(First and second time)

Treating matter and space like a pictorial image…

I began work on the project Volume! by enlarging the design of the floorplan of the space and then isolating areas to work on like a painting, with light and shadows to distribute and surfaces to fill with colour. Later these maps, these pictures, became physically three-dimensional, being transformed in a programme of excavations destined to become a walkway from dark towards light, from black to white where descending took the place of black and ascending that of white. I transformed what had taken form as a work of painting into one of sculpture, even though I continued to treat matter and space as a pictorial image, both by a certain way of using solid elements as if they were colour, and by the use of surfaces. The plane that inclines and sinks in the first room, the flayed plane in the second, and the destroyed, but partly reconstructed, plane in the third room that projects the visitor towards the outside, towards the light, having made him cross a landscape of ruins. The surfaces were interconnected, gliding from one to another as in layers of paint.
The first room, excavated in the middle, housed black, metallic sculptures which were realised so as to allude, both in design and in material, to fixed forms which were however capable of to small movements, thanks to a “pneumatic” quality that seemed to animate them; in fact they appeared to be held in tension by the air circulating inside them. They looked like wind instruments, or dismantled tubing that had been reassembled for a different use, or exhaust pipes belonging to unknown vehicles. They also gave the impression of having something organic about them, and seemed to be waiting to suddenly expand and emit a sound or generate a different form. They were suspended above the ground by iron rods inserted in the floor that gave the impression of pushing them up from below, supplying support where the form inclined and became limp.
The second room functioned as a hinge, and was the smallest room. To reach it one had to go up a wooden staircase erected at the end of the slope obtained by excavating in the first room. In a corner, visible before going up the stairs, was a sonorous work made up of megaphone loudspeakers, the same kind that were once used in rallies or village festivals and which, for their shape, struck one as if they were space, reaching further and becoming solid sound. One could hear the noise of objects, falling from different heights in rooms with different space characteristics. The loudspeakers were fixed all around on a high wooden stool and they traced on a hirsute form, made even wilder by the position of the work, shut in a corner as if it was defending itself from something or looking for a shelter. The sound was not loud and, hearing it from the first room, it seemed a call, while crossing the last it accompanied us as a memory. The floor of the room was partially cut on the surface and seemed flayed because, once the top layer had been partially stripped away, the lower and older layer appeared which in turn concealed other ones. The design of this cut duplicated like a shadow of the door communicating with the last room, a shadow made “physical” by the thickness that separated the two floors and by the contrast of the materials. At the same time it seemed like a trampoline, or a jumping off board before reaching the next room (the jump room) where I had demolished the entire floor and continued to excavate until I brought to light the remains of an earlier construction which supported the entire building, bringing to the surface vaults and rooms whose size had been delimited by the remains of walls. In one of these rooms, by excavating further, we reached the river that filled the space up to the level of the perimeter of the walls. To cross this “landscape” I built a central walkway, a strip that connected the preceding room with the street level. It was a very slight white strip, about seventy centimetres wide and eight metres long and only two centimetres thick and did not touch the borders of the room along its long sides and barely touched them on its short sides. Looking at it, standing on the brink, it gave the impression that it could not be trodden on; it seemed so fragile as to be impossible to walk on. It was like a tongue outstretched by the effort of touching something far away, the direction of a shout, an unrolled piece of fabric that had become stiffened perfectly evenly, the strip of a sheet insufficient to cover the body it is supposed to protect or hide. Its lower side had been painted blue and the colour reverberated over the landscape underneath that had been “dusted” with white lime. Walking on it you felt the sensation of moving, exploiting a chromatic energy based on colour. On the left, during the walk, one came across three works on the wall, broken lines reverberating with red and which seemed to have risen up from the water: these were placed on the portion of the wall behind the river, which, emerging, created a well. At the end of this strip, before coming out into the open, I had created a very thin wall, which opened as the visitor passed and closed behind him. It was translucent and the light from the street lamps made it seem yellowish, but seen from the outside it was perfectly white – a luminous wall like a screen which captured the light and made it solid. Once outside again on the street, having crossed the strip, one had the sensation of being hurled back into reality, after a brief dream. My decision to admit one spectator at a time may perhaps have added to causing this sensation. People found themselves in a solitary condition and necessarily were more contemplative than in the company of others when we are encouraged to comment on what we are seeing. Instead, this way we were led to elaborate a kind of “interior tale” which grew and changed along the way.

One Hundred Faces losing Colour…

I divided the work into two stages. In the second (which coincided with the initial work of Jannis Kounellis), the first room was populated with a hundred faces losing colour, which were mounted on iron stakes placed at differing heights. These stakes were “nailed” to the floor with such violence so as to completely demolish their superficial part and to produce a tellurian image. It was not clear whether the colour leaving the faces had been responsible for this disaster, or whether it had been its effect, its lament. In the past I had shown this work put together in a different manner. The impression you always obtain is one of a homeopathic exchange between the abundance of colour and the surrounding space, as if painting, with its invasive liquidity, was itself bathing things and regenerating them. This time, the crowd of coloured faces, together with the image of the destroyed floor, gave the act of going down a sensation of greater precariousness than before. Something new had intervened to undo the preceding order, a silent force like a wind. In the second room I had removed the sound and the third room had been enriched by what I had taken away from the other rooms: the black metallic sculptures, the loudspeakers, the tape recorders, everything I had realised for the first stage was now lying on the floor, on the sides or underneath the walkway and covered with white lime. The lime absorbed everything letting one see its edges and disinfected the memory of the preceding work.

(Leaving fullness behind, without abandoning it to itself, silent, waiting for its moment to come, to avenge itself. To pass from black to white, you must go across grey and colours; you must create emptiness without violating the dignity of fullness.)

(I know that I seem incoherent speaking of this work as something synthetic, whereas it concerns a path whose time-value I have alluded to. But I am unable to speak of it other than as an image seen from above, a painted plan in which time contracts in a pictorial gesture).

Alfredo Pirri
Rome, August 1998