Manfredi Beninati

Manfredi Beninati, To Think of Something, 2008. Photograph by Alex Wolkowicz

Manfredi Beninati, To Think of Something, 2008. Photograph by Alex Wolkowicz

Manfredi Beninati, To Think of Something, 2008. Photograph by Alex Wolkowicz

Manfredi Beninati, To Think of Something, 2008. Photograph by Alex Wolkowicz

Manfredi Beninati's (b.1970, Palermo) installations transport us to fictitious worlds, redolent of dreams and half forgotten memories. Interiors furnished with all the signs and hints of human occupation lie vacant and beyond reach, tantalising us with thir half-told stories.

In To Think of Something, (2008) a site-specific commission for MADE UP, behind the facade of the apparently abandoned building, Beninati revealed to us a secretly inhabited apartment. The boarded up windows of a derelict burnt-out house played host to a poster, but a gap in the boarding offered a stolen glimpse into an altogether more domestic scene.

Through the blocked-up facade we peered into the small living room of a middle class apartment. The room, comfortably furnished, seemed to have been recently vacated, the remnants of breakfast were left on the table, and a half-read newspaper lay on the floor next to the sofa. A door at the back of the sitting room stood slightly ajar and offered a partial view into a dining room beyond, while through a window we were presented with a rather disconcerting sight of a ‘real’ tropical sunset. Like a stage set that had just been vacated, or a novel denuded of its characters, Beninati’s installation set the scene for a rich variety of fictional encounters.

Whether in painting, sculpture or installation, Beninati's work often draws on personal memory as well as the instruments of memory, in particular photography. His First installation, made in 2005 for the Italian Pavillion at the Vinice Biennale, titled, "Taking notes for a dream that begins in the afternoon and continues through the night ..."  was based in part on memories of his great grandmother's house. Though now completely overgrown by plants and weeds. The strength of the piece lay in the transformation of personal memory into universal experience. The scene was at once strangely familiar – as if we could walk into the vacated world of Lampedusa’s The Leopard; and frustratingly elusive – promising entry, at one remove, to a world of dreams and fiction.

Freud often likened the human subconscious to a collection of ancient artefacts preserved in a tomb, waiting to be discovered and interpreted by an archaeologist. Beninati’s buried interiors too spoke the language of archaeology and the subconscious. Like the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, they reveal the remains of domestic life perfectly preserved in all its minutiae; and cast the viewer as archaeologist, rewarding the senses with the thrill of discovery, and inviting us to uncover the stories preserved in his objects. Beninati’s installations make sense in the way that dreams do. They momentarily transported us somewhere palpably real. It’s only in recounting the detail (such as a tropical sunset in Liverpool) that we realise that we had stumbled upon a dream world, where reality was refracted through the prism of subconscious memory and fictional invention.

Manfredi Beninati at Liverpool Biennial 2008

To Think of Something, 2008
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 2008
Exhibited at Renshaw Street

Supported by

Northwest Regional Development Agency
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
Italian Cultural Institute
London Frensons