Matter and Work
in “Maurizio Pellegrin: Reflections and Intentions”
Venice, Arsenale Editrice, 1999
The work is the result of an activity in which the artist’s subjectivity finds itself after having been immersed and lost in the material it manipulates. For this reason the work is not a simple object nor is it a series of objects like those that the homo faber usually produced with his techniques for his own use.
These objects are determined univoquely by their uses and identified in the finite time in which they are placed. These useful objects are moulded and permeated by subjectivity which, thanks to manipulation, satisfies its own desires; but after they have being the means to achieve a purpose, they no longer have any substance. Their materiality has been made empty and inert: subjugated to the purpose which human subjectivity imposes upon them, it is abandoned as soon as that purpose is achieved. In the simple attempt to achieve its purposes, human subjectivity has no relationship with the matter of which the objects it manipulates are made, except the mere bending of it to its purposes. As soon as this has been achieved, matter is transcended and abandoned without ever having touched in its essence, i.e. in its giveness, that is in its being given by its mere presence.
In fact, giveness is the mere presence of the thing, whether it be the matter or the subjectivity. The presence is given, that is placed in thought facing the thought, without maintaining in this presence anything of its provenance. Because of this absence, in which their presence consists, and to envisage it, the things that are present lean and close upon one another, circumscribing themselves reciprocally, that is “de-termining” themselves. Every thing is that which the others are not. Matter, therefore, is that which is not subjectivity and subjectivity that which is not matter. The entire world is caught in the infinite web of the “de-terminations”.
Every thing is in itself because it is limited by every other thing. Thus the entire world is enclosed, crystallized in its mere giveness or absence of provenance.
It is thus clear that, in order to understand something regarding provenance or origin, it is necessary “to raise and overturn the world from its determinedness” because of which everything “holds together” in the absence of its origin. Subjectivity, which is related to matter only indirectly and instrumentally, accepts that matter stands before itself without its origin and purely given.
But it stays thus without being able to resolve a question regarding itself as much as it regards matter: the question of the giveness of matter (i.e. of its being present without origin) is also its own giveness, since subjectivity, before itself is a thing (presence of absence). The element of their essences, identical in matter and subjectivity, is that both are mere data ( they are without their origin), abandoned in the universal datum of the world. In order to be given to itself, in this aspect, subjectivity is indistinguishable from matter, which in every other instance is different from matter, its opposite. In this instance, however, subjectivity is given (de-terminated) and is always before itself, exactly as it stands before the mere presence (ob-jectum)of matter. Therefore, subjectivity, having no relationship to the pure giveness of matter, but rather having instead an instrumental relationship with this, does not question its own being given to itself, the absence in which its presence before itself consists, that is imprisoned by its own determinedness and not addressing its own origin. The relationship which subjectivity creates whit matter in the sphere of art is different. Matter here is not grasped through the grid ranking purposes previously, but the sought-for relationship is exactly the immediate one with the pure giveness in which the fact of having fled the absence of origin shows itself purely, that is not veiled by other determinations.
Subjectivity tends to relate to matter as pure presence (that is absence of origin),
the same way it relates purely to itself. But subjectivity, in its immediate transparent essence, is the sentiment of itself or its original apperception. Now, that subjectivity relates to matter, as it does to itself, that in this it displaces its “existential center of gravity”, means then that it does not distinguish, in its sentiment of itself, its own absence of origin from that of matter’s own absence of origin. But thus subjectivity now is sentiment of itself in which its self, indistinguishable from matter,
has overcome its determinedness. Without this determinedness pure apperception becomes sentiment of the whole. The sentiment of itself achieves the broadening of the whole, though remaining within itself (this is the sentiment of the whole).
That which the sentiment of itself reaches, corresponding to itself, now is pure totality, or pure absence of origin, which is also the absence of determinations.
This pure absence without determinations has no space within itself (it is not de-termined), it cannot therefore receive or welcome anything within itself.
Should it receive something, should something be able to relate to it, it would be second to it. But it is precisely the fact that it can receive nothing and that nothing can relate to it, that is in its essence, its origin. Nothing can relate to the origin,
only the origin can relate to things. If this absence without determinations is considered that to which every thing relates (every thing is therefore understood as the subject of the relation), in the relationship the thing is conceived before its origin, and this origin is in reality simply the terminus ad quem of the thing itself:
the thing is first and the origin is second. The presumption is clearly impossible.
On the contrary, if absolute absence is kept as origin, a pure coming-from,
that means if things (first among these subjectivity itself) are placed after it,
absolute absence, from it, and if it is accepted that it itself relates to things, then absolute absence or origin shows as pure provenance. This provenance is usually veiled by the demand of things to be before their origin, and this demand is strengthened in the support that these things give one another in the reciprocal denial or determination in which they exist in the world of giveness.
The determinednesses of the things – it can be said – demands to be before their origin and “to occupy the whole stage”: leaving no space to the origin, in the determined world it lets the absence of this (that is giveness) become dominant. Now, however, giveness, inasmuch as it is made pure and absolute (without determination) by the union of subject and matter made possible by the artist’s manipulation, removes itself, together with the determinations (since without its determinednesses it is pure absence) and lets the origins seems not a result of the (impossible) ascent from things, but rather with that which is first, that is its pure original coming-from. Now the pure presence of givenness, liberated from its determinednesses, changes from the claim of coming first and occupying the stage, to a pure moving aside and leaving space to that which is absolutely first or pure provenance. Givenness had to dissolve as did the determinednesses which caused positively to be, in the union between subjectivity and matter, and to leave space for the origin. The whole world passes through the origin, but as pure absence,
without its determinedness. Everything is removed in the passing.
Thus, in passing in the origin, or absolute absence, the world is raised and overturned in itself. In the very same instantaneous passing, determinations are immediately re-established because this is essentially the origin: a primitive coming-from, an originating, a “shower of being” in which things come to be. In the union in which determindnesses and the demand to be first are taken from subjectivity and matter, their mere givenness is also taken, and their being which is pure coming from at the origin can thus be show. They are at this point at the opening of their pure provenance. Now matter and subjectivity show that which essentially they are, liberated as they are in the union of their givenness: each is in its own originating. As a manifestation of pure ‘from’, they are in their being generated, they are this origin or beginning, pure presence without absence, which has been relinquished by origin. The work is the document, made up of a set of attempts at approximation,
of the progressive entrusting of the essential sentiment of existence or original apperception, or the center of gravity of the artist as a subject, to matter which, inasmuch as reduced to pure givenness, becomes the same as his apperception of himself, in the absolute givenness or given totality or, again, absolute absence of the origin which in the removal of all determinednesses of things, lets the pure from or absolute provenance of the origin be shown. The work is therefore a thing which – different from the common things of the world that are simply given and from which, since they are given, the origin has fled – is matter which has “dissolved”
in the pure flux of provenance, the work brings in itself, is the epiphany of its beginning, as subjectivity of the artist, free from its givenness or de-terminedness
in the moment of creation.