Libro Muto
interview with Ferruccio Ascari

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This video takes its cue from a book, and behind the book there is a curious story. Tell me about it.

Years ago I got my hands on a crate of old books that were supposed to be pulped. Among other things, it contained works on natural history and geography in Braille, and some logs carefully annotated by the official responsible for fixing the position of the Vittoria, a motor vessel en route from Italy to India in 1936. The crate remained closed in my studio for quite a while. One day I opened it and started to use the pages of those books and notebooks for a series of drawings and gouaches.

The book on which the video is based has no title, and the title of the video is “Silent Book.” What did you want to say?

The reference to the Mutus Liber, the book of Alchemy published in France in the second half of the 1600s, is not random, but explicit: this book of mine, like that one, is composed only of images and perhaps there are some other affinities, though not so explicit.

What prompted you to use the pages of a geography book for the unsighted and those of a ship’s log, notebooks of astronomical calculations, as the surface for the drawings and gouaches?

Certain processes, though they can be consciously triggered, then proceed in a way that is not fully predictable: every sign imprinted on that writing for the blind or those astronomical calculations, besides violating the order of the discourse on those pages, was in turn clearly influenced by it. The result is a sort of voyage in a voyage, a layering of languages, an accumulation of signs that generate unexpected contradictions and consonances… as the poet says, Al andar se hace el camino…
In a certain sense, every book is a voyage, a voyage in the imaginary, in the mind of the author in the case of literature, and in any case a voyage of knowledge in the case of essays or manuals. Your book is a sort of hypertext: overlaid on the pages printed in Braille or those of the ship’s log a series of human silhouettes appear in different yoga positions, along with botanical organisms with curious forms, groupings of cells in expansion, flocks of birds in flight. You have constructed a complex universe in continuous motion, where every single image links to another in a continuous game of non-explicit, secret connections. What route did you follow, or what type of voyage did you want to offer to those who look through the pages of your book or who watch the video “Libro Muto”?

The route taken by the Vittoria to India in 1936 intrigued me, as a mental voyage… over which the trips I made myself, in reality, were overlaid. For twenty years, every years I have gone to India to study Sāṃkhya and practice Yoga. The plants I drew on those pages were also partly real and partly imaginary, and the same goes for the other figures. I did not ask myself, in any case, what sort of voyage I could offer those who look through the pages, because I conceived of this book as a sort of personal diary.
Each of the images appearing in this book is also the origin of a series of your works, or more precisely true cycles of works: an approach that is typical of your whole artistic path. It is as if every image we find in the book contained the nucleus of an idea, a sort of germinal cell from which those cycles of works have emerged… Do you agree?

Most of my recent videos come from previous works: an environmental installation or a series of photographs, drawings, gouaches. The videos are like the continuation of an idea with other means: the camera is not aimed outward, towards so-called external reality, but inward, inside an earlier work; this gaze becomes the driver of another activation of the same idea the earlier work expressed. Certain force lines that manifested themselves in a certain way find another linguistic field, in the videos, to continue to express whatever it is that they still have to say. In other words: a part of those signs had no intention of remaining relegated to the secrecy of those pages.

What relationship exists between the flow of images in the videos and the soundtrack that accompanies them?

The soundtrack along which the video unfolds comes from another older work of mine. Over thirty years ago I recorded several pieces for a radio program (Fonosfera, RAI, Radio I) that made room for the research of artists working with sound. One of these pieces was Virage, which I used later in Libro Muto. I started with a piano score; I ripped it into many small pieces; each fragment was played in random order; the last phase of the work consisted in “beheading” the notes, erasing the impact of the hammers from the magnetic tape, conserving only the remaining vibrations of the strings. A work that was somehow “unfinished” and resonates, after many years, inside a new work: after all, I think all my works can be said to be “unfinished,” fragment of a whole, and who knows if it will ever find some kind of completion…

It seems possible to say that both the untitled book and the video Libro Muto are basically just two different aspects, almost two “masks,” of a single work in a continual state of metamorphosis, an ongoing game of reflections… I have thought that all this somehow has to do with alchemy. Am I wrong?

Who knows?

Luogo Presunto (Alleged Place)
Elena Scardanelli interviews Ferruccio Ascari

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IMG_1645This video takes its cue, as in other cases, from an installation of the same name: a set of fragile, threadlike works of architecture arranged without apparent order in space, which seem to respond to a pure impulse of expansion. Elementary edifices of uncertain stability that have a precarious relationship with the ground. Archetypes of buildings that from one moment to the next might take flight. Let’s start with the title: Luogo Presunto. Therefore an imaginary place, whose existence is not assured, with the same consistency as a mirage, a dream. In this work of yours I seem to sense a reference, starting with the title, to Borges and his poetics, especially an anthology of poems published in Italy under the title Carme Presunto. Does this intuition have any basis?

Yes, you’re right… I’ve been rereading Borges, precisely in the last few days. I was struck by what he writes about poetry, in one of his texts. I can read it for you: “all poetry is mysterious; no one knows about everything it is given him to write. The dreary mythology of our age speaks of the ‘subliminal self’ or, what is even less beautiful, of the ‘subconscious’; the Greeks invoked the Muse, the Hebrews the Holy Spirit – it amounts to the same thing.” I think this statement of Borges can be extended to art as well, or at least to how I understand the impulse that lies at the origin of the artistic act. For me, it is something mysterious, a sort of calling; you don’t know where it comes from, you feel obliged to respond to it, as if you couldn’t do otherwise.

Borges’ poetics stems from visions, memories, portents that have the charm of purely imaginary situations, disconcerting mirages: in an infinite perspective, a range of sensations and images that seem to belong more to the material of which dreams are made than to reality. It is the same material of which this work of yours seems to be made, both the installation and the video you have made of it. Could you talk about this?

IMG_1642There are images, arriving from who knows what distances, that take up residence in my head and remain there, as if incubating, perhaps for years. Usually I let them be, I avoid “touching” them, since I know they need time. Then one day the hands, gripped by a sudden urgency, start to move as if of their own accord, with unusual confidence… then those mental images, with a speed that surprises even me, take on form. A sort of utterly mental fixation I haven’t driven away, but haven’t particularly nurtured either, suddenly takes form. I start to hammer the metal wire close at hand on the anvil, I make four vaguely straight bars, rustically welding them together, and they take on the form that perhaps awaited them: a palafitte. Faced with the first of these pile dwellings, which would then become part of Luogo Presunto, it was like being in front of a sudden yet familiar presence. A slender, hesitant presence: you touch it and it wobbles. It continues to tremble, taking a while to settle into stillness. I think: I want to film this. Even when it is still, it continues to speak of all its instability.

Why the palafitte?

Maybe precisely for this presumed instability, its apparent precariousness, this kind of prehistoric architecture has fascinated me since childhood. A house between earth and sky. A suspended shelter, to avoid contact, to protect perhaps more than a solid construction with a foundation, well rooted in the earth.

The materials of Luogo Presunto are iron and cotton gauze: what relationship develops between two materials of such a different nature?

Gauze is the wound, the burn to care for, to protect. Gauze is illness, protection, the hospital… but it is also transparency, levity, the caress.

You told me that as a child you fell into a large vessel full of boiling water, and the serious burns all over your body made you linger between life and death for several days… it isn’t hard to imagine that it was precisely gauze that protected your bed during convalescence, your body as it struggled to stay alive.

I don’t know to what extent that episode can be seen in relation to the materials I used in Luogo Presunto… I can’t rule out the connection. In any case, when I began to work on this project, those slender works of architecture were like wobbly skeletons, made of wire and air… the gauze came later, by intuition, as if it came down from the sky to give a body to those skeletons, without adding weight, or an opacity they could not have stood.

So it is not by chance that in the video the gauze rains down precisely from the sky onto those structures…

I’m afraid that what we call “chance” is simply what we don’t understand, or whose origin we have forgotten.

Interview with Ferruccio Ascari
Marco Marcon
January 1981

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QO4The texture of this work consists of linguistic materials of various kinds: figurative, sound, bodily movement etc. What is the meaning and value of this contamination within your creative process?

QO7The opportunity for the artist to establish, every time he gets involved, the law that determine the game itself is also the possibility of making art getting into a system of signs in order to switch from one significant direction to another one. When I use in my work, in addition to the image, writing, or sound, or bodily movement, and so on, I do this: I move into more possible directions, and the change of the dominant one it’s possible because this game now has no more fixed rules, it changes continuously, it takes place through formal dynamism.

How your collaboration with Gustavo Frigerio began and how it affected the outcome of the final work?

QO5I was working on a project for an environmental installation: my intention was to transfer a number of signs and drawings through the light and movement in three-dimensional space; that’s why I had started working on some slides without using the camera, working directly on the film, manually. With a system of oscillating mirrors I was exploring the possibilities, even the chromatic ones, of movement of the light sign in space, in this case in an environment entirely white and all dark. I met Gustavo Frigerio by chance: he told me of his dance studies in the United States, and I described to him the work I intended to complete. His interest in my work seemed to me from the first moment of on extraordinary nature, in the sense that interest for him meant to literally be among those signs, move between them, redesign figures over the existing ones, in complicity or fight with them. The first movements of exploration of a curious body became also gestures of defence, or aggression: the body after the request for recognition launched a network of meanings through the maturation of understanding of a space that, of course, pre-existed. The space began to qualify as a territory almost cultic and I began to perceive the time of this work as time different from the uniform becoming, from the current time. The body became the measure of things that I had invented in that space and even of my own ideas.

What relationship is established in the practice of your artistic work between the logical-analytical moment and the intuitive-subjectivist one? And how this issue also involves your work as a painter?

QO6I answer starting from the second point of your question. The painting occupies certainly the biggest part of my time, but to produce different signs in different ways, inventing objects, and following their movements in three dimensions are not only complementary ways in my production; there is no open conflict between modes of painting and those of a practice, for example, of writing or technological media. But above all you ask me what is the relationship between the analytical moment and the intuitive one in the artistic creation. For me the approach of art is not far from that of any other act of knowledge; it is a way, albeit special, to suppress the distance that separates an object from consciousness in order to blend with it. But here, as in the act of love, is the movement of Eros that joins things that are separate and opposite.

Memoriale Volubile: Interview with Ferruccio Ascari, February 2009

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Memoriale Volubile: what does it mean?

It is a contradictory expression, the combination of two words with opposing meanings: “memorial” which pertains to recollection or the prompting of memory, and “fickle” which instead points to distraction, forgetfulness. An expression invented by joining two words with contrasting meanings, wavering between an impossible “marriage of opposites” and their inextricable conflict

In this exhibition we find Memoriale Volubile imprinted on the cover of several white books placed in vitrines, and on cardboard boxes that support metal screen sculptures: so this is a title that repeats, differentiated only by its accompanying serial number. Could you explain the type of seriality indicated here?MemoriaVolubile_1

Title and image, name and thing are inseparable here. The expression Memoriale Volubile explains – in its irreconcilable ambiguity – the image, the thing, just as the latter explain the expression. This crossed relationship unfolds in the repetition, the serial effect: the seriality evoked by “word and thing” is a tragic series, before everyone’s eyes. It is the infinite series of environmental disasters, for which we have lost track of the quantity, but of which we cannot lose the memory. Precisely the wavering between memory and its erasure is the contradiction that Memoriale Volubile, in its own way, wants to indicate.

Books in vitrines, sealed, that cannot be read…

…books of horror, illegible books, memorials whose covers bear only the image of a place, its name – Chernobyl, for example – and the date of the disaster. Nothing more. I believe this suffices to evoke a horror that is intolerable for any conscience.

Light and at the same time disturbing sculptures. Symmetrical objects, but with an unstable, off-balance symmetry, as if teetering on the brink of an abyss. As if they were in danger, or dangerous. Things in which a relationship is established, without reconciliation, between transparency and opacity, beauty and ruin. What prompted you to invent such forms?

It was sudden, as if on the spot I felt the need to depart, to go on a journey. To leave what I was doing. To go away: a mental voyage, a terrible voyage. I began to search online for those places of memory, places of horror: Vajont, Seveso, Bhopal, Mururoa… an interminable, bewildering journey. And a very concrete one. Nothing virtual about it. One day I began to download images of those places, from the sites I was visiting. More and more photographs of those disasters. They accumulated. A compulsive gesture, as if dictated by the fear that the number of those images would be infinite, and by the desperate desire for it to have an end…

MemoriaVolubile_4…are those the images that appear on the frontispiece of the white books placed in the cases… and the sculptures?

I felt like the inurement to disaster was unbearable, that danger that those places could be forgotten. Those places, the name of each of them, should be repeated out loud, every day… And yet the voice, speech, is not enough. At least for me, someone who plays with form…

…you play?

Do you know of anything more serious than play?

Agreed. But let’s get back to those forms, their restlessness, their genesis…

…a form, prior to representing anything, presents itself, displays itself. Necessarily. This necessity of the form to reveal itself fascinates me, because it points to a concealment. Without this concealment no unveiling, no manifestation would be conceivable, there would be no “coming to light.” The same dialectic, the same game as between speech and silence. But I am digressing… You want to know something about their birth: I have thought about the forms that could become a warning (and maybe also become monumental), that could attempt, in any case, an opposition to the tendency to forget. I wanted to put them beside those names, those places, those dates, precisely as an admonition.

The choice of placing these sculptures on cardboard boxes conveys the idea that they have just arrived from who knows where, or that they are about to depart: could you tell me something about this installation?

The relationship between a sculpture and its base is rarely a simple one. Actually it is a very difficult relationship. Usually I put my works directly on the ground. In this case, though, the sculptures – especially the small ones that most clearly reveal their character as projects – could not stay on the ground; they wanted to be observed from a different perspective. Placing them on the boxes I had in the studio was the most simple, natural gesture, and it worked. There is something transitional about this placement. As you correctly point out, a desire to move, to change location, like an urgency…

MemoriaVolubile_2Allow me to make another observation: these forms of metal screen seem somehow connected to a scientific imaginary… a science that seems to be infiltrated by an evil disposition. Am I mistaken? Normally you use natural materials. In most of your work it is possible to glimpse a relationship with the organic world… And while it is true that the forms displayed here could belong to some natural realm, it would in any case be an alien realm, of a nature issuing from a mind dominated by a sort of disquieting scientific obsession…

MemoriaVolubile_3…you are not mistaken. I must admit that a natural form usually intrigues me more than an artifact or an industrial product. Often a natural form seems to ask me: do you know where I come from, do you know why I have the form that I have, can you predict the form I will assume as I transform, do you understand what moves me? I know that I do not know: and that is precisely what drives me. In my work, in any case, I feel free to use anything that can serve to say what I want to say, without any preconceived limitations. Here, in Memoriale Volubile, the nature I address is a wounded, offended nature. A nature in agony. An agony that cannot be separated from the “disquieting scientific obsession” you mentioned. Exposed to that obsession, these forms are contaminated. You said “an alien realm”: no, here you are mistaken. If these forms speak of alienation, that alienation, that madness is not of another world, but this world. They are forms of madness: mad forms of pain. An unbearable pain. That can no longer be withstood.

So, on closer examination, can we see a political position, in the end, in this latest work of yours?

Can I ask you a question, at this point? On closer examination, is there anything people do or undergo – consciously or unconsciously – that is done or undergone outside of politics?

Impermanence and environs: Elena Scardanelli interviews Ferruccio Ascari

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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.

Inside Restless Matter, in a process of continuous transmutation I think is very consistent with the meaning I see in the whole project, Impermanenza is transformed into a video, or actually something more: a video that is also a game, a basic but not superficial game, transforming viewers into players by stimulating them to make the towers collapse by moving the mouse: what is at stake here?


I’d rather talk about the video game later, I’m still working on it. But I can tell you something about the video. Impermanenza-video starts with a temptation, that of getting away from the fixity of the environmental installation to enter a reality of images that is totally different, that of cinema. Though starting with an identical subject, the two paths diverge, speaking different languages. The installation with all its precariousness evokes an invisible time, that of the construction and the collapses of the towers in the past, made visible by the wood scattered on the ground; and the same time it conveys the anxiety of the “not yet,” of a possible ulterior collapse, an imminent ruin. It is as if the environmental installation were suspended between a past and a future, both invisible and yet precisely for this reason capable of being “’present.” The film, instead, displays a continuous present, utterly illusory but continuously reproducible. Let me explain: Impermanenza-video is composed of a number of photographs equal to the number of the sticks that make up the towers; each photograph records the gradual construction of the towers, piece by piece; the hands that place the sticks, however, as in all stop motion films, are never seen. Perhaps it is the animation of the photographs that gives the towers an independence they would never otherwise have attained: in the film the towers grow (and un-grow) as if driven by their own volition. I think the environmental installation, presenting itself in all its precarious balance, manages to suggest the illusory character of what we call “real,” while the film, announcing its deception from the first frame, invents – precisely through the illusion of movement – its own “reality” and asks the viewer for the complicity necessary to enter that second-degree illusion that is cinema. Personally I think of the animated film as the form most at the origin of cinema, the form that proves most able to represent what I care about.
I am getting very interested in the language of video games because it raises illusion and complicity to the highest levels. You ask me what is at stake: if the film illusion is at the second degree with respect to what we call “life” and if the illusion of “life” in the interaction of the video game is even higher than that of the illusion of cinema, then the video game player paradoxically risks more than life.

Sound is another important feature of this video. It is not something extraneous to the nature of the elements that make up the towers. In fact, precisely their voice provides the material for the composition: it is the voice of the individual pieces of wood, with their different weights, their different densities and the different impact on the ground when they fall. Would you tell me something about this?


As you know, from my earliest works sound has been one of the most important elements in my research. In this work, Nicola Ratti helped me to sample the “voice” of each single stick. Nicola made these recordings with the sensitivity only a musician of his caliber can have. Once each frame had been associated with the corresponding sound of each stick, editing the film was like playing an instrument, like composing sounds through the progressive composition of the visual sequences: a very captivating game I will show in an upcoming video, La freccia che colpisce il bersaglio vola per sempre (The Arrow That Hits the Target Flies Forever).

Stanze Armoniche (Harmonic Rooms)

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sixto bn

In February 1978 an experimental center for visual arts called Sixto/Notes opened in Milan, and precisely in a street called S. Sisto. The purpose of its founders, including Ferruccio Ascari, was to follow two lines at once: the creation of an archive of film documents, and the production of an exhibition program of installations and performances able to express the artistic climate at that time. The main focus of the center was on experiences characterized by an intercontamination of languages aimed at re-defining the field of art, its boundaries and trends.

This is the context in which Vibractions, a sound installation and performance by Ferruccio Ascari, would be read: this work was conceived and created within a program of sound installations organized by the center, which included site-specific works by Lanfranco Baldi, Cioni Carpi, Giuseppe Chiari, John Duncan, Walter Marchetti, Gianni Emilio Simonetti, Luisa Cividin and Roberto Taroni, along with contributions by representatives of the most radical researches of those years: Ant Farm, BDR Ensemble, Nancy Buchanan, Chris Burden, Dal Bosco-Varesco, Guy de Contet, Douglas Huebler, Layurel Klick, Laymen Stifled, Paul Mc Carthy, Fredrick Nilsen, Barbara Smith, and Demetrio Stratos.

Vibractions was an emblematic example of a research common at that time in which visual and sound elements were considered as indissolubly bound together, in an analysis which started from a deep reflection upon the categories of time and space in art.
The paradoxical purpose of Vibractions was to measure the architectural space by the use of sound, or even better, to find a sound equivalent of the architectural space; to walk through it in order to catch its specific volumetric, dimensional, visual, and acoustic qualities; to find the law by which it was governed and to establish a relation with the subject walking through it; and finally, to find a way of making the space respond to sound impulses until its own Sound was discovered, “the uniqueness and unrepeatability of its resounding in relation to what occurs within it” – as Ferruccio Ascari wrote in a presentation text of this work.

Vibractions was subsequently reproposed in different sites, the eighteenth-century chapel of the University College of Pavia (1979) and the theatre Aut/Off in Milan (1980).

Pasted-Graphic-27On these occasions, the work produced very different results not only at a sound level. The spatial qualities of each place (dimensions, volumes, architectural typology) were reproduced by a network of harmonic strings running through the floor, the walls, and the ceiling of the room.Pasted-Graphic-18The strings were anchored at their ends to metal frustums of cones which served as resonance boxes. The sound equipment – designed and realized following mathematical proportions deduced by the environment’s volumetric ratios – became the instrument used to investigate the acoustic specificity of each space, to seize its innermost identity, or, in Ascari’s words, to “find out its own sound” and therefore to disclose its essence. Pasted-Graphic-22The “epiphany” was committed to the moment of the performance, during which the environment/instrument was “played” by a variable number of instrumentalists/agents: by the use of plectrums, violin bows, and hammers, all of them made the harmonic strings vibrate according to a score that was also mathematically deduced by the volumetric ratios of the space. Pasted-Graphic-23Drops of water fell regularly from a cruet hanging from the ceiling onto a large iron disc anchored to a tripod : their sound, amplified through a microphone, punctuated the duration of the event.

A looped video reproducing the environment while walked through by the agents-instrumentalists was projected onto the environment itself: the projector placed on a rotating base followed optically the path of the instrumentalists.Pasted-Graphic-24Vibractions was composed of three interconnected levels—installation, performance and film. In the installation, the harmonic strings running throughout the walls were conceptually determined as “visible” sounds even before they were put in vibration.Pasted-Graphic-25In the performance, the action exercised on the strings was an act of “dis-in-canto,” an Italian word which etymologically means exactly “something producing vibrations”: by resounding and lowering, the vibrations originated kind of an immaterial motion in the space and turned into “acoustic images,” while the environment became an instrument entirely run through by harmonic strings. The video reproducing the environment and projected onto the environment itself gave shape to a sort of visual whirl, where projection and action became indefinitely knotted and untied, in a continuous relationship of illusion/disillusion.

Pasted-Graphic-26Of this work, so conceptually and visually tied to the radical investigations of that time, only part of the equipment is left, along with a few meagre notes, a certain number of pictures, and a sound recording from the installation in Pavia.

Ferruccio Ascari - 2015
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