For Your Consideration Only | Fall / Rising | Sophia 19:38
– Published on the occasion of the exhibition at Cemeti Art House. Yogyakarta, Indonesia. (20 November – 14 Desember 2005)
– Text by Robert C. Morgan, Valentina Sansone, Roberto Coda Zabetta, Rifky Effendy, Krisna Murti, Jean Couteau
FILIPPO SCIASCIA: EXPLORING THE DIGITAL WORLD by Jean Couteau
A screen: a woman appears, her image blurring, then turning clear before blurring again. She is compulsively whispering the same repetitive sentence, whose text simultaneously appears on the screen. The text, which comes and goes, is a “philosophical statement” on man’s endeavor in life. As the text continues unfolding and the woman whispering, the screen divides into several sections displaying different scenes; then as the screen is further subdivided, the face of the same woman reappears in multiple minuscule windows. Other women appear, and another reading of the same sentence is proposed. A simple, obsessive music accompanies the whole sequence. And, when the video itself stops, a set of paintings view comes into view, which was produced by the artist on the basis of this video and to illustrate it.
What Filippo Sciascia presents in this work is a highly ambitious endeavor: cinema, painting, music, literature/philosophy, and speech are all brought together in a single video “performance”. Not only are the traditional boundaries between these genres explored, questioned, and even transgressed, but each of the genres, with the exception of music, is itself questioned and “dismantled” in structure or content:
The pictures are sometimes realist, sometimes blurred through the manipulation of pixels; reality is thus relativized. The cinematographic narrative is “cut into pieces” and its order at times reversed—thus losing its meaning. Sound becomes silence, as the obsessive whispering is most of the time voiceless; meaning is thus rendered “meaningless”. The screen is split into as many scenes as deemed necessary, while the content itself, and thus the meaning of the message represented, are manipulated at our convenience, as the name of the performance -”For Your Consideration”- indicates. And the “paintings” that the artist creates out of his video are based not on “reality”, but on the engineered pixel rendition of this reality, relativizing it yet again.
As this short analysis of this video piece demonstrates, Filippo is systematically exploring all the possibilities opened by the recent digitalization of the media—a late 20th century invention. The “formal research” aspect of his work is thus paramount. But this does not mean that the content side is neglected. His innovative approach to “form” through his exploration of the video medium in fact aims at conveying a message as multifaceted as the form.
The core issue that Filippo is raising is a classical issue of the position and condition of being human. His approach is resolutely anthropocentric, after the tradition prevalent in the West: most of the images focus on a human face—that of a whispering woman—or on human actions and statements. Yet, the readings one can make of his presentation of the issue can differ radically according to the context.
First one can take the text that accompanies the video at face value, and read it as a positivist statement. The obsessively repeated sentence, ” We are always trying to do something, or become something or be somebody; and in this having to be somebody we create all our difficulties, because right there the ego comespopping”, then become a call, an invitation to do something, while being wary of one’s ego. This is proposed for “our consideration”, as a matter of realism.
But it is also possible to make an altogether different reading of the same utterance, especially if one frames it in the context of the video imagery where it is inserted. The way the characters behave and utter the script— repetitively, inaudibly, or blandly, as if the meaning was simply “for your consideration”, as the artist puts it,and thus unimportant— suggests an underlying existential questioning, which the artist expresses by baring the inherent ambiguity, and contradiction, of the human condition. As shown in and through the video, humans are both central and marginal, all-powerful and impotent; the choices they make, even when they seem to be decided based on “consideration”, are illusory. In this interpretation, it is not only the individual’s perception of, and hence, power over reality that seems to be I n question, but “reality” itself, whose only truth, perhaps, lies in being an illusion of reality.
Whichever interpretation one chooses, it is obvious that there is no true way to interpret the video. It is for our “consideration”. We can read it as we like: it will always be contingent. In the end Filippo is not only telling us that there is no reality, but also that there is no “truth” in any reality.
One recognizes, in this multi-facetted reading that Filippo is proposing to us, the mark of several influences. Filippo being Italian, the name of the great playwright Pirandello comes to mind with regard to the idea of multifacetted reality. But a more universal existentialist search for meaning pervades his work. It will be interesting to see how he further deepens the treatment of these themes in his future work.
Yet, it is not in the “message” side of his work that Filippo really breaks new ground, but rather in the way he links this message to a novel exploration of “form”, made possible by digital technology. Filippo’s work shows that he senses himself at a crossroads. He has a new instrument, the digital video camera-cum computer, which embodies a new phase of scientific and technical innovation. He grasps that this new instrument should revolutionize artistic creativity—that is, the practical methods that artists use to combine form and content through the available techniques of their day. Then he launches himself in a systematic investigation, in all directions, of the potentials of his media. He sees, in his quest, all the formerly existing barriers between different media and genres breaking down one after another. His work is the dizzying result of this exploration.
Filippo Sciascia is indeed not the first artist, nor, probably, the only one in our times to be enthused by the breaking of new ground. Scientific and technical innovation has always played a paramount role in the evolution of the arts. In the 13th century, it was the rediscovery of Euclidian geometry by the Northern Italians that led to Giotto and the Florentine school of painting: the third dimension of reality—depth—could now be made manifest in the two-dimensional form of painting. From that time onward, the focus of artistic expression changed: symbolism, or any other type of artistic expression, had to be molded into a realistic form. In the 19th century, the discovery of black and white photography by Niepce and Daguerre was no less momentous in its consequences. Invalidating the search for realism in painting, it led first to the exploration of light and color by the expressionists, and then to the systematic “deconstruction” of art (form, subject, media, etc.) now known as modern and contemporary art. The introduction of film at the beginning of the 20th century did not have an immediate influence on the other forms of visual expression, but it impacted greatly on literature, as it multiplied the possibilities of storytelling and rendered verbal description nearly useless. Cinematography became an artistic genre me a genre in itself.
Today, given the opportunity to record, reproduce, “cut and paste”, and thus recombine sounds and images at will, a whole new field of artistic exploration and creation opens before us. Filippo Sciasca is one of the artists pioneering its discovery. May the field he helps to open be a wide and beautiful one.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION ONLY by Krisna Murti
In the discourse on the new media, video-art is often equated with poetry, while cinema is equated with prose. Poetry is the combination of words through the use of metaphors. It is based on an architecture of rimes that jump up like frogs do, and challenge the reader to combine it into meaning while casting away the absolutism of linear narration.
Reading Filippo’s video named “For Your Consideration Only”, we go indeed farther if we use the logic of this word-saving literary genre. Text, images, mimicry, mutterings and even sounds appear and flow. As if he were able to take us in a poetical journey out there, witnessing events from real life. Text -in the form of brand logos, of T shirts words or billboards- or music may [both of them] overflow our pragmatic world, but, in this hands of this Italian artist now living in Bali, “this literature” gets here a new house ready for it: a promising invitation to meditate.
Still and living images
Let begin by watching “Positive” before carrying on with other more poetic video pieces. During the whole length of this video, the scene is set against a blue background. An abstract shape appear and then become increasingly realistic, turning into a female body in the positive. A mode [of representation] derived from celluloid films. The rest of the video is dominated by the still image of the same woman: moving from right to left, closingSeen from a [narrow] cinematographic point of view this scene can appear monotonous. But if seen from the point of view of photographic representation, this still picture that is activated helps us read the details or the context in a way similar to that of the eye looking at this classic media. “Negative” (4’53, 2005) is another example of a video with repetition, but this time it is accompanied by sound.
In this “Negative” video the sound becomes visual, the text becomes rhythm, the image become rhythm: an interesting experience. Filippo modifies the sounds in such a way that they are woven with one another like a mantra, accompanying a woman climbing and then descending stairs. This symbolizes the absurdity of Man’s fate. This poetic-prosaic video calls to mind the absurdity inherent to the mythical hero Sysiphus, who is condemned to carry a stone up and down a mountain.
The most interesting video is “For Your Consideration Only” (10’53’, 2005) and Filippo seems to be aware of this fact, which is why he puts his whole project under this heading. Here, a [narrative] line appears under the shape of a woman and a man muttering words and shouting repetitively. Then appear fragments of a road, of a path, images that succeed one another. A parody about the road [of life] that one has to follow to discover oneself and one’s life goal. So look backward to one’s past road and space of life is one of the possibilities offered by Filippo in this project. This [visual] poesy becomes the concrete reconstruction of Man’s road of life in the form of an accumulation of collective photographic remembrances. It becomes still more dramatic with the combination on the screen of verbal utterances with a written text during the whole length of the scene.
As if the spectators were invited to continuously shift from watching to reading and/or hearing and back in order to appreciate the poesy of the situation. It ends up with a [sudden] mute sequence. This interruption [can be construed] as an artistic trick ploy: the words uttered by the human character are suppressed digitally [while the character continues speaking]. This mute sequence shifts one’s attention from a literal to a poetic interpretation of the scene. A spiritual experience similar to that found in Haiku Japanese minimalist poetry.
In this project, Filippo constantly reshapes images, texts, muttering and sounds – a logical consequence of the multiplicative possibilities opened by the technique of video editing. But this is a matter of technique only.
What takes place in Filippo’s works is that the signifier is let appear on its own or in juxtaposition [with the signified?], which incites the spectators to play at the level of information, knowledge and experience, before unconsciously entering the experience broadening phase – what we call in the language of old that of the magical archetypes (rupal dan rajah). Now, this technique is daily used in the video produced for advertising purposes.
The visual poetry genre harks back to the Dada days, the ideology which destroyed the myth of the “greatness of civilization” that existed at the time of the First World War, and ended up in the Holocaust. At the time when rhetoric created chaos, Man Ray, Hugo Ball and their friends in Europe freed the words from meaning. The falseness embedded in the formality of words was deconstructed: the form became meaning. The poesy thus does not have to simply consist of words in their literal sense, it can also be made of images.
In Indonesia a similar movement occurred in the 1970s, and involved poets (concrete poesy) and visual artists (free poesy).
Aesthetics is something commonly found around us, but it regretfully remains hidden in the coffers of capitalism.
The corporate culture grows wildly and infiltrates itself in the reproductive machines called video, television, internet etc.
In such a cultural map, Filippo does not first appears as someone in revolt, because he too uses these media to convey his private experience. Filippo’s faithfulness toward “meaning” is still present even though he enters the field of visual poesy such as pioneered by the French poet Guillaume Appollinaire at the beginning of the 20th century. In his project, meaning is conveyed in a personal way to touch the individual’s heart, and it is presented as a small narrative far away from the pretense of universalisation. Paradoxically, the fact that he is the produce of the generation of information technology frees him from the constraints of territoriality and of localized historiography. For this reason, he escapes the curse of “alien artists” who have to bear the burden of exoticization and romantization of their new surrounding, as happened to his [foreign] predecessors.
FILIPPO SCIASCIA: IMITATING THE MECHANISM OF THE MIND
Video still from ‘Fall / Rising’
You know, I am, sure, the history of poetry. It started, long ago, with narratives of myth and heroic deeds. Then rhythm took over, and with rhythm came the meter of verse. Verse was displaced by the shock of words.
Later still it was the sounds of the words themselves that stood out until eventually, only the shock of the sounds remained and soon, only the look of letters. The medium became the message – alongside the story, if any, and alongside the words, if any.
Filippo Sciascia is doing with video and still images what poets have done with words. Images in his work may “represent” something, and they may even tell a story, and thus be a medium, but they also, as he constructs and deconstructs and reconstructs them, become the message itself.
As his images follow one another in staccato succession, or smoothly melt one into the other, what the eye catches is here a symbol, there an event: here the image of a woman that belongs to someone’s obsessive unconscious world, there some aspect of reality – a car or a cityscape – that is obsessively present in this world. On has the impression that all boundaries are being transgressed: those of form, those of content, those of narrative, ideas and emotions, and even those of poetry, rendered suddenly and essentially visual …
Filippo Sciasca latest series of artworks, half video-art, half paintings based on this video-art, is the latest moment in the artist’s quest to reinvent the visual media of expression.
Outwardly, much of Filippo’s attention is given to the exploration of form. He does not simply “shoot” and then combine images to tell a story or suggest an impression, but literally “recreates” these images – blurring them, darkening them, reversing their “natural” unfolding order, so as to make them stand out, not only as the vehicle of an immediate message, but as a means to question the message itself, and thus suggest the existence of a “second-degree” message.
For example, in one of the scenes of “Fall and Rising”, a whirling form turns out to represent a man riding a bull during a rodeo event, and then after this whirling is successively accelerated and reversed under the sound of an obsessive music, it becomes obvious that the real “topic” of the scene is not the rodeo, but the notion of “beginning and ending” or, in the artist’s terminology, “rising and falling”. The forms thus become the instrument of the message, not directly, as in ordinary art, but through its own deconstruction.
Filippo makes and reads his art with a definite “meaning” in mind. The present series, as he sees it, is a metaphor of the endless process of “Rise and Fall”, the striving for the first and the unavoidability of the second.
A musing on Man’s fate. “Musing”, because Filippo’s message is formulated in such a way that it does not stand as a structured message, but as rather as loosely woven sets of “impressions”. Although he successively constructs and deconstructs images as if at will, with a tight control over his visual means of creative expression, the end result stands out less as something to be understood as ideas than as something to be felt as emotions
– emotions that may be vague but are all the more overwhelming, and in the end, more real because of their very volatility.
Why more real? Because psychological reality, as a world of images and impressions, is incoherent; it inhabits our minds in a way very similar to the way Filippo creates his video images.
However we endeavor to organize it, it always ends up following a logic of emotions rather than ideas. In the end, in spite of his insertion of the message of Rise and Fall, what Filippo is actually trying to represent through his manipulation of form, is no less than the very process of “psychological” construction-and-deconstruction of images and ideas that continuously occurs in the mind, which is also a Rise and Fall process.
All three episodes of “Rise and Fall” illustrate this process. The fi rst is organized around the image of several haunting, at times spooky, female faces, which appear and disappear, swallowed by darkness or vanishing into a blur. One sees someone trying to close a circle. Cars swerve on an unreal road, while yet another woman’s face surges forward and back. Is it the lasting resilience of an always renewed past Filippo is musing about? Or the rise and fall of love and desire? Perhaps both. The second looks more linear: it shows a failed rescue attempt by helicopter over the sea, but at a closer look, the scene is all about attempts and failures – the Sisyphean nature of human fate. The third consists of the rodeo imagery described above, a man riding a bull before being dismounted, yet another Sisyphean experience.
Yet, Filippo’s video scenes are only one aspect of his work. He also transfers onto canvas, selected moments from the videos, which he then turns into paintings. So the transient and ephemeral in the video become a lasting presence as painting. As if what were now represented were objects instead of moments of visual emotion
– Although these “objects” do not refer to any physical reality, but to the unreal reality of images. Everything is thus turned upside down.
Filippo has in his hands a magnificent tool: digital video. While exploring the formal limits of visual expression made possible through the versatility of digitalization, he is also discovering a new way to formulate content and thus, to give meaning too, by using video to imitate the mechanism of the mind. Scenes or atmospheres recur obsessively with apparent incoherence, the images seem to rush disorderly, but in the end, like in the mind, they are driven by a undertow movement of unity, that of the self. Filippo is doing with video what the American Expressionist artists did with painting. Their works seemed void of meaning and “senseless”, yet they denuded the very structure of their makers’ personalities. So, in fact, behind the disorderly images and emotions of Filippo’s videos and paintings, it is the artist’s “Rise and Fall” we see unfolding.
“The dead are not cremated, they are left in the cemetery to be devoured by
vultures” He, today, is in quest of this as well.
Something very deep, something much more constructive; it isn’t easy to understand, and even he may not know just what it is, but it is something strong, and commanding.
His true exploration begins and ends in his studio, as if it were a prayer necessary or the future…and it’s not his future I’m talking about, but ours.
This work isn’t commercial, it isn’t even very easy to sell, but it is meditatative and genuine, it reflects with total simplicity what we are and what we will be.
Beauty is necessary if we are to remain attuned! These paintings sweep you away with their flights of fancy. Is that the problem, perhaps, the reason we don’t dare hang one of his pieces in our nice, cozy homes?
There’s one thing I can say for sure: this is a kind of painting that inspires deep meditation, leaving little room to imagination.
And maybe, due to the way things are going today, we don’t like to pause for a minute, especially if it is to make time for intense reflection.
What matters is understanding and accepting that a new language exists here, one made up of simple experiences and elaborate mental manipulations; in part because, whether we like it or not, it is through these works that all of us, some day, will have to pass.
And on that day, the vultures will be there waiting for us.
“I morti non vengono cremati,ma lasciati nel cimitero e divorati dagli avvoltoi”
Lui oggi e’ alla ricerca anche di questo. Qualcosa di molto profondo, di molto piu’ costruttivo, non e’ facile capire cos’e’ e forse non lo sa nemmeno bene lui, ma e’ forte e imponente.
La sua vera indagine inizia e finisce nel suo studio, come se fosse una preghiera necessaria per il futuro…e non e’ del suo futuro che sto parlando,
ma del nostro. Non sono commerciali, non sono neanche troppo vendibili, ma sono riflessive e vere queste opere, rispecchiano con una assoluta facilita’ quello che noi siamo e saremo.
La bellezza e’ necessaria per rimanere piu’ sensibili!
Ti porta via questa pittura, piena di fantasie. E’ forse questo il problema per il quale noi non osiamo appendere una sua opera nelle nostre case, cosi’ carine e ospitali? Di una cosa sono sicuro: e’ una pittura che fa meditare a fondo e lascia poco spazio all’immaginazione. Forse, proprio per come stanno andando oggi le cose, noi non amiamo fermarci, specialmente se questo e’ per lasciare tempo ad una intensa riflessione. Cio’ che conta e’ capire e accettare che esiste un linguaggio nuovo, fatto di semplici esperienze e di elaborate manipolazioni mentali, anche perche’, che ci piaccia o no, e’ da quelle opere che noi tutti un giorno passeremo. Quel giorno,gli avvoltoi saranno li’ ad attenderci.
Sjawal. (London, 15 Juni 2006)
Roberto Coda Zabetta
VIDEO <> PAINTING
At a first glance, Filippo Sciascia’s paintings look like a film’s final scene.
Video still on the protagonist’s close up, then the detail: the eye fixes the video cam and regulates the rhythm with his eyelashes movement. The end.
Sciascia’s works really remind us of an old film by Polanski. Through the video camera, you had the illusion to come through the subject’s mind, a young Catherine Deneuve going mad.
On the artist’s recent canvases and in the videos, in fact, the video camera represents the means to look, over the image, subject’s thoughts, and an eye, the head; they become the centre of the work and the hole in which
you need to dive, in order to make the memories and dreams surface. There is a consequential relationship between the video image and the painted forms, coming directly from the DVD; this kind of relationship is based
on the viewer’s role of the video camera, what it symbolizes: it is a clear eye analyzing and interacting with subjects. Looking at the object, our neurons transform in few seconds what we are looking at from a simple data, perceptible through our senses, in electricity, starting an exclusive visual process.
The mean is technical -and exact, as the human eye-, giving the stimulus which, going to the brain, let us work out and codify reality through a personal reading code.
Only successively, through the video still, subjects are painted, they become video-paintings. The technique, between ancient and modern, tradition and innovation, between a photos album and video, represent an original way in this search listing, documenting and reminding, starting from biology and coming just before perception theories.
The artist analyzes the viewer’s role revealing the relativity of his position, and shows the analogies between man and the machine: there’s no more only one subject, but it becomes a necessary binomial. The subject exists because of its viewer, an eye looking at it. Work’s identity suddendly is mixed up with the viewer’s one, this is the result of the research.
Bordering with Realism, Filippo Sciascia’s painting surprises: once he obtains high definition images, reproductions of reality, then intense blue and red colors cover them, disguising them, slowing down reality perception and favouring a process giving altered images back, as observed from an artificial dimension. The video and video-paintings focus on her face, and on her head. The head is the centre of our senses, here the brain stays, it is the place of the visual and cerebral stimulus, where neurons and grey matter, nerves and cells take place; but the head, is also origin, the beginning of our senses and, as Sciascia writes: “point of observation of ourselves and of the others, and there we try to understand life itself, stopping or set thoughts free, and mixing images with it through the eyes, painting itself, the face the head the thought.”