Tucci Russo Gallery, Torre Pellice, Turin 1996
with Mirosław Bałka

preparatory drawings

Pax is the title of an exhibition set up with an artist who lives in a highly religious country. The country is Poland and the artist Miroslaw Balka. We met on a number of occasions sharing a room and we decided to share an exhibition. The title came to us spontaneously from a newspaper page that covered the table in his studio, near Warsaw. We had written various possible titles down in a notebook and were going to come to a definite decision after dinner, when, shutting the notebook, the word PAX appeared (included in a long article) that had remained hidden under the open notebook placed on the table. It seemed appropriate for an exhibition by one artist living in Rome and another living in a village where everybody goes to Mass on Sundays. This word was at the same time strong (even authoritative in its Latin declension) and sweet, bringing to mind something conciliatory, the possibility of creating an unfragmented, conclusive work, or (like a secret to be kept) that had in itself the experience of the diaspora, but would be afraid and ashamed of showing these characteristics. It even made us think of the possibility of co-showing our works in the same rooms of the gallery. For the occasion we constructed an electronic device which we used on the evening of the exhibition’s inauguration. A mechanism wich connected to an enormous beacon directed at the snowy peaks of the mountains facing the gallery automatically sent up a luminous signal of the word pax in Morse code. The same signal became an abstract design made up of lines and dots and was printed on the invitation cards. The day following the inauguration I read in the newspaper that the night before had celebrated throughout the world the definitive end of Morse code, since replaced by more advanced techniques of communication.
For this exhibition I created a sculpture entitled Ratto d’Europa (Rape of Europe), which was for the first time in my work a true sculpture, something autonomous from the wall and not dependent on it.
In the art of our time sculpture is often seen as an extension of the wall. Like a peninsula that extends from the main land. This makes the three-dimensional element depend on the two-dimensional, giving the former the role of main actor and the latter the nineteenth-century role of a window on the world, the generative place of the third dimension in front of it.
With this work of mine I wanted to offer as many points of view as the number of possible movements of a body in space, without any hierarchies between them, so as to to arouse different reactions and different states of mind. It is as if the movement of collapsing could be captured in a moment of stasis when the underlying force, interred, shows itself to the outside as a dynamic made of plastic grace. The base of the sculpture, the floor, is the point of friction, of difficulty where the greatest tension between up and down comes out: an imaginary level suggesting an underground presence of something larger and above all with greater dynamic power.
I can’t be convinced by the insistence to advocate the need to abolish verticality in favour of an endless horizontality. The perspective and anti-monumental revolution has finished its tale! Knocking down the vertical line pointed towards the skies, like a finger that points or accuses, laying it on the ground, rendering it liveable and breaking it up into millions of points, does not automatically guarantee us the discovery of unexplored lands, because the horizontal is not “better” than the vertical, both have simply ceased to exist (and perhaps separately, autonomously, they have never existed). Perhaps, if we consider the word “revolution” in its original meaning as “that which comes back” after having gone through space spinning around its axis, then we may rethink of a monument as something that returns from a journey and tells us what it has seen elsewhere and reoccupies the place that has been empty since its departure, amongst people by now unknown and who no longer even remember the battles between high and low, wide and narrow, long and short, round and square, central and lateral etc., people who want to be an audience and to care for the traveller so that he will continue to tell stories.
The modular factor does not interest me; I am more interested in the component one. By modular I mean the sum of identical units that allow for further and infinite manipulations. Instead in my case, the meaning (if we may call it so) does not lie in a modular perspective but in the form itself.
In my work forms are resolved in themselves, but at the same time they reveal the existence of an external mechanism keeping them alive. What we see is the silent – because concluded – result of a greater force of which the image refuses to speak.
I think that the artistic experience should serve to open oneself up, to place perception at the service of the Open, which, as many modern thinkers have taught us, is a luminous and spatial phenomenon. The Open is a plane on which light and space combine to give life to image. The image is realised thanks to the experience of the Open; rather it settles in the Open and substitutes it. Thus the completeness of the work of art shows itself as an aggressive instrument, which divides, and at the same time is an inhabitant of its representative, the Open.

ph Paolo Mussat Sartor

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