Turin, the only video of Claudio Parmiggiani's career on display at GAM

Exhibitions on the beginnings of Italian artist video continue at the GAM in Turin: the protagonist from Sept. 28, 2021 to Feb. 6, 2022 is Claudio Parmiggiani, whose only video made in his career, "Delocazione," is exhibited.

It will be one of the greatest living Italian artists, Claudio Parmiggiani (Luzzara, 1943), who will be the protagonist, at the GAM in Turin, of the fourth appointment of the exhibition cycle born from the collaboration between the Historical Archive of the Venice Biennale and the VideotecaGAM, aimed at witnessing the early season of Italian artist video. In fact, from September 28, 2021 to February 6, 2022, the exhibition Claudio Parmiggiani, curated by Elena Volpato, will be held, in which Delocazione, the only video work made by Parmiggiani, produced by Art/Tapes/22 in Florence in 1974, will be presented, together with two capital works in the development of his work, from the Collezione Maramotti in Reggio Emilia: the 1970 photographic print on panel Delocazione 2, and Autoritratto of 1979, a shadow silhouette brought back on canvas, also a unique work in the artist’s career.

The triangulation of these three works encapsulates the entire arc of visual opposites that runs through Parmiggiani’s work. The absence of the work, which emerges in reserve on the wall, in the white surrounded by the gray of dust and soot, is reflected in its visual opposite: the projection of a gray shadow that is drawn on the white canvas, the denied presence of the artist’s gaze on the vanished image. The relationship between these three works is completed in a selection of books made by Parmiggiani between 1968 and 1977, from the Maramotti Collection and the CRT Collection. Books conceived by an artist for whom the blank page is not made for the reproduction or documentation of work, but is first and foremost a space for the manifestation of the work and, at the same time, the first place of absence.

Parmiggiani made the video Delocazione in 1974. More than a decade later, in 1985, in an interview with Arturo Schwarz, he would say, “I made a single video that by the way I have never seen, in 1972 or maybe 1973, in Florence, with Maria Gloria Bicocchi, it was a fixed image for fifteen minutes, by the way an absent image, the shadow of an image. Again still a no to both the image and the photographic and dynamic function of the instrument, it was probably a reaction to an exaggerated actionism and contortionism at that time, for me it was the equivalent of Duchamp’s silence.”

The reaction to what he calls “actionism” reveals itself explicit from the very first moments of the work: the dark silhouette of a chair is the first element of the still image to emerge, as if from a thick fog, from the initial white of the screen. That presence is enough to deny the possibility of action, and not only because the chair is empty and will remain so, but because it is turned toward the wall behind, arranged in front of a Delocation, the dust and sooty trace of a vanished painting. Countless chairs appeared in front of the lens in the videos of those years, but invariably someone, often the artist himself, would enter the frame after a few seconds to sit down and address the viewer in a simulated exchange of glances. Parmiggiani’s chair also alludes to a gaze, but it is a gaze of contemplation that does not care for the audience, which we can only imagine as a long time of attention, perhaps of rapture before the ghost of a painting, concluded before the camera, with its load of prosaic present, entered the room to disturb the sacredness of the place. It is thus not only the painting that has vanished, but the observer of its disappearance is also absent. It is a double distance in time then that the framing shows us, a distancing to the second, almost an allegory of that formula that repeatedly emerges in the artist’s work √-2 and seems to express a negative incommensurability, an absence hidden in the depths of an absence. Nonetheless, Parmiggiani describes the video as an “equivalent of ’silence,’” and thus recognizes it as an expression of the possibility of reapproaching mystery, of retracing backward the path of approach to the infinite white enclosed within the edge of soot and dust, an emanation of light to be reached beyond the too crude filter of the camera, beyond the now fully opened curtain-siparium, beyond the chair, beyond the empty center of the print.

Parmiggiani omits a single relevant element in his description of his video to Schwarz. He omits to mention that in the work “silence” is given, paradoxically, through the sound of Bach’s notes. Indeed, the allegro of the C minor Harpsichord Concerto No. 1 accompanies the entire viewing time. Several times Bach emerges in the artist’s words as the composer of perfect music where “there is nothing less and nothing more than there has to be,” but above all in him Parmiggiani recognizes a master: “The best teaching in painting,” says the artist, “I got it from Bach’s music and as a boy during the nights along the starry canals of the Po valley, where the slow water fed the absolute fire.” Bach and the memory of the water of the “starry canals” seem to ideally overlap in the work: to the music Parmiggiani leaves the expression of the flow of time, the flow of the video, the unfolding of a duration, as between the narrow banks of a canal. Were it not for those sounds, the film would appear as nothing more than a projected photograph, but the Harpsichord Concerto reminds us of the flow of time, so suspended in the eternity of the image that it seems to stand still. On that flow, as in the canals at night, the light of a lone star is reflected: the auratic light of a work that is no more, a void dense with the feeling of painting that Parmiggiani lets float for a few minutes on the imperceptible motion of a magnetic tape.

The exhibition opens during GAM’s opening hours: Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday from 1 to 9 p.m. Closed Mondays. The ticket office closes one hour earlier. Admission is free. For info: 011 4429518. Website: www.gamtorino.it.

Image: Claudio Parmiggiani, Delocazione 2 (1970; silver salt photographic print on paper entirely glued to board; Reggio Emilia, Maramotti Collection). Photo by Carlo Vannini

Turin, the only video of Claudio Parmiggiani's career on display at GAM
Turin, the only video of Claudio Parmiggiani's career on display at GAM

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