Luogo Presunto (Alleged Place)
Elena Scardanelli interviews Ferruccio Ascari March 8, 2016
This 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?
There 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.