in “It’s a jungle out there: The Illegal Maurizio Pellegrin: 12 films"
catalogue of the exhibition, Falcon Court Press
New York, 2006
On one side – in the series of four film trilogies – constant insistence established around a situation of alienation and dynamic destruction. On the other – in “static” works – the same continual research of objectifying our daily events by revealing just how many objects surrounding us can be charged with phatos, though also with a projection of our most hidden selves. Perhaps in realizing and presenting the four series of films (more similar to the universe of video art than to the specifically cinematographic one), Maurizio Pellegrin, with his insistent autobiographical presence, wanted to render everything visible in his long sequences composed of findings, fragments, relics. However, this couldn’t be expressed due to the staticity of the expressive medium and of its less flexible restrictions on space-time.
And, undoubtedly, its recourse in films, with its temporal limitations (roughly three minutes each), possesses that “diegetic” immediacy that the single object,
even though insisted and repeated, is not able to offer.
It is such that a film shot of the “duel” between the driver and the car, or a shot of the protagonist in London, or the hanging of a man above a bridge, and so on, are in a certain sense more decisive for a “laic” public than singular assemblages, however less immediately decipherable. Although wishing that Pellegrin would offer other striking documentary films of his “being in the world” (in-der-Welt-sein) and of his Lebenswelt (Husslerianly understood) in the near future, I retain that his ample, decades-long production of installations and environments represent (in an excellent way) the secret scope of his concept of art and the world. A concept of the “world of art” that clearly distances itself from the “aesthetical games” of many recent works dedicated to installation and to the glorification of the Object.
Here, in fact, unlike many uncertain exhibitions of paradoxical, ambiguous or even repulsive elements (“trash” or similar examples), we find ourselves at the forefront
of a will – sometimes symbolic, sometimes magical or esoteric – to offer the object a soul, an anima. Or better, to reveal the artist’s soul as becoming immediately accessible and life-like, yet in the vagueness of the presentation, in the desired or apparent arbitrarity of different juxtapositions. Actually, I find the long, thirty-year event that has brought Pellegrin from a “pictorial” phase to the final (for now) film phase to construct an event based on factual findings rather than upon the interpretation of “artistic” materials, to be very interesting. It is also important because it appears completely isolated (and maybe not sufficiently recognized in Italy), wanting to remain foreign to the many tendencies occurring in our country over the last few years. Not only this, but it seems to me that the work extends itself beyond more or less “pleasant” appearances, more or less stylistically updated, more or less symbolic, in order to orient themselves towards an explicit value of the magical potential inside each object.
By stating “magical”, I obviously don’t intend to affirm that the artists avails himself of his interventions (objectural or filmatic or photographic) in order to exploit occult ambiguous potentialities. Instead, I retain that the idea of using recurrence in analogies with attitudes connected to Zen (and in general to visions distant from Western “technological materialism”) would demonstrate the importance of the continual ritual and mythical element present in many of yesterday and today’s art forms, from the time when influences (maybe never alerted but treacherously infiltrated) positively contaminated much of materialist Western art.
Therefore there is a magical aspect, and maybe also esoteric, if it is true that some numerological valences (well delineated by Alice Rubbini in her precious analysis of his work) often peep through in presentations and installations of the Venetian artist. Clearly not only magical, but also a decisively aesthetical aspect, even though in this case it isn’t the “pleasantry” of the composition that is researched or its eurhythmy, but rather, the revealing of an intimate structure of an indispensable "seriality" in order to reach an effect of exemplified coercion. Why did I say “coercion”? Because undoubtedly a foundation of Wiederholungszwang, of Freudian coercion, is often present in these compositions. This even seems to even be found in his films, where he seems to have “abstracted” an episode of Spieberg’s famous Duel, demonstrating the author’s desire to “obligate himself”, through a sort of Zwangsneurose – of coercive neurosis – to take his own life.
The deadly path of a truck catapults the protagonist from a cliff (a “weaker” version of Duel,1971). The actor is hung by historic Nordics after remaining in balance above a bridge. And still, the actor-author (in the film V2) “shot” by Germans above London inside the famous race of the Great War, towards a sure death, are versions of the trilogy Who wants to die for art? (film shots substituting the protagonists from The Car, The Rocket, The Hanging). Meanwhile, in the series I’m here still young (as in It was an Impossible Love), the existential scarecrow and the temporal communicability of a love, both follow the author in wait for his extinction or for his progressive degradation. And, finally, his disguises (in the film On and Off): the author with a long nose like Pinocchio, or with a mustache like Dali, are nothing but an extreme strategy in order to defeat an inevitable end: is it comedy or tragedy?
Therefore in all of these films, there is now a clear appearance of what was once masked in the compositions and installations, either from the formative aesthetic, or from worrying about reaching a telos not only psychological and existential (as in the videos), but above all, stylistic. If, finally, we pause to briefly consider the various series of previous, or coinciding, works, with the period of film shots,
and that constitute the strength (or more internationally well known) of the artist,
we can risk a verification. What clearly characterizes his objectural compositions is the fact that he chooses the primary elements of each one. In this way, he doesn't obtain the equivalent of a multimaterial, and often nonsensical, collage (an operation used too frequently from the time it was adopted by Schwitters, though in that case with a precise “pictorial” intent), but instead a very controlled construction that attributes a certain raison d'être to the composition. It would suffice citing some “titles” in order to understand how singular compositional elements – pencils, photographs, cloth, wooden cut-outs, etc. – form a unity unto itself that is neither the exhibition of single objects, nor the casual encounter of “objets trouvés”,
but is entirely coherent: an expressive globality, where color, form, outline, disposition all count…but they especially count in the realization of a project that will often remain hidden or its title will reveal it completely. And thus we can better “understand” the meaning of names like: Sulle funi del tempo (1989), Di questo secolo che s’allontana (1992), The living room (1989), Transito e scorrimento, which, each time, offers single constructive elements (the series of photos, the flacons of perfumes, the thin wooden clubs, etc.) that of effect of “estrangement” that Šklovskij was so genius to point out and to indicate with the newly coined term ostranenjie, of being extraneous. But Šklovskij’s ostranenjie addressed, above all, the decontextualization of literary and poetic works. Instead, in this case, we can broaden its meaning through evidence of how objects, at one time inserted in the total composition, come to lose some of their primitive valence in order to acquire a new one, or in order to potentate the global valence of the world. This is why this genre of maneuver, once conceptural and objectural, seems to me to truly constitute one of the more characteristic stigmas in Pellegrin’s work: beginning by individuating the basic element (plastic, film, photographs), but on this basis, constructs a multiplicity of moments that can lead to the final realization of the work (Or of the opus magnum – if we want to add a touch of alchemy to an all “laic” operation). It is for this reason that the “conceptual”, poetic, aspect of Pellegrin’s work is completely differentiated from many conceptual artists like Kossuth and Wiener. Unlike them, his work maintains and increases in formal value – chromatic, plastic, distributive – beyond that of anamnesis – in each composition, and looks to construct an indivisible, in its spatial and temporal plurality, and unified whole.