Memoriale Volubile: Interview with Ferruccio Ascari, February 2009 October 17, 2015
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?
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…
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…
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…
Allow 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…
…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?