Federico Solmi: The Great Farce: Block Museum - Northwestern University
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Federico Solmi: The Great Farce

September 18-December 1, 2024
Main Gallery

Past and present, history and amusement, reality and spectacle are conflated and distorted in Federico Solmi’s monumental media work, The Great Farce (2017). This immersive video is made up of nine video projections spanning the entirety of The Block Museum's largest gallery. In the multiscreen work, painting, drawing and motion-capture images are stitched together using digital technology to create a surreal universe.

Featuring a cast of time-traveling world leaders with a feverish madness for power, Solmi’s animation turns a frenzied, fun-house mirror to grandstanding historical figures. The Great Farce presents a sprawling send-up of empire-building as an enterprise, and a scathing commentary on our contemporary culture where spectacle and celebrity may be distractions from more sinister machinations, and where the speed of things contributes to the blurring of myth and truth.

Originally commissioned for the 2017 B3 Biennial of the Moving Image, Frankfurt, Germany, The Great Farce is one of Solmi’s most ambitious works  in terms of technical complexity, physical scale and scope of content. The work can be presented as an immersive gallery installation with nine projections, or a sculptural “portable theater” with embedded video that represents the content, spirit and aesthetic of the larger installation.

The Great Farce was first exhibited on the façade of the Schauspiel Opera Theater in Frankfurt Germany, and later adapted into a gallery installation for Open Spaces Kansas City (2018). American Circus, a work adapted from The Great Farce, was displayed across multiple electronic billboards in New York’s Times Square in July 2019 as a project of Times Square Arts.

The limited-edition work is part of The Block Museum's permanent collection, gifted by the artist’s studio in recognition of the museum’s  40th anniversary in 2020


The Making of "The Great Farce"

About the Artist

Federico Solmi was born in Bologna, Italy in 1973. Since 1999 he has lived and worked in New York.

Solmi’s work utilizes bright colors and a satirical aesthetic to portray a dystopian vision of our present-day society. His exhibitions often feature articulate installations composed of a variety of media including virtual reality experiences, video installation, painting, drawing, and sculpture. Solmi uses his art as a vehicle to stimulate a robust conversation with his audience, highlighting the contradictions and fallibilities that characterize our time. Through his work, Solmi examines unconscious human impulses and desires in order to critique Western society’s obsession with individual success and display contemporary relationships between nationalism, colonialism, religion, consumerism. By re-configuring historical narratives across eras, he creates social and political commentary works which disrupt the mythologies that define American society. By merging his paintings with game engine aesthetics, Solmi’s videos confront the audience with his own absurd rewriting of past and present, merging dark humor and sense of the grotesque with new technologies. He creates a carnivalesque virtual reality where our leaders become puppets, animated by computer script and motion capture performance rather than string.

In 2009, Solmi was awarded by the Guggenheim Foundation of New York with the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in the category of Video & Audio. Solmi’s work was included in the 100-year anniversary exhibition of The Phillips Collection, Seeing Differently, and in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s traveling exhibition, Outwin 2019: ‘American Portraiture Today,’ as well as the inaugural exhibition of the Ocean Flower Museum Island in Hainan Province, Danzhou, China. 

Past solo museum surveys include ‘Joie de Vivre’ (September 2022 - February 2023) at the Morris Museum in Morristown New Jersey, ‘The Grand Masquerade’ (2019) at theTarble Art Center in Charleston Illinois, and ‘American Circus’ (2016) at the Haifa Museum of Art in Israel.

His work has been included in several international Biennials, including Open Spaces: A Kansas City Arts Experience (2018), the Beijing Media Art Biennale (2016), Frankfurt B3 Biennial of the Moving image (2017- 2015), the First Shenzhen Animation Biennial in China (2013) the 54th Venice Biennial (2011) and the SITE Santa Fe Biennial in New Mexico (2010).