The K exhibition was inaugurated at Fondazione Prada in Milan just a few days before the emergency measures applied to counter the spread of covid-19. It will continue until 27 July and we hope it will soon be possible to visit it again.
It is inspired by three unfinished novels by Kafka (America, The Process and The Castle) which, according to the writer’s executor, constitute a “Trilogy of Loneliness”.
Even the exhibition was conceived by Udo Kittelmann as a trilogy and seems to have foreshadowed the sense of absolute loneliness and powerlessness we are experiencing in this period dominated by the isolation due to the corona virus.
One of the three parts, the installation by Martin Kippenberger, is particularly involving: a huge abandoned office, “the imaginary utopia of the world of work”.
(During the health emergency, the #Innerviews daily guide on the social channels of Fondazione Prada replaces the physical visit of all the exhibitions).
The focus of the exhibition K – like the central altarpiece of an altar triptych – is “The Happy End of Franz Kafka’s Amerika”, the installation by the German artist Martin Kippenberger, that re-imagines a section of the book when the protagonist in which the protagonist, having travelled across America, applies for a job at the “biggest theatre in the world”.
A sort of soccer field is the set for a disturbing open space office where iconic furnishings and junk shop scrap, design masterpieces and rickety school desks, vintage armchairs and baffled objects from other exhibitions by Kippenberger himself “come into play”.
The artist imagines the mass interviews invented by Kafka can be held inside and invites visitors to sit on the steps to “imagine the conversations that could take place at those tables”.
Design addicts can fantasize about the type of people participate at the meetings on De Lucchi’s Memphis chairs, which boss could sink on Borsani’s P40 Tecno, lull themselves on Bonacina’s suspended chair, “float” in the Blow Zanotta by the De Pas trio / D’Urbino / Lomazzi or look down on us behind the legendary high desk of Action Office 1 designed by Robert Propst for Herman Miller.
However, we workplace professionals also imagine the sadly transfiguration of large abandoned offices where, at this moment, no conversation, no meeting can take place.
The office is also the core of the second “altarpiece” of this triptych, the film “The Trial” screened at Fondazione Prada’s Cinema, a masterpiece by Orson Welles based on Kafka’s book of the same title: almost a Manifesto of the Office of the Industrial Era.
The black and white frames of Anthony Perkins who escapes from the anonymous alignment of infinite desks in a huge open space, or the protagonist who drags loads of documents inside claustrophobic archives are actually unforgettable.
The dreamlike atmosphere, fil-rouge of the entire exhibition, also pervades the third set-up inside the Cistern. This enclosed exhibition space will be transformed in an evocative and comfortable environment, where visitors can hang out and listen to the music of the album “Franz Kafka The Castle” composed by Tangerine Dream.
K is an exhibition conceived to involve, to interact with visitors we hope will soon return to being an active part.
Text by Renata Sias
Photos courtesy Fondazione Prada