Italian artist Antonio Riello creates for BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art a series of unique outfits to be worn by the gallery staff from Friday 16 January until the end of March 2009. This artistic intervention goes beyond the mere exhibition space of the gallery, moving into places not usually seen by the public with front of house, office staff and directors all taking part.
The outfits at first glance appear to be a uniform created from a unique tartan however this choice of cloth is being used as a symbol or device to examine the ideas of belonging and identity. The work is also free from the restraints of locality as it doesn’t use the principal gallery spaces; the artist has been given the freedom to infiltrate locations and situations throughout the entire building, with manifestations of his work spilling out into meetings, discussions and staff recreational areas as well as all public spaces.
Alessandro Vincentelli, Acting Head of Programme adds: “Riello’s project for BALTIC is an unusual one. Riello is a versatile artist who works in a range of media and pin-points communication systems and specific symbolic objects and signs as mechanisms for his work, indeed much like artists Gilbert and George might be seen to do with their photo-collages. His designs are triggers for a wider conversation with the public about identity and belonging and not specifically about launching a new uniform. I’m really delighted that BALTIC is able to respond to this unique imaginative project and artistic intervention, and that for almost 3 months next year his designs will be worn by the staff and the starting point for conversations and an exchange with both visitors and staff at the gallery.”
Central to the design is a Tartan created for the European Union in 1999 which uses the dominant colours of blue and yellow of the European flag, red as the colour of attachment and white representing peace and non-violence. By introducing a series of deliberate glitches into the weave he creates a sense of ambiguous disorder commenting on the artificial construction of European identity.
The designs have been greatly influenced by Riello ‘s impression of BALTIC capturing its contemporary look and feel to create a range with a distinctive modern style with trousers and skirts in B.Square! tartan ; These will be accessorised with black and white reversible hooded jackets influenced by the black and white of the Northumbrian Tartan; the only English county to have its own traditional Plaid. The reversible jackets are equipped with special pockets and straps designed for day to day activities in the gallery developing the idea of a new workwear for a new workforce at this landmark industrial building. There is even a special torch and integrated L.E.D. device for showing visitors to the cinema space.
To produce this range of clothes, that will be individually tailored for the entire BALTIC staff, Riello has brought together manufacturing and design expertise from across the world; the range is produced by specialist weavers Bonotto Tessuti and taylor ‘s Daninese S.pA. and Pespow based in North East Italy, the heart of Italy ‘s traditional clothing manufacturing industry.
B.SQUARE or Be Square will take place in several contemporary art galleries throughout the world. The project was launched in November 2007 at Kunsthalle Wien , Austria and BALTIC will present its second incarnation. Different interpretations will be created for and inspired by each organisation incorporating the original flawed tartan and capturing the various social and cultural backgrounds of each venue.
Limited edition B.SQUARE! t-shirts will be available to purchase from BALTIC Shop and online at www.balticmill.com/shop throughout the duration of the exhibition .