Felice Varini

Galerie Martina Detterer

In the early ’20s, Marcel Duchamp developed his rotation machines to call attention to the dependence of artistic meaning on fixed vantage points. Based on phenomena of visual physiology, these objects assign the observer a precise “viewpoint.” Similarly, Felice Varini designates a specific vantage point for viewing. In his recent installation entitled Six Carrés Libres Noirs (Six free black squares, 1990)—a series of perspectively distorted squares applied to the walls and the ceiling—it is only by approaching a mirror leaning against a column in the center of the exhibition space that the spectator assumes the requisite position for perceiving the black linear compositions as squares. The slightest change in vantage point and the image is no longer square, just as the mirror relinquishes its status as a conveyor of the image, and, once again, becomes a stationary object.

In Varini’s installations space becomes an equivalent element among others. His squares are never experienced in their totality; strictly speaking, the real work exists as a fleeting, nonmaterial perception. The squares form in the space between the linear marks on the walls and the mirrors where the images congeal.

The arbitrary nature of perception was the focal point of Duchamp’s project, but the object character of the rotation machines thwarted any solution to this problem. In Varini’s works, which also bank on the physiology of perception, this problematic is approached in the opposite way. It is not as a material entity, but as a blank space that the “object” demands that the viewer occupy a predetermined position. Varini’s installations arouse a desire to fill in the blanks between the mural drawings and the mirrors, and especially within the mirrors. Still, this is less a compulsion (as in Duchamp’s rotation objects), than the establishment of a desire, the fulfillment of which requires the filling-in of the blanks. This is made possible, however, not by optional views, but by a deliberate orchestration of the individual elements and their spatial interrelation, so that the square is only visible from a single viewpoint.

Sabine B. Vogel

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.