Steps: the distance that separates one foot from another while walking forward or advancing.
Steps: a cyclical work of art shown in the Inner Room exhibition space in 2011. The work is composed of sheets of mirror laid on the floor, creating a unique effect with enormous impact; the mirrors crack and shatter randomly under the weight of viewers physically walking across the surface
Seeing VS Watching
Although we look at everything around us, what we humans conventionally use as a perceptive decoding process is reflected reality. It is not true reality but simply the reflection. Steps was exhibited in the Inner Room as the eighth part of the cycle on the purpose or objective of art: the subject deals with walking forward or advancing within this transformed vision. To define or redefine the purpose of art we must take steps which form cracks in reflected reality. This reflected reality as seen in a mirror is in fact the conventional and traditional element which has always existed and which needs to be shattered as a consequential action. Walking forward or advancing within the transformed vision causes the shattering of this reflected reality, and thus the newly created reality is the result stemming from the fragmentation of the reflection. This shattering occurs physically in the case of Steps, but in a deep and intimate way when the work touches the viewer’s inner feelings in a moment of complete and absolute awareness. The shattering action becomes part of deep inner consciousness. Based on the experience of this work of art we will try to explain the process that occurs.
Steps thus becomes a metaphor of our moving forward towards freedom.
How does this happen?
First of all we must begin by defining the linguistic elements we are analysing in relation to this work of art, that is: our steps and the direction which provides the bearings and the destiny or final objective towards which our route leads, which in this case represents freedom…
Steps are the element forming the advancing action. Advancing signifies both physical movement as well as acquiring experience. Advancing in some location also means acquiring experience of that environment; moving forward in some period of time also means existing at that time and increasing our experience. Gaining experience means learning about what exists without and within, and which knowledge reveals to us.
At this point let us focus on the word ‘forward’, which indicates the direction we are following or the destiny /objective we are striving towards. In this sense our objective is understood as our principal purpose in life. It should be explained that this “purpose” is the ultimate and deepest reason for which humans feel they were born: this purpose remains constant and detached from trends, sentiments, opinions and beliefs. Striving for this intimate and unique purpose determines the achievement of our personal destiny.
Freedom is the last word we will analyse and which we can define as being the objective of the Steps. Humankind has attempted to give this term a myriad of different definitions, but the best interpretation defines freedom as the result of gaining experience from reality. Acquiring experience is the process of knowing.
But what does knowledge signify and what do we mean when we talk about knowing? And in what way are they connected with Steps?
The word ‘knowledge’ has assumed many meanings over the course of history according to the degree of enlightenment at the time. Here we wish to analyse the different levels of knowledge based on practical contemporary definitions, simply because we exist and move in a contemporary environment.
Firstly, there is a basic level of knowledge, which is defined in Greek by the word ‘gnosis’. This indicates the knowledge gained through the five senses, and therefore also through intellectual and academic activity that processes data which are scientifically comprehensible or demonstrable at the time, irrespective of the potential in whatever data is processed. In fact, ‘gnosis’ knowledge refers to observing, not seeing. There is a difference between the two.
This is the level of knowledge in which a work of art is perceived only at a linguistic level: in other words, the work of art can be read without triggering any deep spiritual or intangible experience. For example, it is the level of knowledge used by doctors when assessing a medical report or by teachers in analysing the direction a student should follow in life according to his academic marks and aptitudes. Famous basketball champion Michael Jordan was told by his physical education teacher that his marks demonstrated he would never make a basketball team…
Now let us examine the term that relates to experience, perception, consciousness and information. This type of knowledge in Greek is defined by the term ‘ginosko’ which generally refers to revealed knowledge. But what kind of knowledge does the term ‘ginosko’ refer to?
In this sense it means something that a person is strongly and intimately aware of, as if it were the result of personal experience but without involving the five senses. It is being conscious or aware of something without knowing how it occurred. In short, a revelation.
At this level the work of art begins to trigger a reaction in our deepest, most intimate feelings, revealing an inner reality that exists outside the linguistic level. It begins to evoke certain meanings at a more personal level, provoking emotions, irrespective of our knowledge of artistic idioms. It evokes but does not express or display. It reveals but does not decode; however it does not allow us any control over what it provokes in us because it is not strong enough to trigger our interpretative potential. In short, we are aware of the experience but are unable to interpret or control it. We become aware… we see something through a kind of revelation but do not realize or are not conscious of what we “see”.
Let us move on to the deepest level of knowledge which is expressed by the Greek word ‘oida’. This means acquiring intuitive knowledge at a level where we begin to become aware of what the work of art transmits to us. In other words, we begin to clearly perceive the deeper meaning that the work communicates or evokes in us without yet acquiring the true and precise knowledge which will allow us to react in answer to this evocation. While we are deeply and consciously aware, we are still not able to react because of our lack of correct and true knowledge.
This knowledge exists at the deepest level and is called “epignosis”: it refers to the correct and precise knowledge of something. Thanks to this level of awareness the work of art will communicate to us its full meaning; it means that we are able to take control over the strong emotions the work of art creates in us, transforming and modifying our behaviour since we are no longer subject to the power caused by lack of knowledge. In other words, the work assumes the dimension of the environment; this leads to our making a change in our lives through unveiling and revealing, similar to moving from a cold environment into a warm one … we begin to change and renew our lives in order to function correctly and to the full. All forms of life need a specific environment in order to live and develop: plant life is a prime example.
Steps can be defined almost as a “task force” because it traverses all these levels of knowledge in a very powerful, almost therapeutic manner: visitors entering the space are faced with a choice. Will they continue to simply observe or will they accept the challenge to try and “see”? Will they look at a work of art in a conventional exhibition space and appreciate it in a conventional way, or will they accept the invitation to crush the mirror surface underfoot to discover what irrational thoughts spring to mind? In this case “seeing” means being aware of the meaning of epignosis, and this awareness leads to freedom, because it allows viewers to perceive, and not simply to limit themselves to observing. So… will they move forward within the vision or remain on the threshold of convention?
These are all questions posed by this work, which provokes a powerful unexpected reaction imposing the need to make a choice. Deciding to engage with Steps leads to a form of rupture. Firstly, by abandoning a great deal of commonly accepted superstition: the mirror is a symbol charged with meaning and therefore the shattering is symbolic as well. Steps confronts irrational thought, superstition and prejudice, and attempts to reveal how senseless certain rituals are, especially when taken seriously, negatively influencing our lives. This critical analysis is extended to cover every type of rite and ritual including those within the realm of art; it aims to show how these rituals can limit and condition us, but that assuming a purpose in life can lead to awareness and creation. However, as stated above, the work also represents crushing the ice-crust of conventionality which limits the mind with old beliefs…as shown in the reflected reality.
A new element recently introduced into the Steps series has been the amplified sound effect of breaking mirrors, which recall other symbolic environments (breaking ice); within the exhibition space movement becomes sound and sound becomes form. A new musical instrument comes into being.
Steps represents a constantly evolving handwritten script, a large abstract artwork that has earned its place in the sphere of Italian abstractionism. This piece of contemporary abstract art incorporates kinetics and its environmental space, aspects that add great impact to the language of its message.