Del disegno e della vertigine
Del disegno e della vertigine
text by Caio Meirelles Aguiar
In October 1974, the French writer Georges Perec visited a Paris city square where he spent three days writing a diary of the events he would witness: every person, every movement, every automobile, and every change in weather that took place within the square’s perimeter was objectively described, along with the time of occurrence. The resulting book, An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, would become a storied example of an exercise in which the literary tool of exhaustion, or full description, translated into the obsessive listing of all the objects or actions witnessed, serves as a strategy for exacting meaning from seemingly commonplace elements through their narration, the simple description of their existence.
The play with conventions seen in the French author’s work, as well as the attempt to subvert what one would expect from an artwork’s relationship with its own language, is also at the core of Italian artist Riccardo Baruzzi’s research. However, the notion of play, which is key in approaching the artist’s oeuvre, should not be taken here as mere fun or pastime, but as an act of freedom that sets itself apart from mundane, everyday living. It is a free place, where one can impose rules without losing this quality, and also uncertain, for the results cannot be foretold or predetermined. Del disegno e della vertigine features exercises where the artist sets out to play with both the possibilities of representation in drawing, including figurative images and abstract synthesis, and with procedures that often limit the possibilities to operate within one or the other language. The line, and its responsibility as a gesture-carrying vehicle, is the primary driver of the ambivalence the artist aims for. By drawing attention to each of these elements, just like Perec had done in his descriptions of a Paris square, Baruzzi attempts to question their function and properties. In his paintings and drawings, his intentions seem hard to pinpoint: where does the line act simply as a formal element in the work and where does it harbor concerns that expand out of the canvas. Pieces like the Porta Pittura series are more to do with the latter: the viewer stumbles upon a tableau composed of a painting hanging on the wall and a small table where other paintings seem available to take the place of the former. While the set exerts a sculpture-like presence in space, the idea of replacement, or serial production, that this setting suggests may spark questions in viewers’ minds regarding the notion of authorship and individual expression that is so closely tied with the history of painting. Here, painting is no longer simply a support for technical exploration, it becomes a representative and narrative device instead.
Besides painting and drawing, Riccardo Baruzzi also employs installations and sound performances as mediums with which to investigate the semantic variations an object can undergo when added to a plastic context alongside other ones. In these works, the line drawn by the movement of a percussion cymbal that gyrates and emits sound in the exhibition space can operate on the same frequency as the lines in the paintings, thereby conducting a study on the potential affinities between drawing and sound composition when both, though belonging to different languages, work/play together. In Vertigine, an action/intervention where key aspects of Baruzzi’s research converge, the artist references procedures often used in conceptual performances. While the idea of script and instructions, whereby a plan would be outlined before the action would take place, was frequent in many of the 60s/70s performances, Baruzzi proposes to reverse this process: the action comes first, free-form and scriptless, and the documenting is left for later. It takes the form of a list of gestures (v, e, r, t …) which not only records the unfolding of the intervention carried out by the artist in the exhibition space, but draws attention to the role of each part in building the whole. Instead of approaching the document as a mere attestation of the action performed, the artist uses it as a diary which records the construct that was performed over a given period of time. In reading this diary after the fact, the audience finds a list of descripting gestures and sentences that attempt to verbally narrate movements, lines, and colors. When translated into text, the action/intervention becomes many, unfolding differently each time someone reimagines it.