The works of Vedovamazzei (Simeone Crispino and Stella Scala) always result from an encounter with reality, either the physical reality of an object or the virtual reality of information. This exhibition, the Italian artists’ first in Paris, gave viewers a taste of their multiform sources of inspiration. Two pieces in particular demonstrate how the realms of objects and of the media coexist in the work. The Swimmer (all works 2005) consists of eighty-nine lightbulbs of different sizes, arranged on a large white platform. All the bulbs are painted with bright images from the 1968 film The Swimmer (based on a story by John Cheever), in which a particularly sexy Burt Lancaster made his way home by swimming across all the pools he encountered in his path. Lancaster’s character had lost his memory, and his strange behavior slowly revealed his altered psychological state and inability to regain a normal relationship with reality. Crispino is preparing to carry out a reenactment of the character’s pathological performance in Los Angeles, where the artist will actually swim from pool to pool along a given route in the city, a journey he is now mapping out using satellite photos.

What a Life, Guys! is a sofa, an object the artists acquired second-hand for their studio. Alerted by the seller that a cat had scratched the back of it, the artists used this information as the inspiration for a new work. Far from repairing or hiding the scratches, they accentuated them, using knives and other means to carve the phrase of the title into the fabric, communicating a sense of gratification comparable to what a cat might feel as it sharpens its claws. To make the writing more visible, they inserted neon tubing, making the scratched words legible and haloed by light.

Hung on the wall of the same room, Stretching, a painting on paper, was ripped diagonally; interestingly, the tear looked as if it had been created by ripping through the sheet of paper, the glass that protected it, and the frame that surrounded it. Skillfully destroying as well as building, the two artists followed the irregular and casual line of the tear inflicted on the paper, working patiently with a glass cutter and a saw.

Along with new pieces, the show also included new versions of earlier works. On the wall of the first room in the gallery, a circular mirror seemed completely set in its frame. In reality, the reflective disk completed three thousand revolutions per minute, but this was obvious only when the viewer concentrated carefully on the reflection of his or her face, observing it at close range, at which point it seemed blurred and out of focus. Isn’t It Romantic is a vitrine containing a Thonet chair, with the normally vertical back positioned horizontally, thereby evoking a living organism, captured, perhaps, in a dance move.

Finally, hidden inside two wooden boxes, open at the sides and affixed to the wall, were two smaller pieces. In one box, Chorus, a series of books, jammed in as if on the shelves of a bookstore, faced the other box, Solar Spots, which contained a table lamp. Small faces drawn in pen, incisions, and cotton balls appear along the vertical edge of the book pages; holes have been burned into the fabric portion of the lampshade with a cigarette. The holes are not arranged by chance, but follow the arrangement of sunspots studied by Galileo Galilei: a lovely way to transform history into fable.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.