.... Sive interrogans mundus
About Maurizio Pellegrin's object "relationalities"
in “Maurizio Pellegrin. Reflections and Intentions”
Venice, Arsenale Editrice, 1999
When I happen to admire one of Maurizio Pellegrin’s installations, I feel to doubt then more than ever and in the most radical way that which even the most interesting and radical theoretical critical reflections regarding contemporary art have by now convinced us to consider a point of no return. I am referring to the simple fact that for some time new art seems to have undeniably abandoned any reference to those concepts of beauty and harmony which have for centuries in some way guaranteed recognition of the aesthetic event. Having to deal with art would seem to mean now having to deal with phenomena in which what is Kitsch,
or disgusting, ugly, abnormal, deformed and horrid can serenely substitute what is beautiful or graceful, proportional, sublime, pleasurable and harmonic.
This has already been expounded at length and seriously by scholars of the most diverse provenance; but above all the radicalness of philosophic research has achieved profound awareness regarding the reasons of this fact. Contemporariness has definitively forced us to acknowledge this fact. And still, the work of Maurizio Pellegrin is a “perfect” expression of contemporariness. Indeed, for him as well the ready-made is a constitutive moment of a process which retreats before nothing, that can welcome everything in itself, without binding itself in this way to arbitrariness or pure caprice. His installations betray in no way the need to search; they are always unexpected, they never rest on that safe ground which tradition, in its entire complexity, could easily offer. Indeed, this is an artist whose work does not apply to a principle of beauty that can in any lead to proven rules.
Yet, if the works of Maurizio Pellegrin are a “perfect” expression of contemporariness, they are such “in spite of everything”. In spite of everything,
we have just said. In fact, even in his perfect adhesion to the spirit of the times, our man’s work never seems to let itself be tempted by those “anti-aesthetic” definitions which thought is used to include in itself, finding them sooner or later more and more concretely in those first works it begins to consider. We could also say that Maurizio is a “classic”. In this sense, in fact, it is Plato who moves the mute words of an art – as his is – that makes the any-object into a mode, what’s more, a real possibility for the aesthetic begin-there. I would point out also that his is real classicness, precisely because there is in it no “serfdom” to any determination of the “origin”. And in fact, no defined nomos “rescues” it from the destiny characterizing what is contemporary. Indeed, Maurizio Pellegrin pro-duces work which - as it only rarely happens – leads to reflection. It is almost contradictory to the Hegelian prophecy according to which art, its moderness, would be progressively and whole-ly solved within the form of “reflectiveness”, his artistic production calls for reflection bending it towards its own force. Finding ourselves before his work, we do indeed feel forced to redefine the very significance of reflectiveness –not simply in the sense of re-thinking that which continues to be said about art and its possibilities, but also with relation to that which reflectiveness can offer of itself and its relation to the work of art. But in what sense can all of this really be attributed to the strength of the mark with which Maurizio sections the space of what exists? This interventions of his in Venice, that most “difficult” of cities, show it in a particularly stringent and masterful form. Here, in the labyrinths that an “arrogant” history would leave us as inheritance, his gesture creates a challenge dedicated to the sacra inutilitas of art. He is playing with fire, working within an absolute, binding context and one that is authoritative, as is that of Venice, might have proved costly to him.
However, he does not yield to the demon of pro-vocation: he does not “call up”
the monumental past of his own city, almost as thought he were pretending to be able to bring along with himself, at the mercy of is own creative will, and therefore really not “pro”-voking; he rather willingly submits himself to the pro-vocation of this corpus, identifying its “waste”, the “creases” and penetrating its shadowed areas (then as much as a “solid”, as perfect and complete as it could be, can never impede the existence of a “residue”, in the same way no light – as G. Bruno would have pointed out – can reveal itself without being contaminated by the shadow in whose oikos it, unwilling to withdraw, can break forth, thus revealing its own original “contradiction”). Thus, on the other hand, he contributes decisively to enlighten us about the essence of the work of which observation, too obsessively turned towards the logic of artistic form, has progressively caused us to lose sight. Yes, because Maurizio seems to have understood this before anything else:
one does not make art for the thing-specificity of an artefact capable of overcoming those lacks which its givenness could offer in our visual horizon. A work of art does not compensate for a lack; it does not fill an empty space. Art, indeed – he seems to warn us – is, far more simply, a way to “dialogue” with that which exists.
Art adds nothing – and then, if this is the way things were, it would be noticed immediately, its hypothetical “truth” could have no value, if not for the objects which it itself produces. The fact is that it defines itself and occurs only where it knows how to “relate” in a certain way to the being-given of that which is given. Now, art is an aptitude towards confrontation, and to the formulation of that “answer” that any determination of worldliness perhaps claims. In fact, the world pro-vokes us; it presents a problem. Each of its determinations corresponds to the formulation of a question – in which that what resounds is, in any case, always the same timbre. That which many great thinkers have met and translated in verbis, changing it to a question – its own “question”: why being and why not nothing? The question of the world, thus, becomes the question man asks of being; this happens each time we interrogate ourselves and each time we make philo-sophers of ourselves. From this point of view, Maurizio seems to want to ask us to recall the beginning – giving the world back its question, the question which every fold, every gap in the world incessantly asks us. From this we have the possibility of re-thinking, in its most radical form, the task, the artist’s task. An artist, who more than doing, must – and this Maurizio Pellegrin knows well, given the exemplary form demonstrated by each of his “works” – must reconstitute the sense of the original “relationship”. That which turns the world into the interrogator and man into an interrogee. Indeed these Venetian installations do correspond to the world and to its question by putting themselves just where the creases and the empty spaces are hardest to identify, where the question is more stubbornly forgotten by the arrogance of a mask which does not seem readable as an “answer”. The answer of great Venetian art, of its monumental and sacred constructions. And yet, Maurizio intervenes courageously; he builds new relationships, he penetrates the shadows which in any case appear to “his” gaze and he withdraws into them – as Adam and Eve must have withdrawn within the shadow of the tree of knowledge after the “first sin”. In fact, he who “knows” has necessarily moved into the shadow zone – it is only from this space that light creates an edge and permits definitions, knowledge, scenarios of composite light which reassure the world, that show the world that its question can be answered. Any they know how to cause the answer for an event that is authentically “relational”. What exists between shadow and light is none other than a relationship, just as the truth of every being already seemed relational to Leibniz. On the other hand, no truth can be identified with the “thing-becoming” of this event or another. Therefore, if art has to deal with truth, and more specifically, with the truth of the world, that is with the truth of all that which exists, truth is that which destroys the thing-mask of every worldly event, revealing which relations in it are those that say that nothing true is its, and only “its”. Truth is truth, let’s say, only to the measure in which, in one thing or another, it articulates a “relationality” which inasmuch as it is specific to each thing, not only is it not “thing”,
but illustrates how the thing itself is always “also all the others”. For the relation never allows us to approach “things” of which it might just express their
being-in-relation. Since every thing reproduces, according to an appropriate theorein, continually new relations as “its own”, as that essence only in which it says that which really is not. Maurizio finds again this “relationality” and knows how to show it to us, re-assembling objects which had fallen from sight perhaps from time immemorial – and for exactly this distance had perhaps lost their ability
to interrogate, to make their own shadow zones e-vident, to expose themselves to the “due” response of man. The artist destroys the authoritative wall of history,
he recognizes the revealing holes. He writes his own alphabet, as only the real artist knows how to do, by the simple reformulation of the question – which, alone, in its perfection, can allow man the gift of response, and therefore the recognition of an enigma which we could never definitively resolve: the enigma relative to the meaning and the origin of this question, that is to its reason (which, if a similar sense could be given to it, would constitute a prius of the question itself, making up its anticipated response, and therefore making vane the sacredness of the former). The fact is, on the other hand, that no response can satisfy the world and answer its questions; therefore the artist – and Pellegrin proves that he knows this well (beyond any explicit awareness) – can continue to work, and his search becomes more prolific the more he learns to inscribe itself in the relational creases of a world “without objects”. He will never exhaust the need of the question, and will always be able to find new ways to make it manifest – being able to perform a real relational reinscribing, thus producing new object polarities which in turn can be reinscribed in new relational forms... ad infinitum. “De-reifying” objects: this seems to be the essential duty of Maurizio Pellegrin’s activity; to bring them to that which their object-shell would seem to wish to hide diabolically, but that the eye of the real artist can find again in a dialogue with that which in everything is not thing. And that gives a different meaning to our existence in the very moment in which it realizes it has no “determined” object purpose, if not that completely non-object purpose which perhaps deals more closely with our own existence, since it is considered in its original givenness. How can it be denied, in fact, that certain purposes can be only in relation to one or another mode of human existence (i.e. to one or another empirical subject of which one acknowledges the existence), but never corresponding to existing of itself? On the other hand, if existing as such had a purpose we would not have to deal whit existing as such – but only with one of its modes. Because otherwise the purpose would not be “existing” (since inasmuch as it is existing, it could not be placed beyond existence). Therefore, a work of art which succeeds in creating the possibility of a “relation” in which an nth perspective of the being-there of that which is “sight world” (that is redefined the given objectfulness, so as to permit their simple existing to come forward, calling us to voice the nth question – without opening us for the utopia of “fulfilment” -: that which the non-object “de-reification” presents as the nth “question” in the view of a perpetually unsactisfiable “interrogee”), this work can bring back the memory of the beginning; that “from which” we have been made animals provided with logos – and that which always seems like the “past” in our eyes of conscious interrogators. That beginning from which – not casually, therefore – the very philosophical vis has started; or at least the Western one, born and developed as the question about the arché.
A beginning which is also inescapable principle of all “harmony” – that is of every way to reconstruct the whole. In this harmony, in fact, the whole gives itself starting from a real dereification of the part; from its becoming pure relation, and therefore an authentic provocation for a subject which can no longer call itself that (if for no other reason than because it has been deprived of the other for which alone it can be what it is). In this sense the work of Maurizio Pellegrin is authentically Platonic – since in it the “principle” of perfect unity emanates from the creases of objects found and relocated, redrawn in conformity to the needs of an intense relation of dialogue, lucidly aware of the creases of the “already given” and capable of giving origin to infinite new questions which always are destined to the same end: to the “is”, to that very simple ultimate which holds together every kosmos, even the most complex, permitting us perhaps the vane and yet dizzying persuasion of having “produced” it.