Contemporary Ecosystems: A Quest Between Art and Ecology in North Macedonia

08/10/ 2022 - 26/10/ 2022


This innovative project is aimed to stimulate the public awareness on the importance of the natural heritage of North Macedonia and the artistic value of biodiversity, especially after the establishment of the new National Park of Shar Planina, at the crossroads with Kosovo and Albania, which will increase the total surface of the protected area of North Macedonia to 14%.  To obtain this, the two Italian artists, Roberto Ghezzi and Antonio Massarutto, who have always been working “through” and “in” the natural environment, have come to North Macedonia to create their works in the field, in interaction with the rich Macedonian fauna and flora. The project will thus make it possible to draw interesting parallelism between the beautiful nature of the two countries.


The artists’ work is divided into two phases: the preparatory and creative phase and the exhibition phase. During the first phase (from the 18th to the 26th of April – the 22 April was the international day of the land), the artists stayed in the National Park of Shar Planina. Once the most suitable site was identified, Roberto Ghezzi started to work on installations aimed at creating “naturographies” of places, which will begin to interact with ecosystems, and Antonio Massarutto started to create sculptures and installations inspired by the typical fauna of the local environment, by gathering the natural materials already present on the soil. The creative phase of the work was accurately documented and will be part of the final exhibition, together with the works themselves. During the preparation of the works, guided tours for art and design students also took place.


The second phase, to take place in October 2022 (from the 8th to the 26th), is aimed at exhibiting the works inside the rooms of the Museum of contemporary art of Skopje. A catalog will follow after the exhibition. The artists’ works may emphasize dialogue (conceptual and/or visual) with the collections already present inside the museum. A conference may also be organized, in which issues related to artists’ work would be addressed (such as contemporary art, and its relation with science and the environment).


The environmental heterogeneity produced by the predominantly hilly and mountainous nature of the territories of Italy and North Macedonia, which has led to a proliferation of ecological niches, close in space but very diversified, has meant that in these two countries one of Europe’s greatest biodiversity can still be observed today. Indeed, the Italian flora is made up of a very large number of entities, i.e. of species and subspecies, with 1,169 Bryophytes and 2,704 Lichens, and 8,195 entities of vascular plants, while the fauna is estimated at over 60,000 species. In North Macedonia, 14% of the National territory consists of protected areas. In the Country are located between 70 and 90 percent of plants are native to the Balkan countries. To date, 414 different species of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals have been recorded. But the most surprising thing is that these countries, in addition to being among the European countries with the greatest floristic and faunal richness, are characterized by very high rates of endemism, i.e. the presence of species living only within their borders.



Roberto Ghezzi’s pictorial and installation production, which has always been based on a strong interest in the natural landscape (investigated both through pictorial representation and experimentation “in the field”), moves from a scientific approach of the organic reality to then take conceptual form through matter. The naturographies, in particular, are works resulting from studies and experiments on natural, often unspoiled places, and whose title contains within itself the fundamental concept of both the final result and the process. The latter is in fact an integral part of the work, in a journey to the origin of the relationship between artist and nature, where the support is a space of communion between the two. The artist creates with nature but, at the same time, oversees every phase of creation: from the determination of the initial variables, to the time factor, until the final form. Roberto Ghezzi’s work always starts from the study of the environments that will become the places for the creation of the installations. After the environmental survey (from an aesthetic, physical, chemical and biological point of view) and the drafting of an accurate graphic project, the artist chooses the material, the most suitable tissue matrix for the installation on which nature will act over time. This phase is followed by manufacturing, installation of the supports, and monitoring until the moment of withdrawal and conservation, which takes place when the fabrics complete their reaction with the environment in which they have been immersed. This modus operandi is open to several interpretations, from a philosophical, artistic and scientific point of view. In fact, we are dealing with an unusual production, bearer of mixed aesthetic canons (natural-human), symbolic valences (the artist delegating the “gestural” part to nature), ethical aspects, tending towards understanding and dialogue with the landscape and its safeguarding. The naturographies, in addition to their undisputed artistic content, enclose within itself another meaning. By their intrinsic nature as collection “matrices”, they are useful indicators for defining the health status of the aquatic, soil and air ecosystem, so that they can become a preliminary tool to be used alongside the classic scientific methodologies of sampling and laboratory analysis which can determine the quality of the environment in which we live, always represented by a complex and dynamic system. The naturographies can therefore act as a vehicle for mapping and monitoring the territory and the biodiversity that characterizes and distinguishes it. In fact, they are able to demonstrate the growth and regeneration capacities of the elements which constitute a given environment: a method of cultivation not in conditions of controlled medium in the laboratory but within the natural habitat.


Antonio Massarutto’s sculptural and installation work feeds on suggestions of the natural heritage in which he works. Indigenous materials, plant essences, organic and inorganic, but also the cultural and emotional imprint of the landscape and of the iconographic traditions connoted in the most classic artistic tradition, become both the concrete material with which he works and the matrix of an aesthetic research capable of bringing together the real and the imaginary, echoes of history with hints of the future. Massarutto connects with a place. Diving himself totally in it, he tests it and collects the subject and the essence. Therefore, he works on its expressive potential and, in an instinctive building work that descends from his deep knowledge of animal morphology, he creates chimeric entities hovered between mimesis and myth. His creatures, sketched like skeletons and primitive or more detailed forms to shape full and stately bodies, seem to play with time. Some seems a sort of “fantasy types” which, on one side, evoke the strength of zoomorphic beings from classical culture or bestiaries from medieval memory, but on the other side, in their birth from a landscaping suggestion before explicit research about the immaterial memories of the terrain, they become potential beings of post-apocalyptic tomorrow. Everything – with absolute respect of the environmental context – is realized with natural materials: ephemeral and transient. Time is therefore also what inexorably dissipates, erases and annihilates the human ability to build in beautiful and bold semblants. There is no mastery that holds. There is no glory in the art, but glory of nature that gives everything and takes everything back. Of these works, maybe, only the documents and the digital memory will remain that will feed, in a game of eternal return, the affabulatory human capacity to glimpse presences and powers in natural and virtual forms.


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