spheres, c-print, carpet
view at the exhibition FRAGILE, Galleria UPP, Venice
“I distinguish the odour of lilies from that of violets without smelling anything at all” and in these rooms of memory “I meet myself and recall what I am, what I have done, and when and where and how I was affected when I did it” (Augustine, Confessions X.viii).
Memory is something hidden in the mind, brought to life through images and words, in a different shape all the time. Augustine in the Confessions makes a parallelism between remembering and learning: almost like if ideas are stored in the memory before one has learned them. We can acquire the new, or reinforce the old and modify it. In any case, either consciously or unconsciously we remember: borrowing concepts and mental landscapes from the library of our brain. Here, memories resemble books in shelves: some rather accessible and others cryptic to the intellect; all of them wearing our own signature. Thus, with little patience, one can script a story. This is how artist Giuseppe Lana began writing his autobiography. From 2008, he methodically collected his memories by amassing his own hair in a series of spheres: DRON 5 makes the invisible of recollection visible.
The hair – mythological symbol of strength par excellence – is the matter, the substance and the support. It changes colour and length, yet to a certain extent, it stays the same. In fact, whilst being often used to indicate social status, personal beliefs, gender, religion, or age, this protein filament continuously grows from internal follicles, hoarding the genetic information of an individual. After being cut, it then becomes a remainder, which has safeguarded all the human data. Giuseppe Lana’s hair, though, is not only a “dead piece”: once assembled, collected and documented it has turned into a lieu de memoires, one that carries a very specific weight and a proper age. Hence, through the artist’s intervention, the hair flourishes as a container of records, figures and facts, where the resulting objects are sculptures of experience, documentations and witnesses of a succession of years. However, despite the physical gesture of accumulation, the vibrancy of the work lies in a speculative process based on subtraction rather than addition. Like if the cutting of the hair was that of time, the action of removal epitomises a period lost and yet fully lived, in a tour that is incessantly resumed: DRON 8 is, in fact, a clock that goes backward.
The works are part of a bigger project, i.e. DRON, that the artist initiated by reflecting upon the concept of deformation, as a pretext to investigate the relationship between the human condition and the unpredictability of events. As in a chain-reaction, DRON has developed – and still develops – in different takes comprising of DRON 0, DRON 3, DRON 5, DRON 8 and DRON 24: all of them aiming to trace a personal, yet somehow universal, psychogeography of the existence. This juxtaposes the artist’s own experience to that of any other individual, in a creative and evolutionary journey. DRON 5 takes several forms: spheres, tablets and photographic material. The spheres are multiples, the result of a repetitive act similar to a ritual, of accumulation. The tablets are records of leftovers: they impress the substance of a memento as an alternative and a companion to fingerprints. Lastly the photographs, frozen moments and awareness of the memories, are documents that nonetheless suggest a reflection on the character of the work and its function: to what extent is this a representation of an object rather than an object in itself?
With his practice, Giuseppe Lana performs the primary museological tasks of collecting and preserving – comprehending also cataloguing and archiving – to leave the door open to interpretation. He expresses collective emotions in an uncomfortable language that cannot verbalise what was not verbal and so flows, with authority, into mystery. His work is an anthropological research, that contextualises ancestral materials and sentiments in a contemporary moment. To quote Augustine again, it articulates the image of memories in the present time: “the present of things past”.
Miriam La Rosa