Mir-ageErnesto L.FrancalanciMir-age, the age of MIR, but also the era of mirages. An exhibition with a theme, a journey into space is ajourney inside our brain. The ultimate limits of the universe correspond to the present confines of ourknowledge. It is easy to enter into the theme, it's getting out again that's difficult: is the brain the last frontierto be conquered? What I mean is, does pushing ever further out into cosmic space mean penetrating ever deeperinto man's intelligence? That is why the ideal itinerary for this "On show" journey prepared rootstock style,only gives the certainty of entrance against the uncertainty of exit, take flight or stay inside the reflectionchamber (the installation by Lewis deSoto); the brain reflects on itself!Entrance into the space of the exhibition therefore is not automatic, first of all we must pass through adecompression chamber before we are ready to face the change in atmosphere, in the same way the exit doesnot represent a solution, an easy way out. The last work in the exhibition, like the first, does in fact representthat question that art still asks the spectator: who are you? Where do you want to go? What do you signify?It is still up to Art to ask the last question, the only knowledge that interrogates, that asks questions, thatcauses conflicts. During the show, the casual collage of events, in the age of glue, age-de-la colle, of totalsimulation, perhaps only art, which for centuries has had the task of creating imaginary and fantastic worlds,can fix points of reality. A task that will remain the same for as long as art continues to possess a knowledgedifferent from that of science. Until there is no substantial difference between biological intelligence andartificial intelligence, until philosophy and science are not different and opposite categories. When we areeffectively ready for the journey. But, at this moment, art still proudly claims its role as critic and director, andthis exhibition, catalogue and event are witness to this. A theory and a project, a model and a metaphor. In thesame way, the catalogue, the staging and the communication material, analogic and digital, all wants to be onshow; they have been created (Ennio Ghiggio) as works not unlike the work to which they refer.There are so many dedications in this exhibition, to all those who have had contact with flight, from Yves Kleinto Gino De Dominicis to Patrick de Gayardon, but nothing heroic or avant-gardistic. Avant-garde but notavant-gardism. There is still a lot of "reactionary" confusion regarding the difference of these categories,because we know that we are avant-garde just by the fact of acknowledging that we have already entered thefuture and that the age we are living, not yet perfectly conjugable from normal language, is the age of "returnto the future", a future that has already been prefigured.A future-present dominated by techniques: according to the theory going from Heidegger to Benjamin and inwhich Benjamin's symbolism was represented by an angel leaning forwards, but with its head turned back"looking at the wreckage caused by progress". They are words of a song "in this destructive age" dedicated tothe German scholar by Laurie Anderson, the first character who, not by chance, appears together with PeterGabriel, at the beginning of Good Morning, mr. Orwell by Nam June Paik, and this television productionoccupies a central role in the exhibition.Tutelary deity in our decompression chamber, Laurie performs from a military radar station, the radar artistrotates around himself capturing signals from the world attacking it with radiation. Beware of the dangers ofart. Art is military, in its root ar- of arms, (of tools and limbs), art is armed. Take care. It can injure us. Theword avant-garde also has military references. Laurie puts us on guard: everything we will see is radioactive(Radioactivity by Kraftwerk: the mention is compulsory).The journey is beginning. It has started. It is about to start. The entrance is dark, which is how it should be forall great journeys. The road is clear. It unwinds through rows of rootstock. Dendrite? The stations are neuronalcondensations. In fact what are orbital stations if not a concentration of planning intelligence, in which theindistinction between aesthetics and functions, of the "good shapes" to perfect engineering, fromnanotechnology to data processing, from bioengineering to neuroscience, from telematic to telepathic…Entry into darkness, almost a stereotype: the needful blinding of the eye so as to open up the mind, the work byNicholas Nixon (which is not in the exhibition) which shows a blind girl with the photographer's hand, whichenters the scene, turning her head towards the Vermeerian window; no more light, just the word Licht(Molitor&Kuzmin) in its leaden straight jacket; while we beat out our inexorable Count Down (Pietro Mussini).Isn't the deactivation of artificial intelligence, the mythic brain of Hal (Enrico Ghezzi), by the last man notperhaps a "reactionary" answer which contradicts the whole enterprise of the journey towards the future wherewe will meet the new metaphysics of the immaterial, which has expelled that of the spirit?Monoliths even though they can be built with totally different shapes, objectives and materials, by LucianoPerna, Helmut Rainer, Karin Welponer and Giulia Battisti, do not refer at all to gelid minimalist geometry, butthey are the effect of a cinema culture, more or less of Kubrick, as the cinema is a model that is envied even bytelevision, which, in turn is inspiration for man. With all their iconographic and allusive baggage thesesculptures introduce us to the first presence in the exhibition of two architectures of space, two ways ofpoetically living in space, through the profound metaphor expressed by the Igloo by Merz (Is space straight orcurved? This work is missing from the exhibition) and through the extreme symbolised technology of the greatsuspended machine of Mir, here shown in its perfect representation: mirages, virtual perception, even though ithas a low number of polygons (Fior&Pasquale).Art and Science achieve these two different possibilities of poetically living in space through a similarmathematics-logic thought. The present avant-garde has moved to new territories. Digital. Two networks windround each other mingling together: the computer network on the earth, the satellite network in the sky. Only awhite circle is left of the old circle, which has now gone away; the acrobats' chapiteau has been dismantled andin its place the total transparency of immaterial architecture has been erected (Buckminster Fuller), theso-called trans-architecture. The silicone house in paradise (artificial). It is the ship of the skies. The otherhome.Mir: abandoned ship, orbital collisions with objects wandering through space, suspended between sky andearth, incomplete, forgotten, lost, thrown, detached, exploded, expelled. Stupendous relics, which were spatialarchaeology, a machine of antique conception, built before the diffusion of Internet. Already working in orbitfor more than ten years, theatre of dramas and tragedies, of variety shows with Raffaella Carrà and of monstersinside (Arthur Woods Cosmic Dancer Sculpture). But for us it is still an inhabited place, and we are sending ourexhibition to the inhabitants, turning satellite habits upside down. Not from on high by the all-seeing andpanoptic eye of the divine machine (D.I.O., Dispositivo Informatico Onnisciente … Omniscient Computer Device)towards the planet, but from this poor, desolated and destructive land towards the suspended station, theramshackle but still orbiting architecture, still "alive", I.F.O., Identified Flying Object. For us not so much asymbol of an age, but of a condition, which suggests two reflections, on inhabiting and on moving. Inhabiting:inhabiting in extreme conditions, in vehicles, in orbital stations, in landing capsules on the planets, on theplanets themselves and in artificial satellites. Inhabiting new virtual dimensions. Inhabiting new space givento the mind (Marvin Minski talks of the Society of Mind!).And finally, even "poetically" inhabiting these engineered, technological, mechanical, artificial, cyberneticspaces. We will take these works of art with us on our space removal, and in what form: analogic or digital.Inside a soldier's kitbag, in Heidegger's imagination, there could be art, a book of poems by Hölderlin: in thetrenches Wittgenstein confessing (sometimes diaries reveal too many secrets…) reading Le Spiegazioni deiVangeli by Tolstoi, "as if they were a talisman", in front of Benjamin's desk hung a water painting by Paul Kleethe Angelus Novus, the angel with his head turned back. What work of art would be placed on the control panelof a spaceship? Or perhaps the spaceship itself is the work of art, unrepeatable, unreproduceable, airy even inthe absence of air.
(sometimes diaries reveal too many secrets…) readingVangelithe Angelus Novusof a spaceship? Or perhaps the spaceship itself is the work of art, unrepeatable, unreproduceable, airy even inthe absence of air.Who will be the navigators and colonisers of the future, men, robots or Cyborgs? What has changed in art andexpressive communication since man also became an extraterrestrial being? The artist in extreme conditions,like those in which we live, changed, radiated, epidemic, electronic, cloned, simulated, has likewise madeextreme choices: the extreme, in fact, must be beaten and exorcised by using its own weapons. A fundamentalcategory of art is represented by the always-different conception that the artist has of space, an essentialcomponent of the language of the work itself to order or destroy perspectives, perceptions, sequences, dynamicsand time. Space is always present, tautologically, in every representation and in every language of art andmodern art, in fact, it is always in space, effect of space and cause of unexpected space, that modern workrelocates always and everywhere, spaces, creates distances. Works of art like something always alien,different, foreign body, "space weapon".The first to realise its power, Fontana. Behind the cuts and tears: space. Nothing. Attention: space is nothing, itis the Nothing. Behind a modern work of art, behind the canvas, there is no landscape to move poeticallytowards, just the disquieting attraction of emptiness. This is Fontana. But Vostell responds, no, behind thecanvas, beyond the voyeuristic glimpses, we discover that not emptiness or nothing inhabit space, but, ahead ofthe cyber-space descriptions of Neuromancer by Gibson, the cathode rustle of a landscape that is alreadytelevision. Trueman. More still: this veil, this canvas, this screen where our spatial visions have been projectedand fixed for centuries, must be crossed: the body of Murakami Saburo leaps beyond, into the dimension behindthe mirror, penetrating the orbit of galactic machines.The vision of the planet. Plato "saw" the land from on high, it is like a football, he says, and it is all blue seenfrom up here because of the predominance of water and, in this regard, we must be careful when we speak ofman and subject, civilisation and culture, because we believe we are at the centre of the world but we are not,we are like frogs croaking around the Mediterranean. No theologian has explained this oceanic relativity. Thevision of the planet is Klein's, it belongs to him, he is the first non-spatial artist, he is cosmic, cosmonaut. Thefirst artist "after Hiroshima", the first artist to make his own the shadows of human bodies which were thrownby the bomb onto the remains of the city walls, the first artist who makes his own the "naive" and pure wordsof Juri Gagarin, when he looked out of the Soyuz shuttle: the earth is blue.From these heights, singular architecture, Chinese wall, Egyptian pyramids, the lights of the sprawl, themetropolis linked together in the network of cities and villages and earth stations and, on a more reduced scale,the works of land art, and, with different aims, the concrete that Burri threw over the ruins of Gilbellina,leaving the roads, the alleys and the passages empty. Growing from death. Using destruction to construct. Fromthe space perceive this enormous human fatigue, unstoppable, sisific.The driving will of man to overcome all difficulties, fatigue, obstacles, and bonds: bonds of gravity, misery,death. The various attempts at flight. Leonardo and the Letatlin, but also the story of Kafka at Bresciaaerodrome, and the saut dans le vide by Klein and the tentativo di volo by De Dominicis and the extremefigures in space by Patrick de Gayardon, who became an extension of technology, sport and air art.Space suit: reinforced skin and another body, in which man himself becomes a prosthesis? The exoskeleton ofthe cosmonaut is a supplementary nervous system, interfacing the outside with the inside, between the insidespace and the outside space, between the cosmonaut's brain and the spaceship's brain. Let's exhibit all theRussian and American spaces suits: the styles are different, apart from the same functions. Even in space webear distinctive signs and aesthetic characters, and protective suits against already advanced contamination,from radiation, some of it known, the greater part unknown, which passes through the planet: neither desert orAmazon is safe from mutation. There is no suit that really protects against the metamorphosis of the deep.Avant-gardism has prepared the scene, the atelier Van Lieshout, with his survival architecture and helmets formeditation, the helmets and the cells of "radical" architecture of the sixties and seventies of the CoopHimmelb(l)au, of the Independent Group of Ugo La Pietra, of Walter Pichler (MIT-TV Helm!), by Haus-Rucker-Co(the Pneumacosm). Suits like masks, Giulia Caira in sexual apnoea. But alongside all this there is the originalsuit, the skin: the self-portrait in latex by Marc Quinn (No Visible Means of Escape, a work which is on tourabroad, like all the splendid "Sensation" exhibition to which it belongs), symbolises the final disappearance ofthe body. The end of biology. The end of an age founded on the atom and the cell.Stelarc philosophically sustains this theory, the first artistic cyber to use medical instruments, prosthesis,robots, virtual reality systems and Internet to explore and cultivate the parameters of the body. The body hasbecome technology and the bit produced by mathematical calculation and silicone chips has taken over from theatoms of material reality; information makes the body obsolete: the planetary digital network no longer needsus. Stelarc, like Antunez, represents figures that the future will reinvent under forms of founding myths, whenhe looks at his past in search of his "classic" origins.Antunez presents a mult-media show, during which he himself commands, using computerised systems,everything that happens in the scene around him; the performance, based on Homer's poem the Odyssey, isenacted without speaking a word. In the age of images, the icons make the subject fall in ataxia, word can nolonger say, it has been replaced by his shadow.Among men, in the information age, there is no further communication (in recent hours a satellite has been lostin space due to a human incomprehension between inches and decimetres…): extraordinary provocation by thegroup of scientists and technicians, the makers of robots very similar to Pathfinder, that sends information toearth from Mars, who carry out a performance about the end of communication!In the artificial paradise, created by them, Adam and Eve can only depend on electronic will: as outsidespectator command their arms in the caresses that one body mechanically gives another, without affection andat the same time invisible, uncommunicative. Cyberspace.Cyberspace which Mariko Mori already knows gei (art) –sha (lady), electronic entertainer, not too differentfrom the "perfect" attraction of Lara Croft, who is a real calculating woman! Died like artraîneuse of the newvirtual age: the artist puts her in his paradise on one condition, that the pleasure of entertaining is completelysimulated in an interspace between dream and future.Where machines belong, like Piacentino's, to a fantastic-science fiction imagination, which allows livingtogether on the same plane of meanings, working objects and other totally useless things, finally confusing artand design, architecture and sculpture.A space in which the clouds are suspended, the Magritte type clouds of Warhol, filled with helium, shinyreflections of the popular world hanging in the air, objects which fly with every breath taken by the people,mirrors of furnishings and equipment that tend to lose gravity, adapting to the intergalactic climate. But also asuspended object which threatens to fall, like the ball which dances on the hot air blast coming from DamienHirst's hair dryer: we are all lighter, airier, softer, but it costs an enormous amount of amygravitational energy.We are forgetting the earth.Cyberspace through which Paik's great "lesson" prophetically passes, from the use of the first small portabletelevision by Sony, to the eruption into macroscopic space of satellite communications, in Good Morning, mr.Orwell, sending from one continent to another, demonstrating the collective artistic possibilities inborn in themedium, very different from the eye of Big Brother. Television as an ad infinitum container of "programmes"and unprogrammed events, global programmes, where there is no difference between current events and art.MTV is not by chance. Warhol himself works with it. The more important electronic designers work with it, themost important directors. To make the Idens (the self-referential brief works of art produced by the company),to prepare the scenery for the news, to make the musical clips. MTV review, managed by Enrico Lain andexpressly dedicated to cosmic space. Apparently light, but in reality a "space weapon" and strategic, theplanetary transmission of young music invites certain behaviour, pretending to represent them and acceleratingthe process of universal westernisation.Suspended in the absence of gravity, immersed in the infinite darkness behind which the human eye is lost asthere are no horizons, perspectives, points, coincidences, profiles, figures, backgrounds, no humour or noise, noThanksgiving Day with the mortalbaguette becomes the pain peint by Man Ray, the croissant honey-covered
Suspended in the absence of gravity, immersed in the infinite darkness behind which the human eye is lost asthere are no horizons, perspectives, points, coincidences, profiles, figures, backgrounds, no humour or noise, noperfume or taste, food is compressed into pills and earthly food only remains as an acute and painful memorythat confuses food on tables with tables of still life: the roast of Thanksgiving Day with the mortal opulence ofa banquet by Von Claesz or Spoerri. Memories of Milanese bread rolls, which have taken on the frighteningpallor of Manzoni, the baguette becomes the pain peint by Man Ray, the croissant honey-covered with the wordsof Jiri Kolar and the first bread exhibition by the N Group in Padua (Alberto Biasi freezers).A model of an orbital breed, made from perfumed sticks of chewing gum (Maurizio Savini), clearly irreverent, isplayfully let into the journey: in the collection of super heroes by Massimo Giacon (Kirby and Druillet), in thepresence of the Universal Judgement (even toys have a spiritual dimension) by Silvano Tessarollo, the robotfamilies by Peter Keene, the interactive sound machines by Peter Vogel, the Marcusian quotation by CostantinoCiervo. There is a playful infancy of fiction, the infancy lived in the squares and suburbs of the towns inreconstruction after the war; it is our first ride (the trittico galattico by Albanese), our first rocket, our firstflying saucer, which were born from the equally fantastic body of cartoons, inaugurating the era of perfectintegration between cartoon, imagination, toy and games and life and theme parks of the totally simulativedirection of the Disney Corporation, the pop ghosts that invaded our bedrooms long before ET (Fulvio diPiazza), populating our rooms with ontological truths.If super heroes are such because they have special powers, then the artist is no less, doesn't he too change theshape of things and their use and destiny with absolutely special powers (Sarah Ciriaci, quoting the DuchampsGrande Vetro, "as seen by Man Ray" as if it was a dusty extraterrestrial land)? Gunther Solo says he is inspiredby Nasa: his gestures, even if imaginary, are worthy of martian news read from Novella 2000; for example, hejumps out of a plane in free fall, and manages to draw, in apnoea he goes through the underground channels ofParis, and so on.The present era is an age in which we develop or explode "after contemporaneity": the present is factualwithout history, squashed between an instrumental past and a prefigured future; it is an age with many origins;we are all an after, and each one of these events signals its own legitimate starting point for a non evolutionaryjump from modernity to post-modernity. They were likewise "jumps": the nazi genocide, the atomic bomb, thecomputer, the first moon-landing, the first orbiting station, Internet, MTV, the fall of communism, cloning …Before or after. Not before and after.How many works does art dedicate to this jump between a world that was known, domestic, experimented(environmental surrealism underlined by Franco Scognamiglio) and a world that we can only know from insidethe medium. Two images face each other, dissolving into each other, in an obsessive loop that is without end;the image of the artist's family (Antonio Riello) in front of the television the day of the moon-landing and theimage of the landing itself, two opposite icons of culture and irreconcilable for some time now, one inside theother outside, one earthly, the other cosmic.Chaos of the spheres: Carlo de Pirro dadaistically, in his performance for orchestra and sound flipper, provokesthe spectator to become protagonist of the only possible solution to the chaos, go along with it, because, asStephen Hawking would say, only in this way – increasing the chaos and entropy – can we distinguish the pastfrom the future, giving a direction to time.Different measurements of time (Tatsuo Miyajima), different luminous radiations (Tomaso Boniolo), temporalspace collapses (Virgil Widrich & Martin Reinhart) and perceptive deceptions (Paola di Bello) characterise theactual world of the image. Or we could say the habit of seeing the world in the form of an image, means that wecannot see the world of images. To see original parts in the world that contain perceptive deceptions that aremore powerful than the artefacts. This is the only possible teaching method of the image, open our eyes to thatwhich exists beyond. We are also more used to looking this way. In the era of illuminating engineering thewords with a neon halo by Maurizio Nannucci, even if they don't manage to repropose the light ofEnlightenment, should be able to evoke the profound responsibility of the words. We could say, a work ofmorals and politics.The wonders of reproductive techniques morphise bodies, make events simultaneous, the real takes on newforms, immaterial is not virtual: it is present, in fact, it makes everything co-present, the before and after, thefront and back, the over and under, the forefront and the background. This horror of emptiness and time stylisesthe graphics of Wired and MTV and the digital work relaunched by Ars Electronica of Linz: it is no longer theoriginal artists who produce these images, but new professional figures who not only use the wonders oftechnology but they reproduce them themselves. A real revolution: the artist, as John Maeda claims (Media Lab)no longer needs the technician and scientist to be able to communicate technologically, in the same way thatthey need not call an image expert to transmit an aesthetic communication or include an attractive form in aproduct which is the result of their research.Two ways of thinking the new landscape (Sightseeing) which opens up to the reconnaissance machines sent byman into space: the photographic images produced with high quality resolutive instruments (Images andScientific Imagination) or the paintings by cosmonauts and by earthly artists. In both cases they arerepresentations of reality which is really elsewhere (however we can see the powerful impulsiveness of thecosmos inside the hotel bedrooms of Abelardo Morell, opened only to a stenopeic hole), but which thetogetherness of these reproductions makes stereotyped and familiar. Nothing is so far away, so profound, soenigmatic. Nothing is hidden from us anymore; even the other side of the moon has given its secrets away.Nothing sublime is left in this total, and rather obscene, exhibition of suspended bodies. The picturesque takesover; we look at the rings around Saturn with the same superficial intensity with which the Nordic travelleradmired the archaeological ruins of Rome two centuries ago. A sort of international group is formed of"extraterrestrial landscapes", among which there is Chesley Bonestell – the greatest – and Ron Miller,illustrator for films like Dune or Total Recall and the mythic outsider, the alien … Giger!And, in front of these narrative and illustrative images, there is the profound sweetness and the strange, almostLeopardian melancholy, emanated by the celestial dreams of the artist: the Ciel (1967) by Luciano Fabro, alarge black piece dotted all over with stars, the Child's Blue Wall (1962) by Jim Dine, a piece of wallpaper tornfrom the bedroom wall of a small child in the Bronx, large yellow stars on a blue background and a small shelfwith an uncovered lamp, to light up a sky which had never been seen in reality (neither of these works is in theexhibition).Another ideal landscape: the extreme one. Ideal is extreme. Avant-garde once again. Roberto Masiero look afterthis other artificial landscape, he is a historian of architecture and of that which no longer exists, suspendedbetween literary, conceptual and artistic. Architecture in space, in cosmic space and in digital space. Pureengineering of a machine that is longing to be inhabited. Pure architecture that is longing to become a machineand to penetrate the body of man and no longer be passed through by him. Only by becoming part of thisgigantic hypertext which is the Information City, digital, Gibsonian, and where the individual also becomes atechnological "text".The era of Mir is passed; the era is beginning of the International Space Station; from an "architectural"inhabitation inside the reduced volumes of a space home to the large and collective dynamics, almost"urbanistic" of the ISS. It can be entered virtually and you can visit the single modules (Italy has just sent up asecond one, weighing several tons). At this moment an on-board television camera, rotating round itself, showsme the inside of a living module for six people. I can see the suits hanging up behind the door, the fridge, theshowers, the toilets. Once again I wonder: where is art - on this sheet of childish drawings, hanging near thebed, in the book on the shelf, in the film inside the camera, in the hand filmed television sequences? Or is theentire spaceship a work of art, a magnificent piece of architecture that does not need to contain that which itaesthetically represents?However we cannot help but reflect on the fact that we are about to send into space, to this inhabitant who onlyphysically is a long way from us, an entire exhibition dedicated to him, an exhibition that will accompany himalong his journey into space, an exhibition that belongs to his own cultural moment, to his own thought. Asingle brain unites us, a thought that is joined by the intelligent interfacing of the machine.
single brain unites us, a thought that is joined by the intelligent interfacing of the machine.But also the same destiny of mutation joins us, us who remain on the earth and the cosmonaut who lives inspace and who will shortly live on the Moon and on Mars. It is a common destiny of contamination, radiation,irreversible metamorphosis. Once again foreseeing, radar man, angel with your head turned backwards, flyingacrobat, the artist transforms the isotopes that run through your body, the nuclear rays, the terrible propheticsigns: the organic body subjected to the scintigraph gives of reactive signals that allow the processing of anelectronic image. From organic the body has become immaterial, digital, this is the prophecy (Davide Grassi).To approach the same work of art becomes dangerous; we must use precise analytic instruments to get close toit. The Geiger counter, which Gudrun Bielz places in a precise point in the atmosphere, warns us with itssignals that we have reached the insuperable confine beyond which experience becomes risky: but anybody whowants to become one with the work (Rays), to even up with art, putting his own life on the table, cannot stop infront of nothing. He must pass through the work.The last work is dedicated to the brain, Recital by the American artist Lewis deSoto. This station is thereflection chamber. You never leave an exhibition without feeling heavy headed. Sitting down at the table inthe coffee shop, the heavy head resting on a hand, which supports it, unconsciously assuming a melancholyposition. But no languidness. No nostalgia. This is our age. This has already happened. The last work, a blackelectronic disclavier, that plays a composition once only, is in fact dedicated to the Japanese neurologistHideomi Tuge, who tried to find, inside the vivisected brain of his wife, the pianist Chiyo Asaka-Tuge, thelocation of her musical talent. We are not interested in Dr. Tuge's conclusions, because we are convinced, likedeSoto himself, that the identity of the individual depends on a numerous series of factors which are in partimponderable. But that which is certain is that inside the brain and the mind, which is the specialisation of thebrain, we must find the lost orbit of the MIR. It is that, the brain, the last cognitive frontier to be conquered,the last territory to be explored, and the new space towards which we should travel helped by artificialintelligence.