Carrying the signs of your emotions on your body

Apr 12, 2022 10:46AM

Breezy is curating an exhibition that will be held in Rome, at the Ex Cartiera on the prestigious Via Appia Antica, on April 22nd -30th, to investigate the complex relationship between human beings and technology through the eyes of our time. To introduce the event and all the artists who will take part in it, we would share with you the process of research and study behind the creation of a curatorial concept titled: I(m)perfection: the laws of technology that dominate order and chaos. We will do this with short essays that will look at technology in its relationship with the concept of beauty, in its evolution through the centuries. We will talk about art and philosophy, order and chaos, mathematical weighting and improvisation. The question with which we want to introduce you to the reading is: Where does the purest and most authentic concept of beauty reside? In the proportion and balance of forms or, rather, in the undisciplined chaos?

Article written by Serena Nardoni

In the previous contribution we talked about how humankind, in the moment in which it had to confront itself with new technological instruments, has identified nature as its object of contemplation, relating to it with reverential or nostalgic feelings. Here sentiments find space in the story of the uncontaminated natural space of his own time, which is terrible and welcoming at the same time.

But there is an invisible space that can be even more controversial than physical reality: the one of the human soul. Emotions are no longer projected onto an external object, but emerge from the skin and mark the body, which becomes a map of individual experience. The premises of this motion of relocation of the center of representation of feelings are located towards the end of the nineteenth century and, precisely, tell the story of industrial progress from a new point of view, namely that of the public citizen, a concept that did not exist until then. Art, in fact, no longer relates only to aristocratic, bourgeois or religious patrons, but also to ordinary citizens who have access to "exhibitions" (among which the "Universal Exhibitions" are particularly important, the first of which took place in London in 1851) and who are stimulated to express their own aesthetic judgment. It is not by chance that, as a reaction to an excessively didactic art - such as Realism - or a pleasant and/or mirror of everyday life - such as Impressionism - the current of Symbolism tried to re-establish the "natural" distance between the mass public and the committed lovers of artistic aesthetics.

This is a history that still ignores the upheavals that would soon tear Europe and the whole world apart. The artistic avant-garde, a military term used to define the most advanced unit during marches, in the course of the nineteenth century came to define the political, literary or artistic movements that took positions of rupture, guiding not only the taste, but also and above all the consciences of the whole society. The artist is the vate who guides the people towards disenchantment, investigates beyond the apparent message and returns the harsh reality of things, often adopting a provocative attitude and instilling disgust in the observer. Everything, in order to move the collective conscience anesthetized by the strong powers.

This sense of general disorder can also be recognised in the ferment with which these movements alternate over time, without the possibility of defining their contours: not a history of artistic currents, but of individual artists, each with his own personality and inner identity. The first to speak openly about it was Kandinsky, who in his "The Spiritual in Art" and in the essay "The Problem of Forms", draws attention to the need to express one's inner self. What really matters is the spiritual content, which forges the forms as a means of connection between artist and viewer, in a precarious balance between the risk of incommunicability and aesthetic formalism.

But next to a spiritual art that totally or partially disregards forms, the expressionist world includes tendencies that completely reject abstraction in order to address society, often with the intention of social and political criticism. Two opposite interpretations that nevertheless coexist in the same country, Germany. In Munich, the Symbolist tradition is represented by the Der Blaue Reiter movement, while in Dresden and then in Berlin, the Die Brücke group is active. This group places the human figure at the center of its art ("the nude, the foundation of all figurative arts") and searches for a "German" style, combining Primitivist tendencies (common to the entire European avant-garde) with the study of xylographic works, focusing on independence from the external influences of Cubism and Futurism.

The search for the spiritual through the abstract style of Kandinsky is even mocked: art should not pursue an ideal purity, but address the public and society. The call to action, already present in Die Brücke, is now more violent and necessary, also considering the political situation in Germany in 1925. This same violence is also found in the movement of the Fauves, the French "beasts" harbingers of an inner unease that, at the end of the nineteenth century, had already found space in the art of Edvard Munch and James Ensor.

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893, National Gallery and Munch Museum, Oslo, Norway.

Thanks to the inheritance received, Expressionism is a socially and politically "committed" movement, but while the Fauves express themselves with a mythical and universal classicism, reinterpreted in a dreamlike key, Die Brücke rebels against an oppressive past, in the memory of which the present is lost.

Even the feeling that moves the two movements is different: recalling the production of Henri Matisse, emerges the vitalistic drive, joy and energy transmitted through the use of color in a symbolic key. Just the joy of living is the subject of one of his greatest masterpieces, where the theme of the bathers, dear to Cézanne, is reinterpreted by focusing on the dimension of well-being and joy shared. Through the use of highly saturated colors, the two-dimensional rendering of volumes, the predominance of yellow and warm tones, he conveys not so much a sense of calm and tranquility, as the vibration of the dream, of "everything is possible," the vitalistic energy that exudes from nature and, with it, from bodies. These are years of strong innovation in the production sector, years in which everything runs fast on the tracks of that movement also avant-garde that will be Futurism, years in which there really seem to be no limits, especially in the fervent intellectual climate of Paris in those years, a must for lovers of the arts.

Henri Matisse, Joy de vivre, 1905-06, Merion, Barnes Foundation

The inner journey led by the artists of Die Brücke does not look optimistically towards the goal, but rather restlessly treads every single furrow left along the way: the focus of the research of this group is the creative action of the artist, where the technique precedes the image. It is not by chance that the most widespread technique is the xylography, which consists in digging with an act of force a wooden matrix, on which a sign is impressed with a rigid and angular aspect. A jerkiness that remains even in painting, where the brushstroke has the same strength of the engraving, the color mixture is dense and full-bodied, spread in spots and without steps of tone or shade. The style exalts the ugliness of the human soul, nostalgically expressing a beauty now corrupted by the difficulties of life.

Egon Schiele, Self-portrait with lowered head, 1912, Leopold Museum, Wien

The sentiment that is common to the two motions of Expressionism is that of dissociation from Impressionism, in its character essentially linked to the sensations that from the outside world are captured by the artist as an impression left in the consciousness. Expression is a motion that from the inside manifests itself on the outside, disfiguring even the body. That sense of unmentionable rot, that split in the soul that we try to stifle in the eyes of society, emerge beyond the very thin surface of the epidermis, with devastating effects: grotesque grimaces, swollen or skeletal bodies with a sickly color.

From what do these uglinesses derive? Certainly the criticism is of the social spirit of the time, now marked by the affirmation of industrialization that has alienated the human being and suffocated his creative spirit, his identity. We are robots that operate machines capable of working on our behalf. Only art, as purely creative work, can lift man up again and put him in touch with "the beautiful".

Here we see one of the greatest conflicts of modern man: the one between human being and machine. And yet, can we really still talk about a real conflict? Progress, like a medal, has its two faces: on the one hand the growth of well-being and on the other the distancing from the inner and creative dimension. Because progress is not only alienation and mechanization of production processes, but also a disorientation of the self caused by running too fast.

Is it possible to understand these opposing motions as the impulses of the same heart, rather than as antagonistic forces that tear the human soul apart? Certainly yes, and we can only do this by trying to actually become something unique with the result of the progress we pursue and strongly desire.

Technology is not something external to us or an uncontrollable monster, but it's part of our thinking, a response to needs that until yesterday we didn't even know we had, but still part of the ancestral propensity of the human being to seek knowledge. Again and again. Technology is our creature, it's like a child that, once given birth, nourished and grown up, turns towards its parent and supports him in turn, showing him further incredible possibilities.

Coexistence is the right word. Peaceful and conscious coexistence.