The reason I would give for this feeling, otherwise definable as a continuous request for attention versus that in which I am, occurs substantially for two concepts that appear contradictory: the first, entirely reassuring, is that reality is essentially repetitive, allowing me, with my capabilities to act within it with a margin of error that is relatively small; the second is that within it, inside reality, the real elements which make it up change continuously generating innovation which requires my constant attention, blocking the disappointment that might cause a temporary falling off of interest, but that might potentially become final, which in this case would be the cause of a pathological state. Within this reasoning, and not of secondary importance, one must include that over the period of my existence I too am part of reality with the same double nature, a being that is a repetitive constant but at the same time one which changes. This contradiction is resolved by continuous solutions as it, the contradiction materialises. An automatic process that is only interrupted naturally when there is a trauma, which causes the elements that compose a basicly repetitive reality to be transformed into a disorder that makes reality unknown, or better, undecipherable.
Reality, as Maurizio Ferraris says in his well-known “Manifesto on New realism” is without doubt unamendable, like the real elements of which it is composed at any given time, because quite aside from the arbitrariness of possible interpretations, each of us has one these, reality pre-exists or persists beyond our interpretations of it. This consideration has the merit of determining not a limit but rather a starting point which we can all agree on, an elementary piece of data which one arrives at using good sense. And today, finding ourselves smack in the middle of the digital revolution, that I would say, is anything but secondary.
The reason I used these brief remarks on the concept of reality to introduce you to Francesco Irnem’s work, is because I have a thesis that I am attempting to understand more clearly, which states that today a work of art is to be understood as a real element on a par with others in the context of reality. So no longer is art a representation of this latter, but it is exactly an element that takes its place within it, not only innovating but as a function of the way and of the process with which the work takes form, augmenting reality itself. The meaning of augment has been changed, at least in part, by the term augmented reality used in digital technology, by which we refer to an increased awareness of reality using the additional information made available by electronic devices. Naturally the loan is only partial and pushes toward the aspect of an increase of awareness of reality through an element that is added to it and that increases its dimensions in both quantitative and qualitative terms, presupposing an awareness of oneself and consequently of the reality in which one is, but which is not practicable through the use of our five senses. This entire line of reasoning rests on the preliminary conviction that a work of art today is to be understood as an experience of reality and not a simple witness of this latter, but rather a process aimed at modifying it, a “promise of happiness” whose objective is no longer aesthetical but rather ethical. In his 1970, Man Without Content, Giorgio Agamben develops reflections in this sense that introduce with clarity a change which was intuited at that time, but has in the following decades became established practice.
Agamben started, not by pure chance, from the reasoning of Friedrich Nietzsche’s third dissertation On the genealogy of morality: “The experience of art that is described in these words is in no way an aesthetics for Nietzsche. On the contrary: the point is precisely to purify the concept of “beauty” by filtering out the αἴσθησις, the sensory involvement of the spectator, and thus to consider art from the point of view of its creator. This purification takes place as a reversal of the traditional perspective on the work of art: the aesthetic dimension – the sensible apprehension of the beautiful object on the part of the spectator – is replaced by the creative experience of the artist who sees in his work only une promesse de bonheur”. Theodor Adorno also spoke of this promise of happiness in his Aesthetic Theory, which was published posthumously in 1970 and to this he added: “Only works of art that we can perceive of as a way of behaving can have a raison d’être. Art is not only the lieutenant of a practice which is better than that which has dominated so far, but it also criticises as practices the domain of brutal self-conservation within and for the sake of that which exists”.
Let us follow the path through the exhibition of Francesco Irnem – his “promise of happiness”.
The exhibition starts with a walk over noisy zinc plated iron grates that cover the entire floor of the first room. Proceed with caution on this modified floor entitled Ground Changing, while your eyes take in Delimited Beam, patches of sky, beams of light, painted in oil, ground limestone and graphite on linen canvas. Closed in glass fronted containers, these delicate chromatic productions are relics, memories of emotions to protect for the future. Come down from the floor formed of iron grates and into the intermediate area where you will find Waiting, an pile of construction material composed of wooden panels and still more zinc plated iron grates, held together by cement and placed on the ground, ready to be used in the construction of still undefined installation structures. This thought is confirmed when we note the installation that divides the big room in front of us in two: Be Top Be Down. The architectonically elementary structure appears a large iron parallelepiped wrapped in a net. Inside we see three upside down black and white pictures of the Himalayas, the roof of the world. These pictures are hung from a shelf on which we see the remains of a knocked down brick wall and these have become the improbable roots of the mountain chain. The overturning of the images coincides with the overturning of the sense inducing the remains of the wall to form their paradoxical base. Nature in its most imperious expressions is born contrarily to man’s works in decay. The oblique cut that the installation imposes on the room is an invitation to somehow get round it and discover its consequences. Finally you have reached the external courtyard, in which there is another architectonic structure Grove in Scaffolding made of innocent pipes which contains a group of potted palms, ordered in a simple geometric pattern. The path back to the beginning will allow you a further, and perhaps unexpected, overturning of the coordinates into which you have just involuntarily ordered your specific cognitive experience.
In Francesco Irnem’s “promise of happiness” we find a gathering and protecting in appropriate and artificial structures of his experience of the world. But precisely through this, the process consists also in the adding of real elements to reality, though neither modifying the structure nor changing the intelligibility of its overall sense.
So a promise that takes form and asserts itself well inside reality.
Courtesy Anna Marra, Rome