Jorge Peris

Museo d'Arte Provincia di Nuoro

Spanish artist Jorge Peris is a tenacious vagabond whose intense and personal approach stands out within a contemporary culture marked by rapid and prepackaged tourist consumerism. His projects are created during long sojourns, where he becomes involved with his host environment, functioning as an invigorating force. The people of the island town of Nuoro apparently felt as intrigued with Peris’s Egitto in Luigi (Egypt in Luigi), 2007, the project recently on display here, as he was with them. The work was named for Luigi, a museum employee who played a sort of shamanistic role for the artist and exemplified the archaic sensibility characteristic of Sardinian culture. Nuoro is a place deeply rooted in tradition, hospitable but wary of interaction with the outside world; yet its inhabitants found themselves participating, directly or not, in the creation of something whose outcome they could not foresee.

Peris invests in the idea of the living myth, using elements crucial to the life of the island such as wind (Aeolus) and seawater (Neptune) in each of the work’s three sections. The first of these was shown in the museum’s cramped project room, where viewers were assaulted by the intensely salty odor of the sea. Through a simple system of recycling, strong jets of hot salt water were rhythmically discharged against the walls, corroding them and finally boring holes through them. In the second portion of the work, located in a private home undergoing renovation opposite the museum, a mechanism attached to an old, noisy generator, planted in a pile of beach sand, blasted the corner of the wall with sand whenever anyone entered the room. Again, the result was the erosion of the wall: an ongoing act of destruction, inexorable in its progress. The active relationship with natural elements that joins the first two sections of Egitto in Luigi is less a celebration of nature than an acceleration of it, an obliteration that nonetheless generates something new.

The work’s third section is the result of a workshop that the artist held with local schoolchildren. They discussed the theory of relativity, the concept of abstraction, time machines, and chaos theory; the children then drew and painted their own colorful projects on a wall. As if the mural’s fanciful contents could actually affect time and space, Peris moved the wall over a few degrees, operating both on the object and its environment: Losing its original function of defining the room’s boundaries, the wall became an artifact framed by the space it once delimited.

Peris, at his best, engages a public that is not satisfied to just see but asks to participate. The three parts of Egitto in Luigi refuse any linear interpretation; they reflect a process open to revision and whose goal is unknown, leaving the visitor free to enjoy the work on various levels. Peris works in the moment; he is not a sculptor of spaces but rather a catalyst of surrounding energies. This elusive project makes his work difficult to categorize, investing its formative process, independent of the result, with the qualities of myth.

Francesco Stocchi

Translated from Italian by Meg Shore.