More personal than myself
On Francesco Barocco’s abstract works
When we spoke the first time about it, I was reading 14 things I tell myself when I fall into the trap of making the writing imitate experience*. I was reading and trying to get my head around what he meant exactly when he talked about experience.
He said: writing imitates experience.
I thought: that’s possible.
He said: it is a mistake we should be aware of.
I thought: that’s also very possible, but why is that?
Then I stopped reading and started thinking about this other text, the one you have in your hands, paper between thumbs, fingerprints onto the semi-coated paper.
It is a text that refers to a series of abstract works, two to be precise, objects out there (in the realm of experience?) and yet so embedded in their author’s subjectivity, embedded within him as a thinking body which ‘makes things’, precisely like this text is embedded within me as another thinking body which ‘looks at things’, more personal than myself.
The drive is then to aim for a perfect circularity between the two elements (the writing and the work), circularity as perfect as involuntary.
What about writing as experience rather than writing as a representation of an experience? What about an abstract work as a subjective path able to keep an equilibrium between inside and outside, experience and (what is) experienced?
And if this would all be possible, if it would be reachable, what would we do with such manifested intimacy? Could we have it perfectly mirrored in both the work and this text about the work?
14 things he tells himself…
Again he said: look at the ‘rejected’, at the ‘never-articulated’ to find the liveliness within an object (or situation).
Again I could agree with that, even though I would imagine this liveliness more like a mood, a taste or a smell rather than any direct preconceived physical embodiment or recognisable element.
One aspect is certain though: we are on the same line by choosing experience over its own representation. Writing overcomes any-experience to become all-experience, nothing-else-than-experience. Similarly these abstract works can be encountered just as mood, taste or smell instead than a series of forms regulated by predetermined patterns. It becomes signified without any prescribed signifier, a research as opaque as a personal feeling.
And since there would be no prearranged third element to compare the two contenders with (the subject on one side, his/her experience on the other), and since they would both be definable just in-practice, the result would be a constant fluid movement between these two sides. The dispute would be over for lack of constituents, it would be a clean monism constantly open to reinterpretation.
Yet this is just a generic proposal that doesn’t completely exhaust the presence and function of an object (this text, the work): how is one to trigger this liveliness through an object without falling once again into predetermined aesthetic or conceptual categories?
I imagine a very personal piece of writing on an inexplicably personal abstract work. Do the two elements escape as such the constricting rules of bureaucratic representation? Should they be bounded to a codified reading as any other writing or artwork, that as one moves closer to look at reality through their translucent experience, can’t help but obscuring it and consequently requiring the intervention of a over-imposing interpretation?
Instead we should look at this dualistic reflection as it is, allowing the writing or the abstract work to see and reflect upon nothing but itself, nothing but experience in constant movement between the viewers (readers) and their existence as viewers.
In such a way the experience would be transferable into an abstract piece of work (and a consequent abstract writing) that has nothing else before or after it, nothing over or below it. The writing would just be writing per se, my writing per se. The work would just be abstraction, nothing else but sedimentations, the artist’s way to escape any aesthetic or conceptual demagogy.
Here, writing directly in English is a paradox, a limitation openly translated into an unmediated act, contradiction in movement.
A folded paper, its grids marked by colours’ distribution, layers upon layers, the challenge of control and its constant loss: this is the paradox of a subject becoming pure abstraction, translated into unmediated action.
The work is what it is because it can’t really be explained. There is no other meaning attached to it than the paradox of its existence as unframed movement of the subject onto the paper.
Could all this overcome the suspicions we still have over experience?
Writing in English as ‘foreign body’ emphasises an innate superiority of the writing over the written. Equally, the pure abstraction of the work escapes any crystallisation: not just paper, not just colour and not just subjectivity. It is instead a constant negotiation between all of these elements and more, finally mirrored by their inexorable instability. The strength of the piece has to be found precisely in this constant white noise produced by the artist himself experiencing the work and its limits.
Strange intertwined destinies: two men in two different countries, maybe even in two different continents, and with two separate existences. These men share and, at the very same time, are separated by the same object. Maybe let’s not call it an object though. Let’s just say that it is an idea, an intuition. Two perfect strangers in two different points of the globe having, at the very same time, the very same idea. Deciding that it would be the right moment to put it all down, black on white, to share it with everyone else, with the rest of the world, including the respective other man in the different country or continent who is inadvertently sharing the very same thought.
Well that’s a cul-de-sac: they arrive at that point independently and through intricate personal paths, maybe through their own idiosyncrasies and vicissitudes. Yet the fact stays the same: they had the very same intuition and they decided to spit it out, to communicate it to everyone else, unaware of the incredible and fortuitous mirrored case which, in another part of the world, is doing exactly the same, somewhere and somehow differently.
History has taught us that there should be a winner and a loser. One of the two will be remembered, the other forgotten, bounded to oblivion.
Yet I’m not thinking about history here, and for a brief instant the two men are exactly the same man. Their personal differences, their stories and their futures are obliterated by the presence of that perfect thought.
History’s parenthesis: that’s probably what an abstract work, as an abstract writing, should be made of.
It seems as if we could schematise two productive ways of analysing the difficult predicaments of experience: you could simply ‘live the work’ as an immanence, taking unconsciously on board all its conceptual and aesthetic qualities through a subjective mediation of them. Otherwise you could ‘live the explanation of the work’, focusing on the nature of these very same conceptual and aesthetic qualities, but still with a subjective immanent look.
Being able, on the contrary, to clearly draw a line between these two aspects and use one on top of the other, even if just by combining them, that is dogmatism, it is pure institution and has nothing to do with the work itself.
* Richard Foreman, 14 Things I Tell Myself when I fall into the trap of making the writing imitate “experience”