For many years now we have been conditioned to consider the ago of unlimited technological progress as “our times”, and the era of communications as “our era”.

What we do not seem to be conditioned to, except in a lacuna-filled and discontinious way, is the “loss of the world” which the era of communications brings along, written into its own heritage of compulsive innovation. And I’m not referring only to the complacent arrogance with which we

mock the already degraded harmony of our eco-system , or the incautious, over-enthusiastic optimism which the paladins of post-modernism have reintroduced into the aesthetic of the fragmentary.

I am talking about a form of critical thought (the disenchanted form of Adorno rather than the more comforting one of the Encylopedists), which seems to have got itself bogged down in a padded and reassuring limbo: a pacific locus from which it is hard even to recognise that irreversible and exigual functional exchange, somewhere between reality and image, which the standardising “power” and intrusive disposition of global communications are gradually producing. To paraphrase the opening words of La Società in the show by Guy Debord - maybe the most intransigent prophet of this apocalypse of the senses – we can surely maintain that “the whole life of technologised societies appears as an immense accumulation of images. Everything that once was directly lived has moved away into representation.”

Of course, the problem of the relation between world and representation (in other words the metaphysical vocation of the west) did not begin with the advent of the global village. It began with the Parmenidean distinction between episteme e doxa. And it is precisely in and on the revealed distance of this relation that art exercises its own significant function. Whether we consider it as a discipline aimed at constructing unprecedented images of known models (the “second face of reality”), or whether we think of it as the institution of that gesture that Giorgio Agamben calls pure praxis, which, dwelling in the shady zone of this relation, proclaims the world and its non-representabillity, art can in no way escape the extremes of this interval: world and image, reality and fiction. At the point where our capacity to perceive this rejection disappears, the work of art would be reduced from “sense object” to a mere accompanying and narrative counterpoint. In a certain form, art has intuitively perceived both the epoch-making impact of this semantic contraction and the totalitarian drive of technological dominium. And when this indispensable capacity to distinguish has begun to vacillate, seduced by the blinding power of mass communications, there have been many attempts at resistance, which we have witnessed: from the genius of Andy Warhol, who transformed the glamour icon of the media universe into an aesthetic canon, to the deconstructional charge of fluxus: from the evocative potency of Joseph Beuys who radically redesigns the relation between art and life, to the urgent desire shown in more recent times by, for example, Jannis Kounellis, strongly to reaffirm the truth of art itself in contrast to the fiction of reality.

The problem is that, notwithstanding all this, when imagination and reality found themselves dramatically combined in that flash of sublime and horrifying beauty which was the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, language itself – and art along with it – were expelled from the world.

To justify his silence in the face of the advent of Nazism, Karl Kraus, in the Third Night of Valpurga, stated: “ On Hitler, nothing comes into my mind”. This excess of lucid cynicism tells us that before the indescribable which becomes reality, those who live in language become mute. This is not a silence in which the word has become silent or deferred; it is the silence of a desert land in which there are no longer any words. It is not the silence of astonishment before tragedy (which is another and more intimate thing); it is the silence of man relegated to the margins of his own communicative being, and deprived of the Logos, in other words the only possible dwelling place of the common good. The “gesture of pure praxis” in this attack is nothing else than the spectacular spasm of thing and symbol, the death mask of spectacle; the perverse, and more than perfect, form of power which expropriates humankind in its linguistic essence. And paradoxically, what gets in the way of communication (and hence of every eventual search for the common good), is the deformed hypostasis of communicability itself. We are kept separate by what unites us, and politics, that is communication as a spectacle repeated ad libitum, is already the trumpeted arena of this expropriation.

But then, what element of art is there in this game of the parties, in which (to return to Debord) “the truth has become a moment of the false”? Have all the words have been subtracted from it? Or is it still, and will it always be, capable of taking part in the institution of what we are accustomed to calling “meaning” just because of this constant overturning, and despite the apparent and blinding suspension of its traditional iconic apparatus? At the point where the paradoxical perversion of communicability deprives the image of its linguistic essence, art can reassert itself as a question and a witness: an indelible witness of the temporary impossibility of inhabiting the “place of the common good”, and a critical question about the meaning and the reason for this impossibility. Perhaps it is specifically from the antique dispute between representation and testimony, from this grade zero of its original epistemological statute, that art can turn and wander down the “interrupted paths” of language.

This exhibition, but especially the work of Loek Grootjans and Rob Moonen, comes from a time in which the collapse of the Twin Towers was conceivable only in the exaggerated fantasies of American screenwriters. And yet to a certain degree, the irrevocable verity of this event, in the light of which we can never again say “it’s not true”, by projecting its macabre shadow on this exhibition and on the work of Grootjans and Moonen, perhaps renders them less free, but for that very reason indispensable. More/POWER/less is something more than a reflection on power and on Rome as a metaphor of its eternal self-congratulation. It testifies to the need to rediscover the lost linguistic essence of our being in the world and asks about the meaning of art just when art seems no longer to make any sense.

Maurizio Marrone






installation at Opera Paese Rome (I) with Loek Grootjans

installation at Opera Paese Rome (I) with Loek Grootjans

installation at Opera Paese Rome (I) with Loek Grootjans


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