Maria Lai. The time of the incalculable

From Tuesday 26 October 2021, M77 presents Il tempo dell’incalcolabile (The time of the incalculable), an exhibition project dedicated to artist Maria Lai, curated and designed for the gallery spaces by Alberto Salvadori.

The exhibition was realized in collaboration with the Archivio Maria Lai (the Estate of Maria Lai) and it provides a view of her oeuvre, including a project focused on the mythopoetic aspects of the artist’s work.

Il tempo dell’incalcolabile takes its cue from the writings of Salvatore Cambosu – a renowned Sardinian writer Maria Lai had very close relationship with – which include Cuore mio, (Dear heart), a tale that tells the story of Maria Pietra and gives to the space a narrative quality which permeates Lai’s work. Through the story of the protagonist, the writer and then – consequently – the artist, invest us with responsibilities and reflections at the origin of aspects and traits of the human character. Today more than ever these traits concern issues such as respect for the environment and its rules in contrast to the models pursued where individualism is borrowed in a form of boundless selfishness. The power in the hands of each of us can be vital or mortal, as Maria Lai used to specify, thus also meaning the figure of the artist endowed with uncommon tools to read and define reality.

The exhibition opens with the unreleased presentation of the entire narrative apparatus dedicated to the story. Thirty-three ceramic sculptures from the series of Maria Pietra’s Telai (looms) create an environment around the book in which the story is narrated and grows. Everything is disposed together with sheets that descend from the ceiling and hang on the walls and accompanied by an ambient soundtrack that consist in a voice bringing the story of the protagonist of the legend to life.

The legend is Maria Lai’s favourite type of ancient tale. It carries within the Latin root Legenda, things that we must read or are worthy being read. It constitutes a collective and cultural heritage in which the real and the wondreous are mixed together. Mixing these two dimensions is the central point of Maria Lai’s work.

This suspended atmosphere continues on the upper floor of the gallery. There, for the first time, all the works resulting from Maria Lai’s interventions on Piero Berengo Gardin‘s photographs are exhibited, portraying the salient moments of her famous and fundamental public work Legarsi alla montagna (Binding oneself to the mountain). The action that took place in 1981 and united the population of Ulassai and each of its houses with Mount Gedili has remained so vivid in the testimony of these images. They have struck such a chord in the collective memory, not only of the Sardinian village but of the entire art world. The exhibition also includes the unpublished ceramic work La frana and the original video of the collective action.

The title chosen for this exhibition refers to a central theme in all of Lai’s work: the immediate connection between the dimension of the sacred, the one of the origins, the identity and birth.Maria Lai, after all, explicitly stated that in her works “man of all times looks at his own life, questioning himself about the mystery of before and after. Like a child plays, invents, proposes, gives voice to the ghosts that populate his anxiety for the absolute. In the vastness of the journey, religions and the reasons for art are born”.


Alberto Salvadori


26/10/2021 -