2014 impermanenza



(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]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]
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