NERO is an international publishing house devoted to art, criticism and contemporary culture. Founded in Rome in 2004, it publishes artists’ books, catalogs, editions and essays.
NERO explores present and future imaginaries beyond any field of specialization, format or code – as visual arts, music, philosophy, politics, aesthetics or fictional narrations – extensively investigating unconventional perspectives and provocative outlooks to decipher the essence of this ever changing reality.
Davide Sgambaro, "FENOMENO (Smiley)", 2022. Installation, green laser, laser controller, computer, environmental dimensions. Installation view Manifattura Tabacchi, Firenze. Courtesy the artist and NAM - Not A Museum (Florence). Photo Leonardo Morfini, ADRYA
Davide Sgambaro’s project for Manifattura Tabacchi and NAM – Not a Museum materializes ambitions and uncertainties peculiar to a generation (perhaps an era) that is the product of a system in crisis, based on efficiency and competition. However, the artist’s work seems to suggest an alternative to this tragic condition: a rebellion that begins with laughter.
It would be enough to look at the wall. It would only take observing its irregularities to detect the crack that tries to conceal itself behind the smile. The green light strikes the wall: though without intermittence, the luminous reference seems to recall that glow, of the same color, to which Jay Gatsby stubbornly clung. A mirage of an orgiastic  future and a mirror of an era now in decline, not so dissimilar to the contemporary.
In Davide Sgambaro’s large smiley face I perceive the reverberation of that same light, transfigured by time and having become more effective because of its ability to spread and multiply the number of unfulfilled expectations. The laser that projects it, in a hypnotic and manic manner, always traces the same trajectory to reproduce a symbol that stands out indiscriminately on T-shirts and ecstasy pills, showing the absolute semantic flattening common to every capitalist manifestation. The smile, rather than embodying an empathic reaction, appears unnatural and helpless, probably chemically induced by drugs or prescription pills, and in its complete artificiality also seems to stand as a demonstration of a state of stillness, a kind of ataraxia or ironic detachment motivated by the awareness of an absolute lack of alternatives. If in that sense Fenomeno(Smiley) appears as a symptom of that reflexive impotence that Mark Fisher attributed to his students and described as a state of torpor dictated by the absence of perspectives, on the contrary its sardonic appearance seems to configure it as an instrument of subversion.
Rather than Fisher, I think I would then recall the words printed on a poster made in 1977 by the Soccorso Rosso Militante, set to accompany a photo depicting a joyous anarcho-syndicalist who had just been arrested: “A Laugh Will Bury You All.” I do think that Sgambaro’s work is marked by the same attitude of challenge and resistance, and a playful tragicness that aims to strike at the symbols of a society founded on leisure, profit, and competition. Each object selected by the artist seems to disprove the very system that produced it, certainly not through a detournemént, which would imply the reversal of meaning, but through the simple, and for this reason effective, presentation of what those objects are called to do: entertain. This is the case with the already mentioned Fenomeno (Smiley), as well as with the firecrackers from the series I push a finger into my eyes (kiss, kick, kiss), residues of a solipsistic explosion, of a burnout suffocated within the confines of a showcase.
Or with the performances entitled Too much and not the mood, in which the vocal distortion produced by the inhalation of helium and the throwing of popcorn become instruments of awareness, denunciation, and resistance against the pressure generated by an art system increasingly driven by the mechanisms of market and productivity. The solution, or at least the response to a condition that is perceived as unbearable, thus consists in the lucid representation of the paroxysm that is embedded in the phenomenon.
By reflecting its image, the artist reveals its absurdity and that affabulatory and seductive character that compels us to participate and desire.
In other words, we keep chasing the green light, a future of achievements and success. Whether it’s unreachable doesn’t matter: “tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… and one fine morning…” 
 Francis Scott Fitzgerald, Il grande Gatsby, Mondadori, 2012, p. 145.  Ibid.
Giulia Gaibisso (Rome, 1993) is an art historian and curator.
She is currently part of the team of IUNO, an independent curatorial project and research center for contemporary art founded by Cecilia Canziani and Ilaria Gianni. She also writes for ATP Diary and is a member of Spazio In Situ, an artist-run space founded in Rome in 2016.
She has collaborated as editorial and curatorial assistant on several projects for institutions such as GAMeC Bergamo and MAXXI l'Aquila.
She lives and works in Rome.