“It Rests by Changing”

The title of this group show, conceived and curated by Simone Menegoi, comes from a fragment by the pre-Socratic philosopher Heracleitus: μεταβαλλον αναπα εται. We don’t know the original referent, but some people think it must have been “the world”; others, “the soul.” In this case, “it” connotes the structure of sculpture, the medium’s openness to infinite evolutions even in its apparently static material form. The four artists whose works were included—Rolf Julius, Jiří Kovanda, Roman Signer, and Franz Erhard Walther—all attempt to overcome the traditional idea of sculpture, reevaluating its relationship to factors such as time, movement, and action. The first work that viewers saw upon entering the gallery was Walther’s Stirnstück, Nr. 1, 1. Werksatz (Forehead, No. 1, First Series of Works), 1963, a rectangular cushion of bordeaux velvet, divided into segments to be hung on the wall. As the title indicates, it was conceived as a place for resting one’s forehead—the sculpture therefore consisting not of the object itself, but of the relationship between the object and a body. Other works by Walther were characteristic of the exhibition path: Einladung der Volumen (Invitation of the Volumes), 1986, for example, is a system of solids made from wood and fabric—small architectural niches within which viewers can position themselves, either in accordance with the artist’s simple instructions or otherwise.

Julius also calls upon the viewer’s imagination to complete the work: He uses music and even noise as materials. White Field, 2007, is an installation composed of 108 small cubes of white marble, some of which are crowned by loudspeakers that emit a mysterious sound, thanks to a portable CD player. Research into affinities between sight and sound also characterizes Julius’s Musikrest (The Rest of Music), 1983, made of a pile of detritus produced by the demolition of an old wall of P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in New York. Each bit of debris hides a small loudspeaker that emits strained, suffocated sounds. The work thus depends on eliciting affect in the listener, imbuing its forms with a historically specific pathos.

Like the rest of the pieces that were shown here, Signer’s Aktion mit Fässern (Action with Barrels), 1992, is characterized by the use of unstable, ephemeral, or volatile forms that, in many cases, serve as the point of departure or arrival for performances and physical actions. A sequence of four photographic shots composes the work, documenting the synchronized explosion of the tops of containers placed in a circle. Moreover, Menegoi relates that when Kovanda arrived at the gallery, the exhibition had already more or less taken form; Kovanda responded with another anarchic gesture, gathering into a sculptural group the remains of the packing materials for the other works and titling it A sculpture made by Antonio created by chance during the installation, 2009—Antonio being the gallery assistant. It was, perhaps, the most apt illustration of these artists’ conception of the fluidity of sculpture as a medium.

Marco Tagliafierro

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.