Irony, play and profound social criticism in the works of the multifaceted American artist, who uses all languages (from her body to social media) to reflect on power. On display in Miranda July's first retrospective at the Fondazione Prada Observatory

All of Miranda July at the Fondazione Prada Observatory, which hosts the first solo show ever dedicated to the American artist.

Curated by Mia Locks, the exhibition recounts the work of the multifaceted actress, performer, writer and director from the 1990s until now, over three decades of experiences, experiments artistic and creative installations of the ephemeral.

Because much of Miranda July's work is performative and her brilliant works have the duration of the spectators' memory: the time of the present for those who participate, and then possibly that of the memory of the show.

Fortunately, a fundamental meeting in Miranda July's life led her to archive the materials and videos of her shows from a very young age.

«The reason I have an archive», July declared, «is thanks to an encounter with an archivist I had when I was 22 years old and I was a feminist punk. That meeting made me understand that what is remembered about a person is what is preserved and which in turn makes up a story. So I started saving materials, videos, costumes... and I only remembered having done so while I was preparing the exhibition with Mia."

The chronological order composes a path between monitors that tell the videos of July's first performances in 90s punk clubs, in particular two performances from 1997, The F-A-T-E and I Can-Japan, which took place respectively at the Star Cleaners in San Francisco and at the Yoyo a Go Go festival at Capitol Theater in Olympia, Washington, along with a collection of props, costumes and the Big Miss Moviola fanzine dedicated to women and founded by July in 1995 (who directed it for 10 years), they opened the exhibition.

Preceding all this and immediately giving its climatic coordinates is the work A poster to be ripped/Ripping from 2024: a poster and a video that documents the artistic action indicated with precision: “A poster to be torn with violent anger and disgust and then carefully hang price by piece with cold, unrelenting determination.”

Punks, sure. And that irreverent idea contaminates and resists in all of his works, not without irony or that touch of melancholy essential to the success of the project. The objective is always the same: to stage power.

«July's work», explains curator Locks, «examines a series of human relationships and forms of intimacy. Questioning established hierarchies and conventional power dynamics, the artist takes an avowedly feminist position that cuts across the different media she has used in her career."

The itinerary of the first floor of the Observatory culminates with the work New Society which also gives its name to the exhibition: July invites the public to stay in the theater with her forever to found a new company, complete with constitution. A challenge, an engagement between the situationist and the dystopian.

And if the first floor does not allow a simple use of the works in video, the upper one perhaps has a more playful and direct dimension with collages made with different media.

Two Things Are Sure are photos juxtaposed in a path that connects them to each other through red adhesive stickers to create a dynamic structure that passes through the different people portrayed.

This is then followed by F.A.M.I.L.Y (Falling Apart Meanwhile I Love You), a 9-monitor installation from 2024 in which July creates video collages in collaboration with seven strangers on Instagram.

She launched a call asking them to send her videos with certain characteristics and then, with a free editing tool, she inserted her own image combining a moving collage, both surreal and realistic, to investigate intimacy and sexuality.

The result is disturbing and certainly makes us reflect on the expectations we had on social media: «Perhaps we hoped that they would be a space in which we could show ourselves together with others and feel their loving gaze», explains July who then focuses on the idea of family as connection with others and as creation. Her private space, that of other video makers, different floors (ceiling included) continually bring in and out the reality of that video, or rather, of human relationships.

Miranda July uses different means with great ease, playing with everything needed to communicate, starting with her body, which has always been used as an expressive tool.

But he then goes on to create collective works on the web, such as the one that closes the exhibition Learning To Love You More: Assignement 43# of 2024. The work on display is the analogue version of task 43 for the first time of what he had done on the web with a site that collected 70 creative exercises (and which now contains eight thousand contributions from the public). Exercise 43 is as follows: Create an exhibition with the works of art you find in your parents' house.

July launched it in a call on Instagram to which she responded Miriam Goi, from Milan, who brought things from her mother's house on stage to set up a small dreamlike wunderkammer- nostalgic-biographical.

The objects of the house, underlines Miranda July, the ones we have always seen, those of childhood, are works of art because they have conditioned and formed our gaze: we look at the world through those things. Thus space, thus time, are formed in our eyes starting from home cosmography.

In a continuous subversion of roles, orders, priorities. Perhaps because it is the ephemeral that has guided Miranda July's entire research, always pushing her into the unconventional of unknown territories.

Risky, she said when introducing the exhibition, and precisely for this reason capable of making us aware of the present we are in. With an attraction towards the future that has always animated her, July connects space and people, connects different expressive means, connects herself to anyone who wants to leave the door open to the unknown.

For the first time, Miranda July's complete filmography is on the bill. Hosting her films and shorts is Fondazione's Godard cinema Prada during the month of March.

Miranda July, New Society, until 14 October 2024, open from Monday to Friday 2pm - 8pm; Saturday and Sunday 11am - 8pm, closed on Tuesday