A selection of texts chosen by Alfredo Pirri, published in the personal exhibition at the “La Nuova Pesa” gallery, Rome, October 1994.
FOR SOME DAYS IN A ROW
For some days in a row I woke up early in the morning to go to the gallery, in Via del Corso, very close to Piazza del Popolo, to mount the exhibition. At 5.30 am the square was practically empty, the famous bars on the square were closed. The only presences were the street cleaners and the priest of the ‘twin churches’, all doing their work; the street cleaners cleaned streets and square, the priest brushed the portico of one of the two churches.
The only people around were heading to church. On the second day, I went there too, and then for some days in a row after that. The people went in and sat down; some stayed close to the door, while others knelt down. They were different ages; almost each one of them ready to start their day. Nobody spoke: the silence was deeper than elsewhere, a parallel body following each body into the church. One thing they all had in common was the gaze, which everyone directed to the altar where no mass was being celebrated, were absolutely nothing was happening. I found it almost unexplainable why they didn’t turn their gaze to the many works of art that decorate the church.
They almost slipped away from the gaze as if they weren’t there. Yet they were so overly physically present: never had there been a better moment to enjoy their beauty! We were in a situation in which it was impossible to look at the works, for the simple fact that they were looking at us; everyone in the church was somehow checked upon by a thousand eyes and a thousand gestures, all active, though still. The works of art, the decorations, were there to check that the people in the church directed their gaze towards nothingness; to help our gazes find a presence that could echo our thoughts. After all this is what we’d like to make, images to gaze upon with our backs, image us that protect us like angels do with children. Images to consume with family and friends.
WHERE TO TAKE THE THINGS THAT BELONG TO US
Conversation between Alfredo Pirri and Tucci Russo
Alfredo Pirri – When I woke up this morning, on the train, I saw the landscape outside the window. I saw things moving while I was still. I though about the landscapes I have seen from the windows of your galleries, both your old one and your current one, and I thought they had something in common. Now we can see mountains, but before, in Via Gattinara, it wasn’t the landscape but an impression of a river that flows; and even before then, I seem to remember, some old buildings…
Tucci Russo – a chimney.
A.P. – That’s right, a chimney. In fact what I have never seen is the centre of a city, a big road, or lights, people walking, or a piazza with a bar and all the other things that make the centre of a city a dynamic place, the urban image.
T.R. – It’s true I’ve never had the typical urban image. Now our gallery is in Torre Pellice, but it used to be in Corso Tassoni and then in Via Gattinara, inside the city; outside the galleries were things that had to do with the city but which at the same time didn’t, because Corso Tassoni had an outside that could remind us of old suburban neighbourhoods, almost romantically; Via Gattinara had an industrial feel, and at the same time a more European one. What started to go missing in those landscapes, which was what had always pushed us to do things, was that local energy which kept getting more and more subtle; so to conserve that energy somehow we decided we should take it with us, with the little art we have been able to understand, with the little thought we have been able to develop in these years, and take all of this elsewhere to let it grow more naturally, in a context less afflicted by the movements and the crisis of the city, to try and work with a greater freedom.
For me it’s hard to think of an exterior landscape and of art at the same time, beacuse now I’d like to see art in the landscape. Up until now the gallery has made up for this, beacuse of course the artists can go and see the landscape and make things that look like they had always been there, as if they had grown on trees. These operations become difficult beacuse the social matter surrounding us sometimes stops us from performing operations that are somehow more free, able to live autonomously. The gallery, a word whose meaning I’ve never really understood, is the place where things have happened according to codes, whereas I would like them to happen without codes. I think art can be done anywhere, without having to talk about its being done.
A.P. – I was struck today, in visiting your gallery, by the relationship between the external nature, this strong landscape, and the ‘nature’ inside, the works scattered in the space. There’s a profound solidarity between these landscapes, not because the pieces look like they have grown on trees, but precisely because you have a really strong sense that they are manmade, so strong that you feel the gallery as something which, in making the very idea of nature stronger, makes it more perceptible. I perceived the dynamic and the tension of something growing.
T.R.- there’s an osmosis and at the same time a natural dialectic, because I think that in the end, the things the artists have made, as I like to call them, have found a home: a real place where the inside made by man and the outside made by nature live well together, even produce a different kind of contact.
A.P.-… As if they had found a home. I think these days we’re all looking for a home for our works, not in a commercial sense but in a welcoming one. I think Italian homes are very open to this hospitality, with their rooms one after the other, each one with a different intimacy. I like the way art indulges these needs and then betrayes them, remaining foreign without playing the role of the invader.
T.R. – What you’re saying is very beautiful, also because anyone can host art in their home, with the same grandeur as the patron who invites artists to do things in his palace. This is an extrordinary principle which takes art out of the realm of the mythic and allows it to live in the natural space of people’s gestures. People always think of the artist as of someone who does transgressive things which penetrate an emotional sphere. Whereas I’ve always thought of art as something natural and as a logical consequence of life. If you think about it like this, you realise art can live anywhere, and that it should especially dwell in the places which can host it with this ease, with this consciousness.
A.P.- I agree that art is an extrordinary opportunity to redisgn the idea of nature, but it should be done antinaturalistically. A few days ago I was speaking of this with a friend, she thought art should be the synthesis and the creative laboratory of information taken from elsewhere (or from everywhere). I immediately thought that once upon a time you would have called this naturalism, if the meaning of that term had to do with, on the one hand, elaborating on natural form and on the surrounding environment, and on the other hand, resisting the panic this operation provokes.
T.R. – So because you’re talking about this, another problem appears: the city, the polis the way it is organised now, is made so that everything exists for and is at the service of human beings. So why not extend this polis outside of the polis. I’d like to find everything we have spoken of so far both inside and outside the home, that is in the ‘nature of man’ and in the ‘nature of nature’. In this case I liked taking myself out of the centre because where we are now, we can let thought exist more freely, more autonomously, and confront it with the shapes around us, more naturally.
A.P.- if art turns to laboratory, to elaboration, it disappears. Everything is laboratory, us and our bodies, the houses we live in, a tree. Everything but art; because art finds its reasons to grow within itself, its own motives. Nobody can plant a painting and nobody can cut down a sculpture. It’s beautiful to think of how the contrast of these ‘natural’ forces gives birth to the idea of inhabitation.
T.R.- When this morning you were telling me about the exhibition in Rome I had the feeling that the exhibition was a body inhabiting a home. A unique body, a healthy body, from which you can’t cut off an element to take it outside. You can do that afterwards, of course, but even then, that piece of the body will continue to live together with the others in spite of the distances between them. This made me very happy: you thought of this exhibition as a whole, not as a mercenary body! It’s a little like what we were saying earlier on, the need for a continuation between inside and outside, a fluidity of cultural facts…
A.P.- … from this point of view, each piece is something, a continuity, in fact you take your stuff from home with you when you go out. Responsibly, in an almost military, defensive fashion, we have built a space in which we could represent this strong contrast with nature in order to get to a tranquil coexistnence in which there’s a fluidity that doesn’t have to give up on representational value, because nature itself is becoming more complex (or we’re realising as much). So we need to make an art that is more complex, a fracture and an invite at the same time, but the invitational aspect needs to be stronger, needs to be visible…
T.R.- … I think if we can conceive this sort of idea, we can conceive another form. Not only of culture, but also of politics.
A.P.- I know, although it seems harder and harder to me. Because everytime we speak of politics we need to erect more than demolish. It’s as if we had to build more walls than we need to take down…
T.R. -… Certainly. But building a political idea within what we’re doing and living means taking the best energies of culture into the other side, making politics into something else.
A.P.- I think politics is even more imbued with naturalism than art is. It has a sense of itself as pure reproduction, let’s say that it’s at a level which is just before impressionism. None of the successive ruptures seems to have taken hold in the habits of people, everyone keeps acting like Les Demoiselles D’Avignon had never been painted! Politics has denied itself growth. It is still tied to a culture that hasn’t dealt with the trauma of abstraction, so it denies itself the possibility to represent otherwise.
T.R. – Very well! That’s the point, we can’t use formulas pertaining to figuration in a context which has nothing figurative about it! It’s the opposite, representation (in all senses) in politics sounds like a dead thing. Take Thomas Schutte: he confronted his work on a mixed level of figuration and abstraction. But I lived his work and live your work without ever thinking about figuration, I think of a mixed problem of concept and truth.
A.P.- In the end, what has to be done is live in tradition. Not as a hiding place, but in order to exit its formal canons and find their communicative essence, which can make possible a relationship between people.
T.R.- This question of tradition and figuration is in close contact with the problem of space and the work on space. It touches on various aspects, for example on intimate perception in relation to the conceptual tradition. When conceptuality arrives at figuration, the results are utterly other than the results expected of figuration. Take the example of Harald Klingheoller: in his work there’s this idea of taking material back to sculpture; so here’s a word which for the conceptuals needed to be visualised, but rebecoming material in his work. In a sense it returns to figuration but via iron, paper, stone used in a sculptorial tradition.
A.P. – Not tradition but its mechanism: it’s the engine that matters.
T.R. – There are artists who have inhabited a part of culture which searched for new possibilities for tradition, but which then betrayed the new to return to straight tradition; because it wasn’t research that was guiding them, but commerce. Others have chosen a radical path of cultural choices and betrayed tradition in the best possible sense. These paths describe the mechanism of tradition perfectly.
A.P. – In this sense, art takes on a communitary role which isn’t about reality but about the achievement of symbolic value, which the community is in desperate need of.
T.C. – It’s true, because we’re in a situation which is absolutely formal. Often artists speak from the outside without knowing what the inside is. I’m sorry to say this, and I don’t want to generalise, but we often see this sort of operation… and not only in art.
A.P. – We need to give art a fundament of reality, which isn’t realism, the way natural growth isn’t naturalism. Art, and the artist, need an organic reality to survive; and we need to accept the reality of every organic being which is dramatic because it is at the same time internal and external, in constant growth, without head nor tail, like some invertebrates. We need to belie the present when it’s inorganic, that is, when it shows no tension. It’s completely unreal to believe that you can confront daily life, because life can only take you; it’s also unreal (or sadly real) to believe that you can use the medial or communicative aspects of daily life for ‘artistic’ purposes. We need to say things as they are: we’ll come out of this struggle not ‘more creative’, but either victorious or won over, or socialists or barbarians.
T.R. – Medialism is another word which frightens me. Because it can be really misunderstood… it’s not that I disagree with the concept, because it isn’t new, art has always done medialism; it’s just that it has become formal, and has more to do with mass media than with art or culture. And culture, as far as I can see, is always multimedial when it’s strong; it always includes omniscience, what mankind knows.
A.P. – But it does so synthetically rather than expansively.
T.R. – The thing is that, at a certain point, we need to understand what we’re doing, but this understanding shouldn’t be utilised to produce a series of academic manuals. We need these thoughts of ours to risk new energies, without weakening the energies that brought us to those thoughts in the first place.
Torre Pellice, September 1994
to see the images of the show click here