Shallowness of the green


The art deserts and searches for new territory, leaving the old criteria, still surviving, to govern in a plain in the process of erosion. Leo Steinberg

A wooden panel with a 260×400 cm surface, horizontal to the floor and suspended to a few centimeters from the ground, is totally covered by three sheets of white paper with a plotter printing, light and delicate. The graphic consists of a thin track of three different colors lines but almost imperceptible that, originated from the same point outside of the sheet, and therefore invisible, winds to cover the entire white surface. Over the image, some ceramic sockets of various shapes and of three different colors are placed in the lines of junction points that, branching, fill the plane with possible paths.

Sistema di arrampicamento is an installation made by Ludovico Bomben and Marina Ferretti in 2012 [1]. The work arises from reflection of the two artists on the branching process of the plants that occurs when the main stem of the trunk is divided into a number of branches, process which continues to the achievement of a minimum size branches. “The growth rule says: the branch that follows is always thinner of the branch ahead” [2]. Some trees branch into two branches, but there are others that branch into a larger number, such as oleander or aucuba. The branching process is never perfect, the distances and times change, and because of the weather, the branches can not climb vertically, but grow crooked, stretching horizontally or falling down; in any case, however, the development process is always recognizable.

The first detailed studies on the growth systems of plants date back to the researches conducted by Theophrastus (371-287 BC), greek philosopher and botanist, father of taxonomy. Scholar of plant morphology, Theophrastus led several cross-searches to understand the similarities and differences in the development between the world of the animals and of the plants. If animals have a form that presupposes a center, the plants, however, have a form apparently lacking any central organization: are complex and modular organisms, with continued growth, branching and decomposable into similar sub-units, the Phytomer, whose first structural unit is played endlessly, always identical to itself. This natural properties, called self-similarity, is typical of the fractal, a geometric object that is repeated in its structure always in the same way and that, on different scales, always has the same appearance. The natural world produces endless fractal shapes in the trees, like spruce or the plane trees; in the leaves, such as the fern, but also with the clouds, in ice crystals, in geomorphological profiles of the mountains, in certain vegetables such as cabbage and in some animal organisms such as the sponge. By analyzing a small part of their structure this will be, in the form, similar if not identical to the structure itself. The self-similarity model may also be realized graphically by man, through mathematical calculations.

Sistema di arrampicamento is then the moving on a flat horizontal surface of a vertical branching process, obtained with axiom mathematical operations (++++ F), substitution (F = FF – [- F + F + F] + [+ FFF]), reduction (9/10), angle (22.5°).


Sistema di arrampicamento, detail, Nuovo Spazio di Casso, courtesy gli artisti e Dolomiti Contemporanee, foto Giacomo De Donà


Sistema di arrampicamento, detail, Nuovo Spazio di Casso, courtesy gli artisti e Dolomiti Contemporanee, foto Giacomo De Donà


Sistema di arrampicamento, detail, Nuovo Spazio di Casso, courtesy gli artisti e Dolomiti Contemporanee, foto Giacomo De Donà

The work is a stylized transposition of a graphic image of a real natural process. The plan, installed on the ground with a rotation of 90°, not only communicates a new way of the artist’s act in relation to the support, but undermines two basic parameters of the perception of a work on the wall: the observer’s frontal position respect to the work and the guidance of his gaze. Starting from the initial study of the plant development processes and from mathematics operations of growth, the rotation of the plane, with its displacement to the ground, opens the work at different reading levels: from a study on the plant world to a graphic pattern, path of climbing, mapping, conceptual path. A palimpsest work, a view from above. Also, because the path has not been studied according to actual practicability criteria, but rather as reasoning, it is an emblem of an open work [3] that, ideally, expands beyond the perimeter of the support. The traced lines, articulated like the roots of a rhizome, continue indefinitely and, escaping from the edge of the limits, suggest a relationship with the surroundings.

In 1972, Leo Steinberg introduces the concept of platform, a painted surface capable of building a new way of representing the world. “What I have called platform is more than a specification of the surface, if we understand that the change introduced in the field of painting has changed the relationship between the artist and the image, between the image and the observer” [4]. In the collection of essays Other criteria [5] the author traces the history of painting by identifying in the 50s a critical watershed. Originally the painting was articulated as a true representation of the world in relation to man. Placed on the stand, the artist reproduced what he observed in front of him or his representation. An observer, in a frontal position to the work, found a direct correspondence in the image compared to its verticality: the upper part of the painting was aligned with his look, the verticality of the work meant that the “framework captured the natural world and real visual fields, evoking sensory data that are experienced in the normal upright position” [6]. Since the ’50s, however, the impatience felt by the artists to the limits of the support pushed them to seek new stylistic mechanisms. The cuts of Lucio Fontana, for example, or the drippings of Jackson Pollock are emblems of this new relationship between the artist and the media and, therefore, between this and the viewer. Pollock, in particular, by placing the canvas on the floor and dripping the color from above creates a space without a frame that undermines the very concept of centrality.

In his paintings “the hanks consisting of pure lines […], could weaken the objective of defining an object by describing its contours” [7]. The lines, tangled on themselves, prevented the formation of real figures. At the end of the ’60s Robert Morris remarked that Pollock had opened his own work under the conditions of gravity. If all the art before had been an effort to maintain the verticality of his materials, stretching his canvases on the floor Pollock gave the gravity to the work, opening the way to the Anti-form: a mode of action opposite to the idea of a true representation of the world and where the traces on the media indicate a horizontal act that disrupts the verticality of the work and its actual set as an image.

In Sistema di arrampicamento there is no concept of centrality. The plan, placed in the middle of the room and not flush with the orthogonality of the walls, does not have a vantage point to observe. The spectator, by walking around, can choose a personal point of view and give a personal interpretation. Sistema di arrampicamento is a fragment in which the natural world appears in a stylized manner in the work of art and into an exhibition space. The traces, far from suggesting the three-dimensionality of the support, emphasize the flatness of the surface, its two-dimensionality.

[1] L’opera è stata realizzata per la mostra Bilico nel Nuovo Spazio di Casso (Pn), a cura di Gianluca D’Incà Levis per il progetto Dolomiti Contemporanee.
[2] Bruno Munari, Disegnare un albero, Edizoni Corraini, Verona 1978, p. 86
[3] Umberto Eco, Opera Aperta, Bompiani, Milano 1962
[4] Leo Steinberg, Neodada e pop: il paradigma del pianale, in G. Di Giacomo, C. Zambianchi (a cura di), Alle origini dell’opera d’arte contemporanea, Edizioni Laterza, Roma – Bari 2008, p. 138
[5] Leo Steinberg, Other criteria. Confrontations with Twentieth – Century Art, Oxford University Press, New York 1972
[6] Leo Steinberg in G. Di Giacomo, C. Zambianchi (a cura di), 2008, p. 130
[7] Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, in Grazioli Elio (a cura di), Arte dal 1900. Modernismo, Antimodernismo, Postmodernismo, Edizioni Zanichelli, Bologna 2006, p. 357

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Michela Lupieri

laureata in Arti Visive allo IUAV di Venezia ha una specializzazione in arte contemporanea e pratica curatoriale. Dal 2011 è curatrice di Trial Version, progetto che ha contribuito a fondare insieme a un gruppo di professionisti del settore. Lavora come curatrice e critica.

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