Review: Marco Poloni, “Codename: Osvaldo. Two Case Studies”

Campagne Première, Berlin.

Lest we forget, Marco Poloni demonstrates that global networks existed far before the Internet. The artist visualizes a sordid tale of murder among 1960s and ’70s radicals, in his current exhibition linking key political figures from Germany, Italy, and Bolivia. A potted prickly-pear cactus inscribed with the word “COIDADU,” Sardinian for “attention,” greets visitors at the entrance to the exhibition. Pinned to the wall above is a black-and-white photograph of two jovial-looking men playing ball: Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Italian Communist publishing mogul Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. The nostalgic image sets the stage for a mapping of historical personages through text, photographs, and 16-mm film narrating the case studies ofThe Pistol of Monika Ertl, 2013–14, and The Orgosolo Laboratory Project, 2015, the latter of which is further represented by videos, slide projections, booklets, and artifacts.

Using archival material, Poloni investigates the enigma of Bolivian colonel Roberto Quintanilla Pereira’s death at the hands of Monika Ertl, a radicalized member of the leftist National Liberation Army and daughter of former Nazi sympathizer and cinematographer Hans Ertl. As investigations later revealed, the murder, meant to avenge Quintanilla’s execution of Che Guevara in the Bolivian jungle, was committed with a gun belonging to Feltrinelli.

Reproductions of documentary photographs of cadavers and coffins, such as #12 Cadaver of Roberto Quintanilla in morgue, Hamburg, 1971, and film clips from field studies such as #F02 Monika Ertl playing with a piranha, from Hans Ertl’s film “Hito Hito” on an ethnographic expedition in Bolivia, 1958, are shown alongside comparative images of human and piranha skulls. Notwithstanding his forensic and encyclopedic focus on his subjects, Poloni reminds us of our limited ability to comprehend the past. The images in these cases become anecdotes in a story much larger and more complex than the facts alone can profess.

First published on, February 8th, 2016.

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