messico famigliare

The myth of the ideal family is always a result of the thought of the very conservatory classes. In reality there is no such thing as an ideal family, there are only different families.

Fondazione Merz, Torino 2010


With messico famigliare, (Domestic Mexico) a play on words referring to Natalia Ginzburg’s book Lessico Famigliare (Domestic Vocabulary), that in 1963 reflected upon  the expressed internal relationships of families, the artists reflect on the relation between exotic and domestic to deal with the complex and delicate issue of the family in contemporary italian society. The project develops around the artists’ personal considerations on the concept of family, ranging from the memories of their original birthplaces to their recent experience as adoptive parents. The artists examine the nature of their “mixed” family within the country’s social contest, which seems to show a growing fear and a general mistrust for diversity.

We would like to deal with the show as if it were a sort of letter to our daughter telling her a bit about ourselves, our past, the society we live in, and our work as artists.

(Ottonella Mocellin – Nicola Pellegrini)


A group of pre-school kids is actively involved in the creation of the artwork through a collective work-in-progress, consisting of a series of workshops run by the artists themselves together with the Educational Department of the Fondazione Merz.


The workshop is titled Little boxes, and it forms an integral and vital part of the exhibition, as the space around it gets constantly transformed. The idea is to consider the exhibition as a living process that is open to different possibilities and various interpretations rather than being a finished project. 

Children are asked to consider the idea of home and to reflect upon their relationship with their household, bringing in their own stories and the dynamics of their family groups. Each child is given a cardboard box he or she can decorate according to his/hers vision and at the end each kid takes home the cardboard house, that becomes thus a memory of the shared artistic process. the exhibition closes with a finissage intended as a moment to show the work carried out in the labs and to present the publication on the exhibit, documenting the experience with the kids.


The ground floor also hosts the installation messico famigliare consisting of an upside-down structure placed on the ground: it is an enlarged version of the classic children’s toy house made of 4 walls and a sloping roof.

The house refers to an image of lightness and precariousness; a metaphor also used to criticise the traditional idea of family, which is often represented within a solid and stable household.

This fallen structure, that refers to childhood, is made of mirrored Perspex panels, on which the artists have engraved a number of statements filled with clichés and common prejudices regarding adoption.


While the outside reflects the visitors as they read, the inside of the structure is painted red and accessible to visitors, that can read the same statements back to front, while sitting on a little chair to listen to a story. In the middle of the structure, on a little white table, a record player plays the artists adoption tale, told in the fashion of a fairy tale.

This work has been conceived as a personal reflection upon parenthood and identity, but also on the delicate settling-in period, where foreign children, with foreign looking traits, have to adapt to the adoptive family, within a social context that has more often than not proved to be reluctant to accept diversity.


In the same space are two other pieces, traces of the artists personal domestic vocabulary.


Cosa volete bambini, gas? (what do you want kids, gas?) – A light sign with boxed letters quoting a sentence said by Pellegrini’s mother to him and his brother when they were kids.

Grazie per gli auguri (thank you for the greetings) – A lightbox representing the macabre portrait of a woman hanging from a tree, made by Mocellin’s mother on Christmas 1987. the words: “to my children thank you for the greetings, Christmas 1987” are readable in the picture.

costellazione famigliare OK

The third piece of this personal family lexicon is situated at the bottom of the stairs leading to the basement It is a light carpet, resting on the floor that quotes one of the first sentence said by the artists’s daughter: qui buio c’è, perché? (it is dark here, why?). The words are written on the background of an imaginary starry sky, made of the union of the 3 family members constellations. In the picture we see also a drawing of the little girl’s feet, made together with her father.

This sort of upside down sky, which leads the sight to the ground, introduces, with a simple question that refers to an existential condition, the entire installation of the basement, that includes the video installation titled Generalmente le buone famiglie sono peggiori delle altre (Good Families are generally worse than all others).


It consists of a video montage of the artists’ old family footage and is conceived as a personal account made of images, words, as well as empty pauses and long silent sequences. It is a journey through memory, where confused and fragmented recollections emerge from the unconscious, as in a dream: a sort of affective legacy for future generations.

The work originates from the artists’ investigation on the complex relationship between memory, heritage, legacy and mortality and on the human unconscious desire to become parents. The video also investigates the complicated relationship between biological and affective legacy, a totally unavoidable matter for both adoptive and extended families.


At the entrance, in memory of previous workshop based projects, are two floor projections of imaginary maps of the city of Lissone (Italy) made with a group of kindergarten children for the project forse possiamo fare una mappa per perdersi, 2009


After little boxes, the children participated to another workshop with the Laboratorio Immagine2 of Turin. Here they made a video entitled The movings of Rosa Dao, in which they tell their version of the artists’s family story. The work, which is not part of the project messico famigliare, is the memory of the intense exchange that took place between the artists and the younger members of the community.

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