Raids in archaic future

Martina Corgnati

 

Once upon a time there was complexity. And complexity, long before being an epistemological and existential condition of our age, has been, together with other things, the main obsession of the futurists. In this period, the idea of modernity tried to gain its way among the resistances, the laces and the rituals of a middle class that had done the industrial revolution, ( importing it, at least in Italy, from a productive context that began to show elements of globalisation and to create the division of the world in developed and underdeveloped areas) but that was still toying with many good tasteless things reminiscent of Guido Gozzano. However, some artists stuck enthusiastically to this idea. For istance, Boccioni: for him, the simultaneous painting does not represent a well-framed subject in the typical Renaissance window; on the contrary the true subject were the beams of light, the vicinity of the horse, the entangled and restless reality extending beyond the handrail of the balcony. There is no stability in the forms: while his mother dozes, I am thinking about the war and the riotous crowd that, escorting the coffin of the anarchist Galli, puts forth a violent attack to the social order. In 1910, life in Milan is made of different coexisting presences: or perhaps life has always been made of this, it still is now and will always be. Few years later, Walter Benjamin wrote that the public is an absent-minded observer: while watching a movie, it is busy thinking about other things. And the art begins to be focused on giving a faithful representation of the ambiguity of the perception, of the thin and dense web of feelings and thoughts permeating our most intimate recesses with the external world and vice versa, and of the contradictory simultaneity of the impressions. The work of Boccioni, that died too young to be able to enjoy the two-faced triumph that the Italian futurists would have seen in the early days of Fascism, is only the overture. Soon later, the airplanes overtake the wild horses decorating Porta Romana: and Marinetti, adventurous and boastful, hints verbatim the magnificent and progressive destiny of the technique and the new spaces that it discloses. At this point, young titans of both the sexes (among the “flying painters” it worth mentioning the extraordinary and unjustly neglected Barbara, who, beside the brush, was also a virtuoso of acrobatic flight) hurl themselves into the swirling vertigo in order to be able to express directly what is still unknown to the human eye. Now, space cannot be related anymore to the homogeneous and linear greatness, confined in golden measures by Brunelleschi and by Alberti, illuminated by the sole eye of reason, embellished by the thousand various forms of nature; space vibrates in multiple twists, it ripples in rolling movements, is enlightened by gazes in the high sky, the earth shows its roundness and the objects are deformed into unpredictable perspective distortions. Thus, “technique” is the key word, together with “complexity”. Alessandra Zorzi takes off from this ground. Her attitude certainly has not much in common with the futurist optimism. It would be naïve to think that possible. Our time is not the time of optimism. But it is time of complexity. And of technique. Features that, in the case of Alessandra, go along with the airplanes and with the flying, that she has been practicing for years, as a hobby, piloting private airplanes. Nearly all the critics and writers that have approached her work so far have felt the urge to underline this aspect of her life as a strategic element for the invention of the multiple and acrobatic spaces that have been taking shape on the Alessandra’s canvases for the last years, as well as on her papers and, more recently, inside the chips of her computer. Indeed the spaces painted or invented by the artist are chaotic entities, snapshots taken from a viewpoint lost high in the sky. Sometimes those spaces are repulsive, because they are too dense, but other times capture the viewer in the eddy of virtual depth allowed by the rendering and by the animation programs. All of a sudden, our airplane plummets into the bowel of abysmal caverns that Marinetti, trapped in his blue sidereal song, would not have been able to imagine. Other times we resurface on the horizon of multietnic cities, rather multispecific, multiple stratifications of various histories, rooted in the remote past and including the possible future. Our “Babelopoli”, drawn out in the last recent series of 'tapestries', is one of them. In its plan issues and motives already existing in Babel and typical of Paperopoli (the fictitious Duckburg of Walt Disney) merge together. Coming from the latter, for example, you can find the indefinite and playful styling, the chromatic licenses, the absence of weight and the stratified building, the elasticity of the materials and of the constructive principles. In other words this is a city conceived for a comic strip, belonging to a world that Alessandra Zorzi loves and has been using for long time as a subject, as an expressive form chosen from the most lively contemporary landscapes and also as source of inspiration. On the contrary, her city owes to Babel the perverse ambition, the tension towards the sky, the dimension of chaos as an eternal condemnation. Here we can find at the same time a literal interpretation of the biblical message, an undertow towards the deep memory, a complacent acknowledgement of countless Towers of Babel drawn throughout the history of painting, a radical doubt on the nature of man and civilization. Of course, this doubt has been burnt to ashes in the fire of life, and of experience of the worldly life, where we encounter life and death, beauty and ugliness, pain and joy, caresses and abuses. The final upshot is the dizzy, winding, spinning, transfigured, and on the top of everything, digital space of Babelopoli, mausoleum of the classical culture and image of possible future nightmares. In Alessandra’s work past and future always find a meeting point in the shade of the 3D crystals. She is not able to draw a line between memory and forebodings. She feels the need to revisit the great pictorial and literary tradition, under the light of the pressing and contradictory present. From this very need the citizens of Babelopoli are brought to life. They are characters (first made of paper or canvas and now digital) of monstrous and ironic appearance, born from the ashes of the ancient heroes. Their king is named Abramennone and he is a hybrid creature as the city on which he reigns. He was born from the fusion of Abraham and Agamemnon and he is a huge patriarch of diverse civilizations, born again together to their new fictitious existence. Cruel and fanatical patriarch: in the name of God both Abraham and Agamemnon are prepared for the sacrifice of their own children, Isaac and Iphigenia, thus perpetuating the horrific trope of the ancient Cronos who, as if in a Leopardian nature, devours his children. Under the light skin of cartoon drawings, we find ourselves in the presence of real archetypes (unsurprisingly, in the Jungian sense of Zorzi’s work, there is another aspect on which criticism has insisted with conviction), monsters that for millennia have been surfacing similar to each other and always similarly threatening, from the depths of the collective unconscious. Among others, James Hillman has dealt with this supremely castrating and destructive aspect of the father, or better old Cronos, which comes back unchanged in the two mythical kings as prerequisite for the accomplishment of their mission at the presence of a bloodthirsty God that makes no exceptions. " The one demanding the extreme sacrifice like Abraham and Moses, i.e. the fastidious founders …eternally immutable Cronos devours his own seeds of change "(Puer Aeternus). Without lingering on the myth’s narrative- the descent of the angel on the tender neck of Isaac, the inextinguishable chain of hate, hybris and nemesis generated by Iphigenia’s homicide- while building this great character and assigning him the privileged position of the hero of the tale, Alessandra Zorzi draws the attention on one of the most unpalatable aspects of manhood: the destructive, depressive and deadly element of the elderly, hostile towards youth, cannot come to terms with the eternal movement of the world, and is perpetuated in the death of the child, denies the confrontation and the coexistence, it confirms phallocentrically his own power at all costs. A petrified male lacking the vital fluidity of the relation with his rival, the female soul, fertile and generative, fluid in her natural carnality and even more in the acknowledged renouncement to immortalize herself but in a continuous, empathic process of propagation and fragmentation of her ego. The choice of the advanced digital language, the choice of an ostensibly simple style of expressive codes, like the world of comics and graffiti, is not deprived of the depth, violence and seriousness of the premises. And why should serious discourse resort to archaic forms? Alessandra Zorzi, draws broadly from the history of art in a contemporary way that is not just citing but more like a cover. In her world, nothing is excluded beginning with the sinister visions of the great Bosch. Flying fish carrying happy couples, wak wak with blooming branches of decapitated heads, crickets with their heads stemming from the knees, wicked naked young fox-girls and countless monsters, flourished through multiple violent hybridizations in the immense melting pot of the medieval imaginary and fixed once and for all in a visionary spirit. All this converges mutatis mutandis into the vast and pleasant field of Alessandra’s imagination. Together with the creatures of Bruegel, the masks of Ensor, the feathered princesses of Alberto Savinio, who circumscribed their territory among heaps of coloured toys, falling from the sky in the middle of the forest, or abandoned on the islands of the myth by generous vessels. And still: a detail of St. Francis, taken from a fresco of Giotto, is found with an explicitly Picassian bull, symbolic creatures twisted by the aggression of Guernica are showing off together with tapirs, named "antigrazioso", and all the ghosts of the most restless surrealism and the sharpest expressionism come back to abuse the modesty of the timid young girl with the sabre-teeth or an ant-eater face, to pull the carpet under the feet of the unaware wayfarers of these abysses from cave dwellers of the third millennium, to make the angels fall and to molest the virgins. It justifies then the gesture of horror of a provocative blonde lady in a chameleonic suit, who seems to have just returned from the pavements of Berlin painted by Dix, but that this time she is announced by an angel bearing a crocodile head and coral tongue: but why should the child always die? The 90s have ratified, I think for good, the triumph of the graffiti art beside the success of the generation that invented them. This means that, at least for now, a direct and communicative language won an important match in the world of the art. Nowadays, it not so easy to draw a line between mainstream and underground culture as it used to be done with censorial bluntness until few years ago. The new generation may not read the nineteenth century great novels anymore but does know perfectly the videogames. We still don't know and we cannot really foresee whether this is a good or bad thing. Perhaps it is neither good nor bad, as the writer Alessandro Baricco suggested in a recent article. Only time will tell. Meanwhile, Alessandra Zorzi is hindered by the obstacles of her generation, which straddled the two different eras. She cleverly exploits her heterodox formation - she is an architect- and she refrains from censoring her relationship with the images and her desire of images, accumulating, all packed together, the ones she likes: in her own words: “a complete expressionistic universe made of thousands of linked references- easily identifiable, I believe: from the myths of my childhood (luckily, uncontaminated by Disney’s influence) Pinocchio, Peter, Alice, Dorothy; going through a messy and convoluted literary and cinematographic experience, with short incursion into the land of trash to reach the painters that managed to express most acutely the dramatic aspects of emotions: Giotto and Masaccio, Bruegel and of course, Bosch and more than any other painter surely Goya; also, Moreau and Redon, the German pre-war expressionists, Munch, Soutine, Ensor, Rouault, Ernst, Bacon, De Kooning and Sutherland and the latin-american painters. I’m also inspired by the irony and the freedom of Picasso. Altan is a master for me. I take from Disney, the 60s American comics of Schulz, but also Alibella, Sor Pampurio and Rubino, heroes of the "Corriere dei Piccoli" to go back to my childish impressions. In brief, Alessandra’s work is a complex fusion, luckily free from remorse, managed by sophisticated software giving back the narrative and spectacular value of the animation. Her images are also engraved on decorative tapestries, which look impalpable as screens and light as feathers. For technology exists. And our dreams exist too. The memory exists and the plans exist. And it is simplistic to think that now we could now choose between them.

 

Postscriptum

 

When I hardly finished this text and delivered with promptness to the loving care of the direct party, the artist, who, according to my habit and my desire, is always my first reader, I here discover with disappointment to have committed a mistake and "capsized" the sense of an artwork, besides among all the most perturbing and effective that Alessandra Zorzi has ever painted: L’Annunciazione. According to my reading, in fact, any doubt that the Virgo is the stunned and provocative lady in changing suit and that to the angel be due to that nice alligator face-muzzle or Nile’s crocodile, effective to underline candor and innocence. On the contrary, no. The angel results to be the well turned “putto”,provided of classical lily very phallic; and the Virgo is the alligator in red. The dove, arise as a mechanical and sharpen dart, that hit perfectly the poor innocent muzzle, I honestly didn't have really sight it , submerged by the chromatic intrusiveness of the background. What to say? Alessandra Zorzi suggests for this misunderstanding a psychological interpretation related to certain my private relationships, that carefully I do not recall. On the other hand I have few arguments: if she, that is the author, says so; if she held it for granted, why did she avoid to caution me in due time with a legenda….However, I keep on my affectionate idea and according to my middleage scholarship the Virgin on the left definitly disturbs me. Then how dare all these artists, through their increasingly regressive poetic licenses, to reject the poor Maria straight to the evolutive stage of the reptiles….Everybody must bear his responsability: therefore Alessandra Zorzi carries the responsability for the obscurity while for myself I take that for the misunderstanding maybe due to a traumatic injury suffered when I was 3 years and 32 days old, which I completly forgot but never faded out of my subconscious.