GNAM9

steps, 2011

 Steps, Galleria nazionale d’Arte Moderna, 2011

Sala delle Cerimonie

… architecture is the only reason for sculpture. The spirit of architecture is sculpture, and construction of sculpture is architecture…

Arturo Martini, Scultura lingua morta [Sculpture A Dead Language], 1945

The entrance to the museum is a symbolic threshold, a zone of self-critical and at the same time celebratory passage. Crossing it is a ceremony that accentuates perception of a spatial and temporal dimension, unreal but at the same time radically and intimately material. With this work I should like to give the spectator the impression that while moving in space he can modify his vision of it, carrying out a twofold simultaneous action of demolition and reconstruction of the image. His sensations will lead him to think that he himself is the subject of the work, and in experiencing the action of looking at himself upside down, and feeling that infinitesimal space like a skin that binds him to and separates him from his own image, he will come to be part of it in a “natural” manner, in the same way that he is part of the world. Being within the work distances us from the idea that art puts itself forward as a mirror of the world since, on the contrary, that minuscule, film-like portion of space that divides one’s own foot from its own double is enough to produce a perceptual shifting that projects the spectator into the centre of a story, a broken narration that cancels out any consolatory participation. A story that celebrates beauty (together with its transience), glory (together with its failure) and desire (together with its loss). The experience of this narration, the grouping of these feelings and ways of knowing, the images that are triggered, make the spectator’s step uncertain, as if walking on melting ice where a rapid change of temperature causes cracks to open up, thinning the surface so the water beneath laps our feet, making us feel part of a process of change on which we are poised. The privileged and immobile spectators are 19th century sculptures deprived of their plinths and restored to their real, human dimensions, like fallen angels, responsible (together with the spectator) for breaking the heavens beneath us. So the work is no longer a perspective mirror but a place of stone designed to house our weaknesses in a light different from what we left behind when we entered the museum. Outdoors earthly light is vital, indoors it is the light of passage towards a place where the distinction between life and non-life loses its habitual meaning. In this itinerary the death mask of the sculptor Antonio Canova, enclosed in a display case which ties it to the floor like a bolt in metal, evokes an expanded body, fragmented and spread throughout the many rooms of the museum, but recounted here only by a face in plaster. It’s a small and human face that could be held in two hands cupped as if to collect cool water from a spring. A plaster face surrounded by female, child and literary sculptures with a lowered glance which look at themselves in the icy pool of their representation, finding new life there, in a light they share with the real life of the spectators.

Alfredo Pirri

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