< Exhibitions
Claudio Parmiggiani
Claudio Parmiggiani
Jun 5, 2009 - Jul 15, 2009

‘All things - stones, trees, stars - have human eyes and voices'¹

It is difficult not to be sensitive, in Claudio Parmiggiani's works, to the place given to the sensations and elementary objects of life. Fire, books, dust, the density of air, the lightness of a butterfly or the colour of glass - all these elements are given a presence that is both disarming and revealing. Disarming, because it is a setting for absence, and revealing because it 'carries an effect of truth'².

The artist uses this apparent modesty to create a poetic universe of great physical density. The 'seeing body' of the visitor, as Merleau-Ponty speaks of, is not spared. It is integrated into the enigma of the work, into its anxiety.

Once we cross the threshold of the gallery, an image stops us, holds us in respect. The space has ceased to be everyday. Melancholic and harsh, broken glass is scattered on the floor. A ship's anchor runs aground on them. The work is strong, echoing the monumental labyrinth of broken glass created by the artist at the Collège des Bernardins in Paris.

One thinks of a stormy sea, of C.D. Friedrich's painting The Shipwreck of Hope or of tragic episodes in our history (Hiroshima, Stalingrad, etc.). Is it a space of solitude, a 'place of extremity' around which the space has been gradually hollowed out?

Silence spreads throughout the environment of the work. It envelops us and settles in the hollows of things, like dust and ashes.

The exhibition at Meessen De Clercq is a rare opportunity to rediscover several moments in Claudio Parmiggiani's creation. On the various floors, a network of images and signs is constructed, the particularity of which is to link the present to the past, the current practice to the immemorial of art. Time is Claudio Parmiggiani's privileged instrument. An anachronistic time that sculpts, shapes and inscribes the trace of its passage on the place. The Delocazione series, which began in 1970, is representative in this respect. I like to work with everything that scatters but is also the most durable material, with that which is eternal, dust, ash, shadow, with that material that conceals the voice of time and the destiny of a passing species.

Using a smoke technique, the artist collects the traces of disappeared, displaced presences. Whether it is butterflies, spider threads, skulls - life given, life lost - or books - knowledge given, knowledge lost - it is the vulnerability of everything that is at stake. A vulnerability that combines - paradox of the imprint - survival with disappearance. The air has fixed the immaterial presence on the support like a ghostly power that would be the work of memory.

The physical disturbance experienced should not be overlooked. To pay attention to it is to open our eyes to other senses, to other connections. Claudio Parmiggiani's work eludes any univocal meaning. Its meaning is multiple and often calls upon different disciplines. Pigment, the vaporous material of painting, recovers its elementary visual effectiveness. Spread in a halo to accentuate its aura or confined in a glass without a human hand being able to intervene. Man has lost the use of it. Incandescent light, only the bird still knows its power.

The immaterial is an essential material for the work. Immaterial means thought and thought means infinity', says the artist. Music, 'the art of the unspeakable', has let the last notes of its score slip away in the burning of the paper. Elsewhere, the bell that rang the hour of the great gatherings has stopped vibrating. Placed on a cube of books, it resounds with the memory of a disappeared voice. Unreadable and inaudible, the words and sounds have fallen silent. Silence has found a strange form of eloquence here. It is an act of resistance or, as the artist puts it, 'a gesture towards that illusory "holy land" we call mind'³.

Wivine de Traux

¹ Claudio Parmiggiani, Stella Sangue Spirito, Arles, Acte Sud, 2003, p 217.

² Georges Didi - Huberman, La ressemblance par contact, Paris, les Editions de Minuit, 2008, p 17.

extract from an interview with Claudio Parmiggiani, Brussels, January 2006.