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STEPS AT NOVALESA ABBEY


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The Wanderings of Nicholas

It is no longer the same shadow today, that in which Nicholas advances nonetheless between the biforate windows in his perennial task, just a step below the sphere of the Pantocrator, and opens the symbol and mantle in the gesture of teaching and displays the Doctrine, the concentrated totality of Meaning that he holds between his hands in the shape of volumes, just below the point where the wall curves into the dome, and where Theory itself curves above the stable figure of Nicholas in the dizzying heights. It is no longer the same shadow that, with centuries-old faith, the openings in the stone have regulated at points of the day and night to render visible or invisible Nicholas “according to Nature”. The reflection of colour that now assails that shadow and expresses itself directly as the word of the altar on the Imaginary, once manifested, is irreversible contagion: the shadow, says the Artificial, is historic. Having penetrated into the sacred enclosure, the Serpent triumphs: the fruit of the tree of knowledge has been consumed, and now Irony hangs over the whole of Paradise, with Nicholas lost in lost Nature.
‘Metamorphosis’ is now the word of the Serpent: the whole world hinges on the unstable icon. The demonic trick coincides with the altar: every act of passion – says, on the surface of the Sacred, the pure board of colour that fades away in calculated auras – is a tautological vocation, and finds a mirror in the Code. Any sense, for desacralized Abstraction, is a momentary garb; if its aura is reproducible, the Law is double.
Beneath the gaze of the Serpent, the world of Primary Names divides: Truth, from a worldly perspective, is relative. But ironic consciousness wants all the space. Here is the cosmic egg split for ever, celestial and terrestrial in an unstoppable hiatus: Totality ends up in a mirage, in the abyss, in the labyrinth. And so, pushed by the acts of reflection, Nicholas slips into another scene, and the new timbre that clads him is a new journey and new circumstances. But pushed by the reflections of the catastrophic ground in which History advances, shattering itself and Desire, and in which is reflected, upside down, Creation, Nicholas becomes lost, shrinking to an infinitesimal part of himself, to the most extreme syllable of colour. And so name and Doctrine are retranslated in gleaming segments, in remote splendours, in non-senses, in unknowable rooms. If relativity rules, there is no way out of this labyrinth: every step is deflagration in the mirror, every motion modifies Form, offering fresh scope for interpretation. The phenomenon is infinite, the icon disaggregated. The more, with historic breath, we move yearningly towards Nicholas , the more we lose him – he thwarted in the background, we ruined in fragments behind him. The broken mirror at the base of the space is the fruit, here, of the tree of disenchantment: a paradoxical mosaic, the infinite break down of Totality, a destructive principle. The casual dispersal of the Image becomes the foundations of the living walk, a new morbid cosmogony. And so, in the middle of the scene, in this historic and architectural drama, amidst the action of the irradiated light, the reflections and the shadow that envelops and overwhelms both space and figuration, the main light, alone on the front of the altar, illuminates the angelic figure as a pure signature of the ritual. Precisely because the uniqueness is the central enigma, the area of sacrifice: in full light the Victim (the Icon) shines in splendid definition.

Luciana Rogozinski

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