Art Orienté Objet

Galleria Emi Fontana

The name of the French artistic team Art Orienté Objet also contains an explicit declaration of intention. Theirs is an art oriented toward objects, understood, as they say, as all that is presented to the mind and can be related to an external reality. Objects transmit affective signals wedded to their form or function and expressed in a chain of unpredictable associations that generate other objects.

Their investigation into the interpersonal relationships between prisoners led to this installation, their first solo exhibition in Italy. Two chairs were connected by long shoelaces through a series of holes at the center of the large piece of glass that divided them, which was also marked by the prints of two overlapping hands. The installation brought to mind the visitation room in a prison, or in any case a place where access to another is impeded. On one wall was written the phrase Tu m’attizzi, which, in correct Italian, Tu mi accendi, means “You light me up,” and in Italian slang, “You turn me on.” This semantic ambiguity was underlined by the fact that the writing and the handprints were executed in phosphorescent paint, and therefore the installation had to be seen both with the lights turned on and with them off.

Artificial light also played a role in two other small-scale works. A partially open door cut into a small piece of furniture, rather old fashioned like the furniture in the larger installation, allowed the viewer to glimpse some lightbulbs with luminous filaments shaped like colored flowers. In a bathroom cabinet with mirrored doors other lightbulbs had red, moving filaments. The flower image recurred in letters written by prisoners with whom the artists came into contact; the floral designs came to represent the world from which the letter writers are cut off. In its title, the other piece evoked the tragic experience of the philosopher Louis Althusser who, in 1980, in the grip of one of his recurring depressions, strangled his wife Hélène. As Althusser later revealed in his autobiography, in the years immediately preceding the murder the couple lived in almost total isolation from the world. By linking the solitude of the incarcerated and that of Althusser, Art Orienté Objet not only connects two seemingly disparate experiences, but also reflects on the pathology of interpersonal relationships even in the most ordinary of circumstances.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.