (Palermo, 1978).


The exploration of the Earth is historically linked to the human ability to represent it spatially. Even before drawing its boundaries, the most ancient cartographies were interested in the night sky, as shown for instance by some testimonies made in the Palaeolithic period and preserved on the walls of the Lascaux caves. Knowledge of the stars was a crucial orientation tool in navigation. In fact, the great voyages across the oceans changed maps from planispheres to atlases and globes. Astronomy and navigation have always constituted a pair, a symbolic one as well, as an expression of travel, change and discovery. Ignazio Mortellaro’s installation for the Equorea (di mari, ghiacci, nuvole e altre acque ancora) [Equorea (of seas, ice, clouds and other waters)] project, presented as part of BUILDINGBOX, lies between these two disciplines. Tavola II (Milan) is part of the larger project Umfangsbestimmung, which proposes the creation of a large atlas, a sort of geographical and symbolic mapping of the artist’s life and thought, a visual biography in the making, involving a collection of materials collected in his studio from the marine world such as shells and fossils, pearls and plants, orientation tools such as compasses and maps, books and prints, and traces of works. The logical term that gives the project its title indicates the determination of extension that defines the limits of classes and categories. Its literal meaning is: determination of the circumference. The two meanings can be made to converge in astronomy, “for what else is there at the origin of constellations if not our need to draw lines between the configurations that the luminous dots assume in the night sky, in order to identify and orient ourselves with their help?” (Aby Warburg. Una biografia intellettuale. Ernst H. Gombrich, ed. Abscondita, 2018). The universe therefore becomes an abyss, a silent ocean, an opening to infinite possibilities.


The exhibition is the twelfth appointment of Equorea (of seas, ice, clouds and other waters), a project curated by Giulia Bortoluzzi, which involves, from January 7h, 2023 to January 9th, 2024, twelve Italian contemporary artists invited to explore the topic of water in twelve monthly solo shows, scheduled in a sequence that follows the lunar calendar.

The title references Eugenio Montale’s poem Falsetto (1923), published in the collection Ossi di Seppia (1925). The poem revolves around a girl called Esterina, described as an ocean creature (“equorea creatura”), and frames the sea as a metaphor for life and the wonder of living without worrying about the future: “The power that tempers you is water, in water you find and renew yourself.” Montale’s work picks up on the way we habitually associate water with life, a notion echoed by Mircea Eliade in A History of Religious Ideas (1949), which describes it as the total of all “virtualities”, the matrix for all potential life, the foundation of the whole world. Water is at the origin of all cosmic manifestation, symbolizing the primordial substance from which all forms arise, and to which they return, by regression or cataclysm. Water lies at the beginning and end of every historical or cosmic cycle. It will always exist, and never be alone, because it is germinative, encompassing the virtualities of all forms in its own undivided unity. In cosmogony, mythology, ritual, and iconography, water performs the same function: it precedes all forms and sustains all of creation. A symbol of life, it gives universal becoming a cyclical structure.


Following the cyclical pattern of the astronomical tides (which occur when the Moon, Earth and Sun are in alignment), at each full moon in the year 2023, BUILDINGBOX will play host to the work of twelve Italian contemporary artists, who have been asked to explore the theme of water: Ludovico Bomben (Pordenone, 1982), Jaya Cozzani (Mumbai/Kanchipuram, 1982),  Barbara De Ponti (Milano, 1975), Gaspare (Terlizzi, 1983), Michele Guido (Aradeo, 1976), Silvia Mariotti (Fano, 1980), Fabio Marullo (Catania, 1973), Elena Mazzi (Reggio Emilia, 1984), Ignazio Mortellaro (Palermo, 1978), Fabio Roncato (Rimini, 1982), Michele Spanghero (Gorizia, 1979), Virginia Zanetti (Fiesole, 1981).


The works presented in Equorea (of seas, ice, clouds and other waters) are site-specific (some are being exhibited for the first time, others are reworkings of previous pieces) and conceive of water as an emblem of all natural elements, and more generally as a form of life and creative potential. As a topic, water not only intrigues and inspires, but also elicits specific reflections on the future of our planet. Indeed, the life of all organisms on Earth depends on the presence of water and is shaped by its mutations: when it deteriorates, life becomes unsustainable.

There is as yet no proven scientific explanation of the origin of water on our planet. Whether generated by comets or meteorites crashing to earth, or volcanic eruptions in distant millennia, in the collective imagination it is associated with the mythological moment of creation, which contains the potential existence of all forms of life.