Positioned on the wall over painted backgrounds, three hollow 3D prints mix the artist’s features with other recognizable objects.
These portraits, that reveal a common reality, provide the image of everyday actions: telephoning, offering, drinking. Each one is made up of a part of D’Aronco’s body that has been laser scanned in 3D, then symmetrically doubled using software: the left cheek becomes the counterpart of the right cheek, the left hand that of the right. This self portrait is then associated with a 3D model that has been downloaded from an online database: fast food goblets intertwined on a face (“sipping head”, 2017), a hand holding a telephone (“the calling”, 2017), the same hand offering a fossil (“the gift (ammonite)”, 2017). The new model, having become autonomous, is thus repeated in an uncanny manner.
In another part of the gallery, a hypothalamus floating in midair. The sculpture is made out of a magnetic resonance of the brain of the artist, who could translate the data, got from the ultrasound scanning, in 3d model. The hypothalamus is an area of the brain where several endocrine glands are located, they regulate a number of physiological functions of our body.
Recent research highlights the preprogrammed behaviour of our actions. It is now possible to measure and situate the exact moment when the decision to act becomes conscious. It intervenes, according to neurobiologist Libet, 345 milliseconds after the triggering of potential readiness. Thus it is the brain alone that decides when to act, independently of the subject’s will. Our actions are thus unconsciously controlled and regulated by an internal element of our own body.
Constantly oscillating, the definitions of the term “Internal Model” resonate throughout the exhibition as reverse images of one another. On one hand, the representation of reality through individual thought; on the other, the technology of automatic command, that has the goal of anticipating and correcting the future behaviour of a system.
Past is a notion that is just as speculative as the future. The ammonite (a pre human object) is one example. It was called snake-stone in the middle ages in Great Britain, where it was imagined to be curled up snake become stone.
Today it is understood to be a prehistoric animal. What meaning will it have in the future? The past is considered to be more concrete and more real than the future through a process of imagining what has already happened. Through conceptual speculation, information is assembled in a more or less conjectural fashion. Ammonite, like the goblet or the telephone has thus become the symbol of these speculations that can be applied to objects. In D’Aronco’s sculptures this timelessness is multiplied and compounded through the use of new technologies and techniques that have come to unsettle and upset the tradition of the self-portrait. The artworks seem to be seeking to defy time and avoid becoming inscribed in time: neither past, nor future, not even present.
The uncanny, along with the breath that seems to escape from it, subsists.
In (eidolon) 3 illustrations for voice, the first significant solo exhibition by Dario D’Aronco at de Vleeshal, Middelburg in 2013, the sculptures found themselves placed on the ground. The expanses of materials (concrete and paint on fabric) left open, allowing themselves to be permeated by another, different matter, invisible but nonetheless present in the exhibition: the voice of vocalist Michiko Hirayama that flowed over the architecture of the space.
3D printing has recently made its appearance in the sculptural practice of Dario D’Aronco, as with the body parts that have been scanned and then reproduced at their actual size, presented here in Galleria Mario Iannelli. This medium brings with it other conceptual and formal implications for the artworks: the printed model is necessarily hollow, existing only as a surface (1).
Perhaps it is the flat form, the bilateral symmetry, the defined dimensions and the growth limited in time and space, perhaps because the sculptures seem to develop surfaces of exchange with the surrounding environment (2); suddenly I see the artworks of Dario D’Aronco as so many leaves.
“Plants are the things that are the most permeable with the environment, in each one of the elements that makes them up: the roots that are plunged into the earth, the stem that seeks the Sun and the water that nourishes it, along with the air, the breath, that passes through the leaves while being, at the same time, produced by them”(3). The leaf records the passage of the world, the air that caresses it, the rain and the sunlight that mark and crease its surface. Like the photographic cylinder (ancestor of the disk) where beeswax was used to record sound, allowing it to be retransmitted, one could consider the plant as a receiver that is impregnated by the matter which surrounds it. The notion of recording runs through the work of Dario D’Aronco and brings with it a number of questions. How can one seize what in essence cannot be grasped? How can the immaterial be shown? In his piece Shell (2016), the artist revealed the contours of his own torso. This milky sculpture functions like a shell that contains its own negative. What information is revealed when the internal becomes external? What portrait is provided to us?
This internal/external duality can be found in recent works. Such as the result of an experiment by neuroscientist Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, who built a mirror box so that patients suffering from phantom limb syndrome could associate the sensations and feelings of their absent limb with the image or reflection of a remaining limb. (4)
In a very similar fashion to this psycho-sensorial illusion, the parts of Dario D’Aronco’s body have been copied and doubled in order to reunite things which belong together, like the left hand with its symmetrical counterpart in The gift (2017).The self portrait suddenly refers to its own double, to the other, to the shadow, to the ghost even: the image that does not exist, that does not belong in our reality while actually being present, generating this feeling inherent to the Uncanny (5)… Are we not being sent off to seek the mysterium tremendum? (6)
The plant organism, this primary form of life, evolved by creating an atmosphere that was composed essentially of oxygen, from which a number of other living elements could then appear. Using them as a basis for observing the world, one can see that living things do not adapt to a preexisting standard but rather that they modify and evolve their surroundings. As a consequence, plants become part of an environment that they are constantly helping to transform. The container is included in the content (and is thus contained by it) and vice versa (7). This model of reciprocal intertwining is what the Ancients had already named the breath, the Pneuma. This term that comes from the Greek term that means breathe, is linked to the psyche, spirit and soul, as in the expression breath of life.
“The primary act of breathing is the innermost movement, form and force”(8). This pneuma connects the different elements of Surface for 5 Female Voices (2014) (9). A note, sung in a continuous breath over several minutes by five women, comes to inscribe its trace on a black painting, impregnating this oily black matter that covers the carpet. This latter takes the shape of a blank canvas stretched over a frame. The women’s voices are layered one upon the other, the visitor is caught up in an organic drone, breathing at the same time as the women. Like them, he finds himself included in the cyclic rhythm of this breathing, he is the content and the container, somewhere between interior and exterior.
“I walk along the beach, along the ocean; the long beach, yesterday opened up to the blue sky, is today grey, covered by a dense fog that has invaded everything. I imagine that this breath, this ambient air that conceals the landscape, infiltrates my very interior. Breathing in that grey air, does my interior change color? Does the color spread itself along my nasal cavity until it reaches my lungs, or do its many rays run though my body?”
This interest for breath that runs through the work of Dario D’Aronco is equally present in the sculpture PNEUMA by Maria Nordman. This protocol based piece is created in a breath, a body produced by two other bodies: “The sculpture (PNEUMA) is created between any two people who choose to produce a concurrently occurring exhalation as they face each other in an open place at a specific chosen distance where the two exhaled bodies of air meet producing an interference of the two groups of sound waves forming a song”(10). In his research Denis Cerclet (11) evokes this element, produced by friction, that occurs between two others. Let us attempt the experience, let us take our two hands, palm to palm, moved towards each other until the heat exchanged between them can be felt. Let us return to the context of the exhibition: a person facing an artwork; between them, invisible matter. Then, two works that face one another in an exhibition space and finally, here, in Galleria Mario Iannelli, three self portraits by Dario D’Aronco.
“The world is united by breath (…) the fact of breathing is not simply a physiological necessity; it is the rhythm and structure of our being in the world. There is no analogy and no univocity between myself and the air that I breathe. And yet breath creates a unity that is both physical and metaphysical. It is the movement that allows the disparate set of things, events and materials that are here to become coherent, to be one”(12).
(1) “One of the reasons that I like 3d printing in relation to the body is that the 3d printed model must be hollow inside. This because it is faster to print and you save material, this technical reason also has conceptual and thus formal implications.” Conversation between the artist and the author, September 2017.
(2) Larousse French Dictionary.
(3) In Emanuele Coccia, La vie des plantes, une métaphysique du mélange. 2016.
(4) “When a person loses an arm or a leg, they may continue to feel muscular pain that is associated with this missing limb. This two-part box with a mirror inside creates for the patient the illusion that the missing limb is still present.” 14th Istanbul Biennial Saltwater Catalogue, 2015
(5) Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny (Das Unheilmliche), 1919
(6) The Numinous is, according to Rudolf Otto and Carl Gustav Jung, that which is grasped by the individual, that which comes from “elsewhere”, giving him the feeling of being dependent on an “all Other”. It is “a feeling of absolute presence, a divine presence. It is both mystery and terror, this is what Otto calls the mysterium tremendum”.
(7) “To breathe, to inhale, means to actually have this experience: what contains us, the air, becomes contained within us and, conversely, what was contained within us becomes what contains us. To breathe means to be immersed in an environment that penetrates us with the same intensity with which we penetrate it. “ in Emanuele Coccia, La vie des plantes, une métaphysique du mélange. 2016.
(8) Conversation between the artist and the author, September 2017.
(9) Presented in the exhibition “Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me”, at the Institut d’art Contemporain in 2015.
(10) Extract from the artwork PNEUMA by Maria Nordman (date unknown).
(11) Anthropologist, lecturer at the Université Lumière – Lyon 2, member of the Centre de recherches et d’études anthropologiques (CREA), within the framework of his research with the laboratory of tribology, the science of rubbing and friction.
(12) Interview between Johan Faerber and Emanuele Coccia, in the online magazine DIACRITIK, May 3rd, 2017.
This exhibition is kindly supported by Mondriaan Fonds