|A.A.A. (aderire all’aperto*) - In search of Anita Sieff|
|[*adhering to the open]|
|Pierluigi Basso Fossali|
Feeling is the Parameter of Contemporarity
Il Sentire è il Parametro del Contemporaneo
La percezione psichica
A.A.A. (aderire all'aperto [adhering to the open]) - In search of Anita Sieff
A.A.A. (aderire all'aperto) - Cercasi Anita Sieff
Pierluigi Basso Fossali
Anita Sieff - La coscienza del vivere
Situazioni della vita quotidiana: riconciliarsi con il presente
John Peter Nilsson
Prove di una "drammatica"
Anita Sieff: Forms of Celebration
Anita Sieff: Forme di Celebrazione
The Art work as a place for relation
Opera come luogo della relazione
The 21st Century Odalisque
Rethinking art practises: What is the new in new?
Riconsiderando le pratiche artistiche: Cosa c'è di nuovo nel nuovo?
John Peter Nilsson
Maria Paola Sutto
La sperimentazione artistica in Guggenheim Public
Patricia A. Simpson
|When words fail us we often resort to lists; either being first on the list (a reassuring fact regarding one’s position on the identity market) or, considering where others stand, starting from the list of what they have done. Again, when we want to be in demand or when we are seeking something, we use a variety of ploys to ensure that we appear on top of the list. Of course lists are also open, but they do establish positions and possible exclusions. This obsession with lists has been legitimized as a healthy admission: if one wants to be identified and heard, one has to be found. It is necessary to create a position, a definition. Entering a list equals entering a contest. Even when it is a broad, indiscriminate list: virtues come later and if they play a role, it is in postponement, a side game.
Works that aim at surpassing the earlier works in an artist’s catalogue, artistic aspirations that fit into a movement so as to come out on top, a temporary inventory of elective materials: nothing could be further from Anita Sieff’s way of doing art. List in hand, one has soon exhausted any research on this artist, by virtue of her sheer extraneousness.
The works are not necessarily found in a catalogue, they can be mobile parts of potentially diverse wholes that may be recomposed within a given space: they exist to inhabit it. Artistic isms are indeed distinct landforms that have emerged, allowing a poetic expression to apply for citizenship, but leaving an option open to embrace the entire geography of solutions that still lies submerged. Lists, of course, are all about recognition, whereas in Anita Sieff there are only advancements to be seen, questioning projections, intimate dialogues beyond any preliminary familiarity. The logic of consumption would be to subjugate the object’s identity a priori, indeed even the subject and the space in which it is located. Consumption itself bears the seal of accomplished meaning, and so as not to be too melancholic, it always has a list at hand of what is left to consume. Coming back to the biography, therefore, is an attempt at finding a remedy to this existential paradigm which transfers the movement of existence to a selective shifting within the space of the list.
In tracing one’s biography, existence is necessarily conveyed in successive leaps, detachments between planned, enclosed forms and the substance of emotion and experience which manages to escape, withdraw, complain and demand, once again and forever, new apprehensions. For Anita Sieff, putting these “remains”, this gap that can never be completely filled, at the centre of one’s artistic creation means that the setbacks of writing, drawing and composition are embodied internally into each work. There is an internal palinode in any form of “record” of perception. Such an elusive feature soon gives way to many other multiplications, to countless leaps: the certainty of signs – those which seemed to have been tamed and vouchsafed from the extemporaneous whims of perception – turns out to be a mere clue hinting at other subterfuges hatched outside and beyond; the corroboration of perception – which should be a confirmation of the present – reveals a yearning for the lands of make-believe, for surfaces detached from the artwork, from the screen; it dreams of multiple plains.
Three-dimensionality, the plasticity of living, is not a starting premise, it is only the paradoxical procedure of these leaps in meaning, the entrenchment of values, where composition and perception, biography and experience detach to create the one and only breadth of life that we can find amiable. Indeed, it is so: because affection can only come about at “junctions”, articulations and intersections. It is precisely the emotional susceptibility of Anita Sieff’s work that naturalizes this prospective complexity, these projections into the void and suspended existential bridges; it is this emotional susceptibility that softens the brunt of existence, even when there is no narrative, no chosen path. Observing the interpenetration of one’s own home, of one’s existential space, one’s emotional surroundings, the sweet dependency on emptiness, a lacuna that is already a lagoon, shores to be crossed, that support whatever deficiency: this is the first invitation extended from Anita Sieff’s works.
The variety of her artistic expression, the heterogeneity of the materials and techniques employed, the subtle cross-references between works, the syncretism of her installations are in no way presented as a riddle to be solved, let alone a general thesis to be uncovered. They are “furnishings” for a liminal space between the intimacy of the home and the open depth of “common” ground. Indeed, as we said above, the idea of liminality could be replaced with that of interpenetration, if the latter did not create a paradoxical cohabitation between closure and opening, reserve and ostentation, private and public. Besides, it is precisely starting out from this paradoxicality that Anita Sieff lays claim to a mythical space that can hold opposites together, make interpenetration a viable option, inscribe within the home, within configurations, the omnipresent leaps of that which is still an open possibility.
In this sense, we are dealing with a poetic language in no way connected with the idea of “escape” or with leanings towards narcissistic realms; it is within the bosom of the home that the whole “outside” can be unravelled, and this is not because of a sort of withdrawal or mystical overdrive, it is as a defence of relationships, continuism between identification and socialization, a broadening of common space which must not indulge in any shortcuts by code. The intrusion of cold mediations which render perceptions evanescent and ultimately insignificant, basically pursue and compare the reification of one single institutional territory (whether established by law, science or religion).
Against such a backdrop, it is easy to understand how the theme of abandonment arises; the latter is the very negation of defence, of the recognition of relationships and it is, in particular, the prime agent of depossibilization on the existential front. Therefore, in Anita Sieff’s works, abandonment is not so much detachment between persons as the denial of the “home”, the common space, the subtraction of history as a defence of the future.
The proliferation of abandonments leaves behind an archaeological layer of fragments, haggard and sometimes fragmentary works, notes and sketches, which nonetheless, manage in their entirety to hum a song that preaches nothing, articulates nothing, yet manages to give substance to a cloud; an aggregation of minimal sense that still leaves a possibility in its indefinite opening. Here lies the generosity of love, of the attention to possibility that the past does not deny, indeed actually supports: if there needs to be a palinode, as we said, it belongs alone to closed compositions, to predicatory pretensions, to crushing one-dimensional scripturalization. Abandonment, in actual fact, is often substantiated in an utterance drawn from the principle of reality, from a farewell letter, writing the end. Yet writings are also endless, and the crushing multiplies, it becomes the seal of many different mediations, and the more one seeks a statutory definition of the self that would seem to be admitted therein, the more any identity-related cohesion become sprinkled with the perception of an entrenching idea of me. Certifications are the certifications of a setback, a pyrrhic victory, on a flat terrain, a chessboard of strategies with no further leaps, depth of field, openings and certainly injuries.
Nevertheless, if there ever were salvation it would not be in writings, but in interpenetration, in the acceptance of the gravitational dependence of one’s home; the latter, like every world, cannot interpret itself and cannot but find sense in other worlds (the world of dreams, of the imagination, of the infinitely small and the infinitely large). The unstable balance between these reference worlds are exactly what identifies a conscience and nurtures the thought of crossing. It is an awareness of dependences and instabilities, inclined towards soft ironies on one’s own destiny and the destiny of others,(1) capable of admiring the decrystallization of identities over time, their admirable loss of form, so as to hold the field and expand. If there is an ecology in this poetic language it is substantiated in the refusal of an extremist reduction of interdetermination, indeed it encourages homoeopathic doses.
Anita Sieff loves mirrors that partially interrupt the discourse, shadows and their dialogues in the negative, day-to-day objects that plot silent orders, dyslexias, experiences that cannot be confined within an explicit linguistic game. The subtle ethic aura of her artistic creation unfolds from here, its encounter with the untranslatable, its challenge to the voice, the image, the missing sign. If there is “saying” it must be in tune with the concessive (and in no way incontrovertible) regime under which events appear and are added up. If there is cinema or poetry in Anita Sieff, it can only be granted on condition that linearity, the syntagmatic one-way order, is forfeited to embrace the image’s very own tabular quality, its ramifications of connections without privileged directions.(2)
Faltering discourse and intermittent sense are part of artistic discretion, confronted as it is with a fragmented humanity which reconstructs exclusion at every excess of self-affirmation: here, then, we have the idea of a “white mosaic”, where each single tessera plots fickle relationships with the others, starting out from its different, incidental reaction to light.
The title of Anita Sieff’s work reads “Light modifies awareness because it destroys form”.(3) And correlatively live perception takes from contemplation crystallizing it and makes it seem dominant – it becomes one with action: percept-action. As there is nothing perfectible in art, likewise the world is not gratified by any model: there is only a constant mobilization of the body-world chiasma, in a vision of the white mosaic, around and within us, that is both monistic and componential.
The chatter (4) is the teeming and polysensorial activation of space, a topology crowded with presences yet at the same time an integrated whole, a blanket of apparently fleeing sounds and swarms, an inhabited territory and savage land, a precise extension and field of indetermination. Even on the temporal plain the chatter appears as a clarifying figure; the synchronism of convergent actions and procedures does not seem sensible in this stochastic yet contemporaneously integrated and pulsating sound composition, capable of exemplifying a duration, an extension of presence, indeed, of co-presence. Moreover, the chatter is not a sound landscape either, something put up by a listening point as a scenario to make do, being separated by a certain distance; the chatter is enveloping and unlocatable, in the meanwhile it does not seem to undermine the time available for any other heteronomous inscription: it leaves room for voicing initiatives, for catching breath, for laughter as much as for lamentation. It appears like a reserve of time, an available interstitial time, winding serpentine across the countless sources of emission, none of which are engaged in any promise of continuation. A time of welcoming in which the world seems to reply to the question “have you time for me?”,(5) a question which, on the interpersonal level, may become the strategy of obsessive interception of alterity which, despite the interlocutor’s helpfulness, leads to the exhaustion of good will.
The chatter also designs a figurativeness which leans towards abstraction, towards the pulviscular and indeterminate; as the critics have often noted, in Anita Sieff’s work there is an unquestionable temptation of abstraction, but it is abstraction seen through filigree, at times seen through the figurative density of anecdote, human vicissitudes bearing name and surname. Abstraction seeks a sort of structure-bridge that can put experiences and, if possible, existences in order; abstraction as a search for translatability, a sounding-board that privileges the inter-identity paradigm rather than the syntagmatic of the individual.
Sieff's work tends to adapt to the space in which exhibitions are held, blending possible itineraries of sense for the spectator with the specific characteristics of the site; within such a perspective, the new Psyche project cannot “forget” the presence of Ettore Tito's Nascita di Venere or Giulio Aristide Sartorio's cycle of paintings (Il Poema della Vita Umana) as these both “inhabit” Ca’ Pesaro and now nurture new live relations with the myth Anita Sieff has revived. Inserting these pieces in this work's film does not operate like a citation or a poetic dialogue (in the symbolist manner), instead it inwardly reproduces a spatial breath that belongs to the exhibition and the spectator's experience, in the same manner that it multiplies the auras of time that each artist has left in the same place. These mutually interrogative co-presences are also the key to understanding the relationship between the video installations, drawings, objects and photographs that characterise Anita Sieff's exhibitions; in a perfectly parallel manner the artist conceives her semantic stakes, revealing passages and existential topics. Myths are also involved in this structural bareness, these abstract lines which provide common ground to personal interpretations like trans-historical resonances. Therefore, myth is not taken up again like a destiny to be fulfilled nor like an eternal return to the same story; rather than fateful, myth is the plane on which a counter-fatality is played out, fertile ground for a corrective and emancipatory point of view, inspired by the hunger of some other place, a somewhere else that is, all things considered, always available. Abstraction harkens back to a weft of basic relations from which to expect the detailed density of a reaction, a response, an in-depth examination.
Akin to an icon, Anita Sieff’s images are composed through an upturned perspective, a perspective therefore that sets the point of view within the represented space: we watch what would be seen standing inside what is being shown us. This adhesion, this suture is then multiplied, pluralized according to different points so that ultimately it is the represented world that integrates positions and not a single position of observation that integrates the world. When, upon entering the exhibition space of Hai tempo per me?, we find the title in reverse form, a mirror helps us to view it and there we have our reflected countenance coupled with the question, bringing us inside the work, though this seems to coincide with the space in which the installation is inscribed. For abstraction to be effective it has to become a personal interrogative.
It is also within this perspective that we must view the artist’s most recent work Psyche (2011). The revival of this celebrated myth is not limited to a mere up-dated reading in contemporary mode, nor does it nurture hopes of providing an exegesis. Instead, it aims at reopening the corridors of history, those that lead from the past to the present;(6) so as to free the myth form every crystallization of sense and restore an interrogative potential and perceptive anchor. When compared to an apocryphal narrative par excellence such as myth, the artist’s hand here has no intention of adding any new personal slant or variant, instead Sieff keeps the pervading space of sense fully “aired”. The spectator is invited to enter into symbiosis with the characters, none of whom seem to prevail over the others, as the final stake and the very life of the mythical structure is the reciprocal questioning of the characters. Personal destiny is open and at the same time the fruit of intersection with all the other destinies; yet, like the other side of the coin, the cruelty of the myth has an ethical vision that seems to foresee the ultimate intersection of fates.
On the other hand, the anecdotal plot of existence to which Anita Sieff attempts to remain connected, shifts this finalizing and often tragic intersection into a pattern of individual choices which are the plot and fabric of a succession of uninterrupted intersections, some of infamous significance and others of the broadest resonance.
In conclusion, the final warning issued in Anita Sieff’s works is not to resolve the stake of knowing the other in knowledge; as soon as we attempt to reduce the experience of alterity or the desegregation of reality to mere content, we come face to face with the bareness of loss. Eros and Psyche therefore, becomes the exemplary terrain of acts of love marked by adhesion to that which cannot be “understood”: adhesion to the invisible body of the lover, to shadow, to a memory that can no longer be awoken as discourse.
(1^) The Fashion Weather Forecast 2012, DV Master tape transferred to DVD, 2008.
(2^) The clearest and most extreme outcome of this is Dislessica. La forma non informa, a 8mm film transferred to digital medium, a video installation on ten monitors, 1999-2000.
(3^) Das Licht verändert das Gewissen weil es die Form zerstört, a wall installation, six neon inscriptions, 17 mirror-glass tubes, 2008.
(4^) Cicaleccio, a sound installation, LED lights and fragrant essences, 2010
(5^) Hai tempo per me, a sound installation, neon inscriptions, 2010.
(6^) In her solo exhibition Ordine di senso (Venice 2010) Anita Sieff took advantage of the exhibition spaces of the Querini Stampalia Foundation opening a dialogue with the past. In the sound installation Risonanze (2010), through the sound of contemporary voices we witnessed the revival of the convivial spaces of a dining room. In Poesia (2010), a poem was declaimed both in contemporary Italian and in a version in 18th century Italian, the period of Elena Mocenigo, a member of the Querini Stampalia family (there is an evident attempt to draw on parallel experience and inspiration related to the location).
Psyche, Ca’ Pesaro - Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna, Venice, 2011