Genoa, now. Looking for words to not get lost, in an attempt not to be overwhelmed, I need silence, calm, to cope with a feeling of loss, difficulty, I miss the air. Genoa, now. A sense of impotence close to paralysis, I would like to try to find the way to accept the unacceptable. Accepting not as a surrender to fate, neither to mine, nor to that of others, but accepting that the unpredictable, the unexpected, is what happens continuously in our lives. I believe that the public word, now ever more violent, does nothing but move the discourse, has no other result than to divert us from this awareness, to provoke other wounds. The causes will have to be understood, but the promise that everything will be resolved in a very short time risks to feed the deception. We know that nothing will be like before, and nothing has to be like before. It is necessary to measure ourselves with this condition, in Genoa and elsewhere, and perhaps the awareness of our own and others’ fragility can turn into a strength, not a muscular one but one which implies taking care.
In silence, in the eyes, in words, in gestures, the field of action within reach is wider than we can imagine.
I need not lose contact with my vulnerability and that of those I meet, with chance, mistakes; talk less, listen more. On that bridge that has come down, many people have lost their lives, this is an inexorable fact, but I think it’s clear to everyone that we could have been on that bridge.
This watershed marks a radical difference, they are gone, we are here. We are what remains, we are the ones we remain. It is a fortune but above all a call to responsibility. Genoa, 19.8.2018.
I wonder every day what it means to take care and listen, and I think it’s very easy to say, not always easy to do. It is a practice that, like all practices, excludes any goal that is not to continue to practice. I am aware that my range of action is limited but I know that every glance, every gesture, can acquire meaning. I am not able to design special actions, no striking gesture. I think of the endless sea of possibilities that the daily offers to open the eyes, look around. Starting from the self, the strongest legacy of Feminism.
I can not say what and how artists should do today, how they should act politically and where.
Just over a century ago, the German artist Hugo Ball, arrived in Zurich after being at the front in 1914, wrote: ‘language was deeply discredited due to its use as propaganda that “justified” war. The journalistic and political abuses of language meant that “The word has been abandoned; it used to dwell among us. The word has become commodity … [and] has lost all dignity. I believe that language must be dismantled and rebuilt again‘ (T. J. Demos, 2003); moreover, among the artists dada Huelsenbeck described the art of that time as “a fraudulent security valve” and “a compensatory phenomenon”. And today?
I have never given a task to art and even if I have a vision that is anything but neutral, I would never want it to become the right one.
Starting from the current reality, the assimilation by the institutions of critical instances is not new. Rosalind Krauss, in The Cultural Logic of the Late Capitalistic Museum, 1990, describes the change in museums produced by the spread of the logic of the market and their transformation into a space designed for the leisure industry. Almost thirty years have passed since then and this process has expanded on a global scale. What to do?
Despite everything, I still believe in art and the function of museums, though with many distinctions. Two examples: the recent anthological exhibition by Adrian Piper at the MoMA in New York (2018) traced the path of a life and made visible its radical brought.
The same is true of Zoe Leonard, who for ten years has worked as an activist in the battle against AIDS: in the same period there was a retrospective of her work at the Whitney Museum, also in New York. These museums have put in place a precise choice: there are two cases, I could give other examples, but here I would like to underline that what unites the paths of these two artists is the poetic and political view, starting from the self, again.
Emanuela De Cecco
translated from Italian by Alessio Mazzaro