Ex Voto I. Perforated alcantara paper, approx. 40×48 cm, 2017
The exhibition “Silenzio” (Silence) started with this installation consisting in a series of spindly iron-rod structures and located at the center of the opencast space of the cloister of the Basilica of San Simpliciano. This exhibition has been conceived by the artist as a path twisting in the center of Milan and comprehending two other places of spirituality, that is the rectory church of San Raffaele and the chapel of San Bernardino alle Ossa.[read more=”Read More”less=”Read Less”]The elements of the installation, wiry and fragile architectures, were placed in the space with no apparent order, simply seeming to respond to a desire to spread out: “Archetypical buildings that could almost fly away from one moment to the next. A house between land and sky, a suspended shelter that avoids contact, perhaps protecting us even more than a sturdy construction standing solidly on the ground”, as the artist described his work. The title, “Luogo presunto” (Suspected Place), a quote from Borges, in fact refers to an imaginary place whose existence is uncertain, a place with the same texture as a mirage or a dream.[/read]
Memoriale Volubile , the 1st chapter of Restless Matter, takes its cue from an installation made by Ferruccio Ascari, in its first version in 2009 at Darmstadt, for a solo show at Museum Schloss Lichtenberg.[read more=”Read More”less=”Read Less”]The work, in keeping with the characteristic process of the artist, was later developed in a series of variations in relation to the various places where it was shown. Its constituent parts, as happens in this video, are subject to continuous transmutation: they are light, disturbing object/sculptures in which relationships are established, without reconciliation, between transparency and opacity, beauty and ruin; forms that conserve a link to the organic world but also seem to belong to some alien realm. The title – Memoriale Volubile (Fickle Memorial) – sheds light on the work’s genesis: the horror of the series of environmental disasters that have marked our time and the desire to keep their memory alive by combatting forgetfulness, inurement to disaster. The title, as the artist explains, is a “combination of two words with opposing meanings: ‘memorial’ which pertains to recollection or the prompting of memory, and ‘fickle’ which instead points to distraction, forgetfulness […] A formula that wavers between an impossible marriage of opposites and their inextricable conflict.” The soundtrack, an important part of this stop motion video, is taken from Vibractions, a sound installation by Ferruccio Ascari from 1978.[/read]
Interview with Ferruccio Ascari, February 2009[read more=”Read More”less=”Read Less”]
Memoriale Volubile: what does it mean?
It is a contradictory expression, the combination of two words with opposing meanings: “memorial” which pertains to recollection or the prompting of memory, and “fickle” which instead points to distraction, forgetfulness. An expression invented by joining two words with contrasting meanings, wavering between an impossible “marriage of opposites” and their inextricable conflict
In this exhibition we find Memoriale Volubile imprinted on the cover of several white books placed in vitrines, and on cardboard boxes that support metal screen sculptures: so this is a title that repeats, differentiated only by its accompanying serial number. Could you explain the type of seriality indicated here?
Title and image, name and thing are inseparable here. The expression Memoriale Volubile explains – in its irreconcilable ambiguity – the image, the thing, just as the latter explain the expression. This crossed relationship unfolds in the repetition, the serial effect: the seriality evoked by “word and thing” is a tragic series, before everyone’s eyes. It is the infinite series of environmental disasters, for which we have lost track of the quantity, but of which we cannot lose the memory. Precisely the wavering between memory and its erasure is the contradiction that Memoriale Volubile, in its own way, wants to indicate.
Books in vitrines, sealed, that cannot be read…
…books of horror, illegible books, memorials whose covers bear only the image of a place, its name – Chernobyl, for example – and the date of the disaster. Nothing more. I believe this suffices to evoke a horror that is intolerable for any conscience.
Light and at the same time disturbing sculptures. Symmetrical objects, but with an unstable, off-balance symmetry, as if teetering on the brink of an abyss. As if they were in danger, or dangerous. Things in which a relationship is established, without reconciliation, between transparency and opacity, beauty and ruin. What prompted you to invent such forms?
It was sudden, as if on the spot I felt the need to depart, to go on a journey. To leave what I was doing. To go away: a mental voyage, a terrible voyage. I began to search online for those places of memory, places of horror: Vajont, Seveso, Bhopal, Mururoa… an interminable, bewildering journey. And a very concrete one. Nothing virtual about it. One day I began to download images of those places, from the sites I was visiting. More and more photographs of those disasters. They accumulated. A compulsive gesture, as if dictated by the fear that the number of those images would be infinite, and by the desperate desire for it to have an end…
…are those the images that appear on the frontispiece of the white books placed in the cases… and the sculptures?
I felt like the inurement to disaster was unbearable, that danger that those places could be forgotten. Those places, the name of each of them, should be repeated out loud, every day… And yet the voice, speech, is not enough. At least for me, someone who plays with form…
Do you know of anything more serious than play?
Agreed. But let’s get back to those forms, their restlessness, their genesis…
…a form, prior to representing anything, presents itself, displays itself. Necessarily. This necessity of the form to reveal itself fascinates me, because it points to a concealment. Without this concealment no unveiling, no manifestation would be conceivable, there would be no “coming to light.” The same dialectic, the same game as between speech and silence. But I am digressing… You want to know something about their birth: I have thought about the forms that could become a warning (and maybe also become monumental), that could attempt, in any case, an opposition to the tendency to forget. I wanted to put them beside those names, those places, those dates, precisely as an admonition.
The choice of placing these sculptures on cardboard boxes conveys the idea that they have just arrived from who knows where, or that they are about to depart: could you tell me something about this installation?
The relationship between a sculpture and its base is rarely a simple one. Actually it is a very difficult relationship. Usually I put my works directly on the ground. In this case, though, the sculptures – especially the small ones that most clearly reveal their character as projects – could not stay on the ground; they wanted to be observed from a different perspective. Placing them on the boxes I had in the studio was the most simple, natural gesture, and it worked. There is something transitional about this placement. As you correctly point out, a desire to move, to change location, like an urgency…
Allow me to make another observation: these forms of metal screen seem somehow connected to a scientific imaginary… a science that seems to be infiltrated by an evil disposition. Am I mistaken? Normally you use natural materials. In most of your work it is possible to glimpse a relationship with the organic world… And while it is true that the forms displayed here could belong to some natural realm, it would in any case be an alien realm, of a nature issuing from a mind dominated by a sort of disquieting scientific obsession…
…you are not mistaken. I must admit that a natural form usually intrigues me more than an artifact or an industrial product. Often a natural form seems to ask me: do you know where I come from, do you know why I have the form that I have, can you predict the form I will assume as I transform, do you understand what moves me? I know that I do not know: and that is precisely what drives me. In my work, in any case, I feel free to use anything that can serve to say what I want to say, without any preconceived limitations. Here, in Memoriale Volubile, the nature I address is a wounded, offended nature. A nature in agony. An agony that cannot be separated from the “disquieting scientific obsession” you mentioned. Exposed to that obsession, these forms are contaminated. You said “an alien realm”: no, here you are mistaken. If these forms speak of alienation, that alienation, that madness is not of another world, but this world. They are forms of madness: mad forms of pain. An unbearable pain. That can no longer be withstood.
So, on closer examination, can we see a political position, in the end, in this latest work of yours?
Can I ask you a question, at this point? On closer examination, is there anything people do or undergo – consciously or unconsciously – that is done or undergone outside of politics?[/read]
Memoriale Volubile, Backstage, 01’31”, 2015
The video shows the phases of work that led to the making of Memoriale Volubile: from paper drafts to metal screen sculptures, all the way to the moment when they “take flight, frame by frame” in the artist’s studio. The soundtrack develops in a crescendo and then a diminuendo of sounds, released by the materials during the work.
It is interesting to observe how certain questions addressed by Ascari’s work resurface, perhaps after many years, almost to resume a discussion that has not been interrupted[read more=”Read More”less=”Read Less”]but has simply flowed underground, then returning and taking on new forms. This is what happens, for example, in the cycle of works under the title Corpi celesti (Heavenly Bodies), including a series of works on paper from 2006 and an installation in 2012. The same can be said for the reprise of a sound installation from 1978, Vibractions, now shown in a new version that maintains the conceptual approach of the original. The cycle Corpi celesti arises from a question – regarding the force that holds things together or repels them – that is the conceptual nucleus of many other works by the artist. A question that stays open, taking on different configurations each time, reinterpreted through different languages and different materials.
In the 2012 installation, the material is the plumb line used by masons to make a wall that is perfectly perpendicular to the floor: the point of the weights indicates the center of the Earth and the line from which they are hung is the reflection of the Axis Mundi. On the ground, there are some in an overturned position, point up, in a direction diametrically opposite from that of the center of the Earth. The work wants to make visible the energy, the gravitational forces of attraction-repulsion that hold the world together, that make the planets, the heavenly bodies, not collide.[/read]
Corpi Celesti. Brass, plumb line, 35 elements, variable dimensions, 2012 [S0030]
(english version coming soon)
Senza impermanenza, la vita non sarebbe possibile : un seme non potrebbe crescere, un fiore non potrebbe trasformarsi in un frutto un bambino non potrebbe diventare adulto.[read more=”Read More”less=”Read Less”]Anche la nostra personalità, il nostro io è solo un nome, che copre una moltitudine (un flusso) di elementi psicofisici in relazione tra loro – non limitati alla vita presente ma radicati in esperienze passate e proiettati in quelle future. L’individuo è una combinazione di forze od energie psico-fisiche, in continuo mutamento. Perchè in questo divenire senza inizio nè fine immaginiamo cose piuttosto che processi? Chiudiamo gli occhi davanti alla successione degli eventi: La vita non è una cosa, né uno stato, ma un continuo movimento e mutamento: nulla è ora lo stesso di come era un attimo fa.
Il nostro stesso “io” è un complesso di sensazioni, idee, pensieri, emozioni e in continua trasformazione ed evoluzione.
Secondo l’opinione corrente, la permanenza dà sicurezza, l’impermanenza no.
Pensiamo che cambiamento equivale a perdita e sofferenza : vogliamo disperatamente che tutto continui così com’è. In realtà, invece, l’unica cosa durevole è paradossalmente proprio l’impermanenza. E la nostra lotta per trattenere le cose così come oggi sono non solo è impossibile, ma – ironicamente – ci provoca proprio quella sofferenza che vogliamo evitare. L’errore sta nel fatto che – per essere felici – ci afferriamo a ciò che è per natura inafferrabile2. Invece di aggrapparci disperatamente alle cose e tenerle strette dovremmo imparare ad allentare la presa e a lasciar andare : In realtà, il mondo è come il susseguirsi dei fotogrammi di una pellicola cinematografica : non c’è nessuna sostanza che abbia una durata ; e gli elementi non mutano, ma scompaiono. Ne consegue la negazione del movimento : un elemento non può muoversi, poiché scompare non appena è apparso e quindi non c’è tempo perché possa muoversi. In effetti, quello che chiamiamo movimento è una serie di manifestazioni separate o lampeggiamenti che sorgono contiguamente l’uno all’altro, cioè apparizioni consecutive di nuovi elementi in nuovi posti. Tale divenire non esclude però l’impressione di una durata o continuità che – in realtà – non esiste.
E’ impossibile possedere le cose (o le situazioni) perché queste ci fuggono in virtù della transitorietà e dell’ impermanenza. E chi crede di riuscirci, si illude come colui che tenta di fermare il tempo spaccando l’orologio.[/read]
Impermanence and environs: Elena Scardanelli interviews Ferruccio Ascari[read more=”Read More”less=”Read Less”]
I wanted to talk with you a bit about Impermanenza, the installation you made in 2013 for the exhibition curated by Asilo Bianco at Museo Tornielli in Ameno, and about the video that has come out of this work, which in turn is part of a larger, more complex project, namely Restless Matter, a work in progress you have created for the web. Before asking you more specific questions about the work, I’d like to make an observation of a more general character regarding the project, the thought that seems to permeate it, to see if you agree. This requires a preamble. “Impermanence,” besides being the title of one of your works, is also a category, a key concept of Buddhist philosophy based on the observation that what constitutes every existing thing is simply a set of elements in relation to each other, transient and subject to continuous change: everything has a beginning, and an end. I think I can say that Restless Matter, the thought and the creative working method of the whole project and each of its constituent videos, has come into being under the sign of impermanence. I would like to know if you agree with this interpretation.
There is no need to look to the Far East to discover that impermanence is the true nature of all things. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus, to remain in our cultural zone, is already credited with the warning “everything flows,” the idea that “you cannot step twice into the same stream.” After all, reflection on the evanescence of things lies at the basis of much of Western thought and mysticism. I know little about Buddhism, but instead for some time now I have been interested in the philosophy behind yoga. In any case, I don’t believe that in an artistic work there has to necessarily be a concept that comes before, followed by an implementation. I much prefer to think of art as “thinking while doing” or “doing while thinking.” One day in the country I observe a pile of firewood and I “see” something I have never seen before: I still don’t know just what, but to give form to that initial intuition I start to take the pile apart. Taking things apart to figure out how they work is a child-like attitude I’ve never outgrown. Then I decide to put it back together, but instead of making a square base, with the logs at the bottom placed in one direction, those of the next layer placed crosswise, and so on in alternating layers, as woodpiles have always been made, I let myself by guided by the idea of the “triangle”: so I start to pile the logs on a triangular base, which is much less solid but turns out to be more and more fascinating, as the pile grows, precisely due to its precarious quality. Impermanenza is a work that starts like that, and then gets gradually refined in the months to follow. What I mean is that this, like almost all my other works, does not come from an abstract concept, but from a sudden “glimpse” of something I never saw before. The idea was already there in that form/woodpile, as if it was just waiting to be “seen” and trans/formed, to bring out a hidden aspect of its innermost nature.
The installation you did for Museo Tornielli is composed of architectural towers made with portions of branches, stripped of their bark and painted white. It conveys the sensation of something that almost through a miracle of statics, or in astonishing defiance of it, might remain standing for just a moment: the pieces of wood speak of a previous collapse and an inevitable coming collapse. What did you want to express through this work?
More than a desire to express, I think the attitude is one of listening, investigation, bringing what is hidden to light. Every form, every material contains its own secret. To interrogate a form, to torment a material, to push a tension to extremes, to take a structure to its limits: this is what I do when I work. In the case of Impermanenza what is taken to the limit is balance. If there is the desire to express something, that something lies precisely in “being at the limit.” On the verge of collapse. I believe the intention is not so different from that of the tightrope walker on his rope stretched across the void, or – less dangerously, but with a similar spirit – of a child building a house of cards. The gratuitous nature of play is essential, meaning not being subjected to utility. Play, like art, is a serious matter precisely because it eludes utility. Play is not useful, it is indispensable: which are two different things. Here the fall, the collapse, the ruin are indispensable, otherwise the game could not be played. The fall is intrinsic, though it can be hidden by appearances, in the balance itself. It is the true “repressed” part of the solid edifice everyone wants to display, rather than its ruin. Just the opposite of what is displayed by the towers of Impermanenza.
Is there any reference in this work to the myth of the Tower of Babel?
Who knows? I certainly do not have the ambition to “touch the sky” with a flimsy woodpile, but I can’t be held responsible for the interpretations of others…
The portions of branches stripped of bark and painted white, which serve as the construction material of the three towers, are strikingly similar to bones: animal bones, cleaned and polished by time. I won’t conceal the fact that when I saw this work I couldn’t help thinking about Capuchin crypts, the compositions of bones that adorn their chapels. But I don’t think that the theme here is that of the “memento mori” typical of the Catholic tradition. What do you think?
I think the theme of death is not completely absent in Impermanenza: while I was making it, the idea of the ‘”ossuary” did gradually take form, in effect, giving consistency to ancient fears and faraway fascinations. When I started to handle those sticks, in their raw state, with lichen all over them, with their smell, I sensed that they were elements that in spite of the fact that I liked them, might be overwhelming something essential I still was not fully aware of. It was as if they needed some kind of calcination process: hence the white, which clearly reveals the tendency of those sticks to become a sort of bone. Secondly, the white banishes the risk of a certain Arte Povera mannerism.[/read]
Impermanenza. Environmental installation, variable dimensions, Museo Tornielli, Ameno, 2014 [S0032]
Video documenting the installation at the Tonielli Museum. 2’27”, 2005
In Cinque stanze sensibili (Five Sensitive Rooms), we can see a return to earlier questions that are still open, available to interpretation in different forms and materials, in keeping with the characteristic methods of his operation.[read more=”Read More”less=”Read Less”]Cinque stanze sensibill is composed of five wooden parallelepipeds, hollow with a quadrangular base, vertically stacked; on each side there is a small door that offers a glimpse of the space inside. Each of them alludes to five elements: from the earth, that of the base, to the aether, at the top. The work is part of a more complex project on which the artist has worked for years, which includes drawings, sculptures, a theater piece and an architectural design. The latter calls for the construction of five meditation rooms. Each room has a single window whose geometric form (square, crescent moon, triangle, hexagon, circle) corresponds to one of the five elements. The color of each glazing is part of a range of correspondences correlated with each form. In the invention of this work, Ferruccio Ascari was inspired by one of the great traditions of ancient Indian thought, Samkhya, the philosophy that forms the foundations of Yoga. This is a woridview that has emerged in all his works of the last few decades: “Forms yearn to be, they seem to be driven by the desire to come into the light – Ascari explains – and I never cease to be amazed in the face of the secret that is harbored inside each of them. What does a form want by assuming the form it assumes? There are phases in which the fundamental impulse urges it to occupy a space, to expand in every possible direction; in others, an opposing desire, to be reabsorbed, seems to prevail. It is a dialectic movement of acceleration-deceleration, expansion-contraction, as happens with the tides, or with breathing that happens in the binary rhythm of inhalation-exhalation.” The incessant transmutation that is the fundamental principle the forms seem to obey is simply one aspect of that energy that pervades the cosmos in an eternal alternation of death and birth. In this perspective, standing up against the less of “difference” and the annihilation of social space that seem to prevail in the contemporary world – with their burden of anonymity and solitude and the loss of sense that accompanies an incessant production of images and imposition of lifestyles – the work of the artist can ultimately be seen as a form of silent but radical opposition to the spirit of the times.[/read]
SAPIENS is a ‘lighting body’ made in iron rod. The silhouette and dimensions are those of a tall adult man,[read more=”Read More”less=”Read Less”]over six feet tall. Its tail is an electric cord and its head is a light bulb.
SAPIENS is a hybrid object, both a sculpture and a lamp, and exists at the border between art and design. One could describe it as a poetic thought that casts light, or just a presence. Sapiens was conceived and realized in different versions, each characterized by a specific posture of the arms and hands, in the position of pointing at either the sky or the ground; of offering or welcoming…
Every piece of Sapiens is unique.[/read]
Sapiens, 1’41”, 2011
Sapiens. Iron wire, lightbulb, electric wire, different sizes, 2011 [S0029]
Insiemi Instabili, like Odradek, Fiori and Vayu, belongs to a group of works in witch the multiplicity of parts “lacking a clear, recognizable order[read more=”Read More”less=”Read Less”]- as the artist says – seems to respondd to a pure need for growth; almost as if they were following their own secret impulses, expanding in the direction of least resistance”.
The form – the infinite, varied form through which life manifests itself – is the result of this impulse that knows no calm, driven by an overwhelming generative will that seems to have no goal other than reproduction. The cones of black terracotta of Insiemi Instabili are arranged in pairs, as if attracted by a magnetic force that urges them to make. The expand on the floor surface, in scattered order, in keeping with a movement that changes each time in relation to the host space. “There are no givens, only events and movements… Reality is not composed of things that essentially are and accidentally become – the artist says, speaking of these works – but of processes, i. e. of an essential becoming… Things are not in time, they are time.”[/read]
Insiemi Instabili. Terracotta, 140 elements different sizes, 2008 [S0024]
Latte nero is an environmental installation composed of 83 parts in white terracotta that remind us of the form of the female breast,[read more=”Read More”less=”Read Less”]though they are hollow and reveal a dark chasm. Similar but of different size, the individual parts are arranged along the wall, apparently without any order. The work’s title refers to a famous poem by Paul Celan that begins with a disturbing oxymoron: milk, the symbol of nourishment and life, is reversed into its opposite, into denial of food and therefore death. In the work by Ascari, the contrast takes the form of the opposition between the fullness, the turgor of the form, and the black void it reveals: a void that is not just subtraction, but a dizzying attraction towards the infinite.[/read]
Latte Nero. Terracotta, 84 elements variable dimensions, 2008 [S0025]
Odradek is composed of many parts: small ones, in red terracotta, that remind us of something that we cannot say, perhaps a top, something that seems to have lost its function.[read more=”Read More”less=”Read Less”]The title, not coincidentally, refers to a famous short story by Kafka that has to do with a forgotten object said to be extraordinarily mobile; it eludes the grasp, its form seems senseless, yet complete in its own way. Like Kafka’s Odradek, each part of this installation can roll, producing a subtle sound “like the voice of one who is without lungs.” Odradek, like Insiemi instabili, Fiori and Vayu, belongs to a group of works in which the multiplicity of parts “lacking a clear, recognizable order — as the artist says — seems to respond to a pure need for growth; almost as if they were following their own secret impulses, expanding in the direction of least resistance.” The form — the infinite, varied forms through which life manifests itself — is the result of this impulse that knows no calm, driven by an overwhelming generative will that seems to have no goal other than reproduction.[/read]
Odradek. Terracotta, 235 elements, variable dimensions, 2008 [S0026]