Cool hunter predictions: Gabriella & Silvana Mangano - Art Collector

Issue 55, January - March 2011

This profile appeared in the "Cool hunter predictions" feature, part of the annual special issue "50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2011"

Born in 1972, the rise of sisters Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano to the status of artists to watch has been a fast one – relative to the art world anyway. After completing art college in the early 2000s, where they both majored in drawing, in the last few years they have attracted critical attention primarily for their video work, including as recent finalists in the Anne Landa Award for video and new media arts.

As subjects of their videos, Gabriella and Silvana Mangano are as hypnotic and alluring as the works themselves. Taking their embodiment as their subject matter, the sisters exploit the infinite possibilities of the ultimate psychoanalytic experience: the externalisation and reflection of the self in its double. Their video performances certainly captivate; our inherent psychological fascination with twins is both satisfied yet denied by the intimate mutuality of their actions. And they exploit this unique feature of their collaborations to startling effect. Yet the success of their video performances is not reducible to the novelty of their relationship – their works are shaped by a highly crafted, austere aesthetic which is visually arresting and they trade in ideas beyond identity, in particular the nature of art making itself. It is here where their academic focus on drawing becomes apparent.

Certainly, in their performances, the nature of their relationship is traded on; they often act as perfectly mirrored images of one another. In the sisters are standing face-to-face and drawing on the wall behind each other in what looks like an attempt at drawing a portrait. But this work also takes as its subject matter the possibilities of drawing itself. As art critic and academic Robert Nelson has noted: “The work appeals to a pre-photographic practice of skiagraphy, which was sometimes credited as the birth of portraiture but which is also legitimately considered the precursor of photography.” The result, however, is not a portrait but a series of lines. The twins literally leave blank the one thing the viewer is trying to see – how these doubles see one another. This performance both affirms the idea that the singular, interpersonal connection which twins must experience is one that can’t be known to others and leaves the viewer wanting to know more.

In another video performance, Absence of Evidence, the women sit with their backs to each other, and instead of literally drawing they take another drawing implement – paper – and pass it between them as it undulates. References to a metaphorical umbilical cord are irresistible; again we are left to speculate what the nature of the connection is to these mirror images, who at one point move their hands in perfect sync.

It is the unknowability of the self and the other that their unique status as identical twins and their performance of this identity ultimately evokes. But as long as the Mangano sisters keep creating such charismatic works, captivated viewers will not stop trying to gain access to their strange, private world.

Carrie Miller

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