Chiara Dynys, Aurora, 2019, mixed media, 49 5⁄8 × 70 7⁄8 × 32 5⁄8".

Chiara Dynys, Aurora, 2019, mixed media, 49 5⁄8 × 70 7⁄8 × 32 5⁄8".

Chiara Dynys

At the heart of Chiara Dynys’s show “Aurora” was a work evoking a large piece of stage machinery, also titled Aurora, 2019: a sequence of rectangular frames in lacquered Plexiglas, brightly colored and with reflective inserts, nested one inside another so as to form a kind of telescope. In the deepest recesses of these multiple frames, a video showed a sequence of rooms, one inside another, in a similarly intense color scheme. (This video in fact documented an earlier installation by the artist.) The rest of the show consisted mainly of a group of glass boxes with mirrored surfaces at the back. Affixed to the transparent glass fronts were geometrical forms whose surfaces were likewise mirrored on the side that faces the viewer. Their versos, however, were painted in bright colors and reflected in the back plane, allowing one to see the colors that could not be apprehended when looking at them head-on.

For the viewer standing in front of these works, a simple lateral movement of the head is a small act of will that triggers the process of discovery. To understand, you need to look. Certainly, you can stop at a hedonistic level, at the pure pleasure of admiration and amazement at how skillfully the artist seductively misleads the eye. These are beautiful objects. But it would be a shame to leave off at the first stage of perception. The next step involves the mind to a greater extent, bringing into play memory, which in turn evokes symbols and metaphors. It is necessary to see the trick in order to be able to analyze the work’s meaning, and Dynys’s mechanism is simple, with no real attempt at concealment: What it is is all there in plain view. But it is precisely when you understand the visual means by which these objects function that the inevitable process of interpretation begins, which cannot help but proceed, quite literally, from what you do in order to see, and from what you do in order to understand how they work. The will to see is the subject, while reality’s resistance to being seen is the object of the encounter between gaze and artwork. At this point, the metaphor is relatively simple: Reality is not immediately—or gratuitously—visible, but is elusive at first and changes depending on your viewpoint.

This was an exhibition about seeing, about desire, about the will to see and the difficulty of doing so. And in fact, all of Dynys’s work since the beginning of her career, around 1990, has constantly thematized the challenge of knowing how to see. In her photography-based pieces, the element of reality was deliberately hidden beneath many levels of fascination, offering the mind a multiplicity of possible interpretations. Here, by contrast, the simplicity of the exhibited works bordered on purity, and viewers were disarmed in the face of the only thing they could do: look. The show was free of overt subject matter and did not require one to concentrate on, say, the content of an image and the history it conveys. Instead, the works mirrored the elementary process that provokes all the processes of awareness, the zero degree not so much of seeing as of understanding.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.