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I understand

abstine substine


06.11.20 - 20.12.20

The Blueproject Foundation presents the exhibition abstine substine by Serj, the third artist-in-residence of 2020, which can be viewed in the Sala Project room from 6 November to 20 December 2020.

Renato Della Poeta: To understand and go deeper into the dynamics of your work, I think it’s important to begin at the basis of how you think and act. For a long time you’ve defined artwork, machine and artist as synonyms, as mechanisms capable of generating something, and more specifically you’ve referred to yourself as the “elastic boundary of the work of art”. I find it interesting to understand how certain reflections influence your work.

Serj: Through theoretical speculation, I’ve always tried to shed light on a problem that’s fundamental for me: that of the genesis of the artwork. I think of the artwork as a simulation zone, a form of simulation that doesn’t ignore the relationship with reality but instead utilises its potentialities and shuns its obligations. A zone, in fact, in which each element is an ambassador of itself, of its own opposite and of its power. And it’s in these terms that I declare the artist as the elastic container on whose surfaces the work expands beyond its limits. I imagine it as the zone in which the work germinates and accelerates, an elastic membrane that embraces the tensions of the work, supports its development and protects it against dispersions or incursions. It’s here that the artwork-machine is born. Try to imagine a convergent expansion, a place where container and content—or artist and work—continually merge, giving life to a third material. That’s why I don’t like to think of the artist as the creator, which would mean establishing a hierarchical link between artist and work and, in a way, invalidating the work of art.

RDP: Related to this specific way of interpreting those things inherent to art, you bring to mind what C.G. Jung declared: “A dream is a theatre in which the dreamer is himself the scene, the player, the prompter, the author, the producer, the audience and the critic.” Also, while speaking with you about the construction of this text/conversation, you expressed your desire not to describe the works concretely, but rather to offer the spectator only clues, to leave them immersed in a landscape full of thick fog.

S: Yes, exactly! What I finally came to define as the artwork-machine is nothing more than the location of the pluripotentiality of its parts, of the oscillation of the senses and of emancipated hierarchies. Keeping with the parallelism with dreams, the reason why I didn’t want this text to take on the form of a descriptive leaflet is the same reason why, when we describe a dream, we feel a certain frustration at the impossibility of describing our visions, the dynamics and the characters. But above all I prefer to believe that the spectator can fall into a trap without bait.

RDP: The exhibition abstine substine is presented as a story without historical background: we find ourselves immersed in a suspended environment where we don’t know if something has already happened or is awaiting to happen. In the wall-drawing, as with the spearheads scattered on the ground, the repetition of graphic and sculptural elements generates a chaotic yet systematic rhythm, while the looped sound permeates the entire space and creates that thick symbolic fog we’ve spoken about often.

S: I can certainly say that the exhibition was conceived by imagining the development of a ritual landscape whose versatility is enhanced by the redundancy of its individual elements. By ritual landscape I mean a zone in which the array of apparently (or partially) encoded signs constantly transform the geography, expanding both themselves and the territory that contains them. In the same way as an artwork, a ritual is maintained through the renewal of the signs that support it and describe it; these signs reformulate their origin from time to time, making it potentially unrecognisable and, to a certain point, insignificant. I hope for my pieces to tend to nothing more than to their own satisfaction. It’s based on these reasons that, in the staging of this ritual hunt, the functional properties of each element have been weakened, allowing for the emergence of their qualitative ubiquities.

RDP: Imagining the exhibition and talking to you about “ritual landscapes”, I’m experiencing the sensation of being projected into an anemoic space, feeling nostalgic for a time that I’ve never known. A place where perhaps I’ll go someday, or where I’ve already been...

S: I often insist on the hallucinatory properties of my work and try to explain myself as best I can, and can’t help but think of the images of Solaris in Stanisław Lem’s book. On Solaris, the manifestations through which the planet reacts to the impulses of its researchers echo the subjects who frequent it, turning their deepest wishes into physical phenomena. You can’t explore Solaris without converging with it: the mirage becomes the matter of the real within the real. In the final pages of Lem’s story, Dr. Kris Kelvin ventures on an exploratory reconnaissance of the territory of Solaris. Once he lands and exits the space module, he sits on the planet’s ground, contemplating its formations and changes. It’s painful to recognise that the phenomena through which Solaris seemed to have consciously dealt with him were actually the result of a necessary and disinterested occurrence, free of any form of will. Dr. Kelvin knew nothing and would never get to understand. But he realised that putting his questions aside and giving in to a hallucinatory reciprocity with Solaris would be the only way for a new “cruel miracle” to occur.

RDP: In one of your pieces from 2018—I’d call it more an adventure—you went to Egypt and there, in the desert of Cairo, you buried one of your six theoretical machines. Following your definition, theoretical machines are “meta-works of art with a hypothetical and simulatory value” that attempt to conjecturally demonstrate their ability to produce something. If metaphysics, understood as the science of being, is defined by Aristotle as “first philosophy”, your theoretical machines can be understood as paradigms of “first works” that seem to suggest a metaphysics of the work as such. Now, one of your theoretical machines is buried somewhere in the desert of Egypt. In an interview you said: “Right now I wonder how the machine is working, far from our gaze and in resonance with the territory to which it’s been entrusted.” While reading this sentence I first understood what you meant by artwork-machine. I imagined and somehow visualised—as Joyce says: “Close your eyes and see”—the passage of time and all the possible situations in which the artwork-machine could be found after millennia, or simply lost forever, destroyed by time or by the place it’s in. And I clearly understand that these thoughts and speculations are undoubtedly the product of the artwork-machine. Now, returning to Aristotle, and to conclude, he identifies the “unmoved mover” as the sole cause of the movement of the sky and the stars. This is the “prime mover” in which the beginning and purpose of all transformation and movement are found, eternal and immobile insofar as it realises and contemplates itself. It’s impossible not to think of the artwork-machine in these terms.

S: ...but it’s with great pleasure that I contemplate the collapse of the artwork-machine.

Serj (Bergamo, 1985) lives and works in Berlin. Selected solo shows include: Flat Fold Floats (Spazio KN, Trento, 2019), Lunghezze d'Onda (Palazzo Sforza Cesarini, curated by Giovanna dalla Chiesa, Genzano di Roma, Rome, 2015), mira-morsa (Operativa Arte Contemporanea, Rome, 2014), CODIMA: primo enunciato and CODIMA: secondo enunciato (Cortile dell’Arte, Rome, 2013). Selected site-specific projects include: G (Funkhaus Berlin, Berlin, 2017), Six Traps (Nevalon Festival, Montalcino, Siena, 2016), Three Spears (Save Festival, Moscow, 2016) and Mira (Una Vetrina, Rome, 2015). Selected group shows include: Polyptoton / πολύπτωτον (curated by Elena Giulia Abbiatici, Something Else - OFF Biennale Cairo, Cairo, 2018), Una Vetrina (MAXXI, The Independent project, curated by Giulia Ferracci and Elena Motisi, Rome, 2016), The Hawt Show (outdoor project by Galerie Rolando Anselmi, Borgo Colle Melone, Frosinone, 2016), FRAC, Festival di Ricerca per le Arti Contemporanee (Palazzo Rinascimentale, curated by Nicoletta Grasso, Aieta, Cosenza, 2015), Factory (ex Mattatoio Testaccio, curated by Costantino D’Orazio, Rome, 2013) and Il Peso della Mia Luce (Operativa Arte Contemporanea, text by Gianni Garrera, Rome, 2013).

abstine substine

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