Fondazione Merz

Michal Rovner. Alert

31 October 2022 – 29 January 2023


Curated by Beatrice Merz

With Alert, the artist transforms the Fondazione’s space into a portal to another dimension, creating an immersive experience both indoors and outdoors, with a site-specific installation.
The works reverberate an unfamiliar dimension, a sense of fear and alertness, primal powers, and the night within us.

In response to the refugees and displacement crisis, Rovner spent nights in dark fields, looking for an encounter with jackals, the others, the hidden.

And it happened that one night a female jackal allowed itself to be observed: “she looked at me. She looked at the right and left, was very alert. And then she ran away. And then she came back and ran away and came back and ran away. When I put my hands to the camera, she ran away completely and then when I sat quietly, she came back again. And then she lied down.”

Rovner is constructing a non-palpable space, enhanced by the powerful iconographic legacy, for the jackal is also Anubis, the canis aureus, the mythological god who accompanies the souls to the afterlife, the gatekeeper between life and death. The artist reflects on the possibility of a profound relation with what we are led to fear and push away.

Borrowing the words of David Grossman, the work of Michal Rovner “is the essence of exile, of the refugee, but also of progress, of searching and discovery. In this almost magical flow of time into time, culture into culture, within this process that is the living breath, we suddenly sense: this is us. We are passing through. We are gone. This is how future generations will remember us, or, almost certainly, forget.”

Michal Rovner’s work raises questions, interrogates itself, the visitor and the space, and accommodates works and people in a meta-space free of identifying details and therefore absolute. The ongoing narrative of human fragility is present throughout her work, carrying the enigmas of humanity in the face of constant dramatic shifts.

The artist’s work challenges us to reflect on the crisis of dislocation, the mass of humanity on the move across the world, which according to UNHCR this year has crossed the 100 million mark, an experience where the boundary between existence and disappearance is fragile, breakable.

Rovner says: “I always start with reality, collecting or recording things from reality but I always erase a lot of details, identifying details. I’m not trying to ignore or get away from reality, but to detect something about reality, which is underneath the details, underneath the story”; and adds: “In my first encounter with the jackals, I had an urge to make a cave painting. I called it Anubis. Realizing it in this place, I wanted the work to be a part of the place, to project on the exposed walls, with the marks and stains, to keep it rough as it is, a kind of Arte Povera, and also a kind of fresco in motion. The site and the walls carry the residue of the time and history of the place, and to that I added another layer of past and current time.”

Indoors, the artist altered the architectural space and created an intense temple-like experience. In the center, the large installation Alert – relating to the god Anubis, while also reflecting on the alertness of a wild animal, constantly in danger. The jackal seems to be looking with concern and alert, at a vast landscape of dislocation, echoing the state of the world.


with the support of Regione Piemonte, Compagnia di San Paolo, Fondazione CRT
Special thanks to Città di Torino e Kuhn & Bülow and Pace Gallery


outdoor installation:
Angelo Sicurella, voice
Francesco Vitaliti, recording, sound edit