A Sea change.
Revolutions often sprout from disasters. An apocalypse is defined as a disclosure or revelation of great knowledge. In religious and occult concepts, it usually discloses something very important that was hidden or provides – ‘A vision of heavenly secrets that can make sense of earthly realities.’ i
Revolutions are in turn the rise of ideas into concrete form - gestures, actions and reactions. History is recorded and defined, as a constant stream of ideas, explorations and evolutions. Art a sequence of revolutions in human thought - constantly extending the limits of our knowledge systems, paradigms and understandings of reality. The anthropocene is currently forcing a revolution in human thought, regarding our understanding of our environment. ‘Advances in science are now underscoring how “enmeshed” we are with other beings – from microbes that account for roughly half the cells in our bodies, to our reliance for survival on the Earth’s electromagnetic heat shield.’ ii Energy – movement – shifts – fault lines – earthquakes - ruptures like volcanoes – protruding like a hole in the earth’s crust, through which lava, volcanic ash and gases escape, shifting pressure or change moving through the surface.
Lucio Fontana is most famous for his Tapi or holes. Made after WWII they are often read as responses to these disastrous wartime years or nuclear Armageddon. Revolutions made in response to disaster and the confines of painting. Tears, fissures, gaps and slots became expressive mutilations. There’s a 1947 photograph of the artist visiting the ruins of his studio in Milan, where bombs have torn open the building as if it was his own work. In fact, his vision was actually to open up tiny windows on to an endless beyond ‘My holes are the indication of Nothingness, of Void’. iii In his ceramics, he was influenced by, organic forms. Echoing into DISASTROUS FORMS’ own coral obsessions with these beautiful but currently threatened ancient subterranean ecosystems. These strange marine invertebrates having a simple, radially symmetrical body with a single opening that serves as both a mouth and anus. Fontana’s ceramic collection of sea critters were both abstract and realistic; there are biological forms, but at the same time, abstracted human forms - a squid melting into a puddle of water, an algae-green octopus unwinding on a rock, and a blue Medusa’s head sprouting with snakes. Almost kitsch they recall tourist souvenirs sold in Amalfi. Fontana likened his Tapi to the unfathomable universe: ‘Einstein’s discovery of the cosmos is of the dimension of the infinite, without end. . . When I puncture, Infinity passes there, light passes, there’s no need to paint . . . Everyone thought I wanted to destroy, but it’s not true, I’ve created’. iv He also over time, likened the openings to Christ’s wounds, orifices, ruptures, explorations of space and light.
Revolving and operating in the fields of loop quantum gravity, quantum physicist, Lee Smolin continues the argument against the vision of Earth as a living island alone in a dead universe, thirty years after Sputnik and the space revolutions of the 1960’s. In 1997 he highlighted the role of stars as the source of light and energy, and the Earth as part of a mobile solar system participating in the greater galactic movement. In 2005 physicist John Clark pointed to the incursions of Near Earth Objects, solar radiation, meteorites and meteor showers, the electromagnetic phenomena of the northern and southern lights, the tidal effects of the Moon, and the estimated 40,000 tons of cosmic dust which falls to Earth each year, as evidence of ‘earth as an open system in interchange with a dynamic cosmos.’ v Lovelock’s vision of Earth as a self-regulating feedback system was foundational in the emergence of Earth Systems Science as a discipline (Lovbrand et al. 2009).
Space can thus no longer be construed as an absolute container, but as a spacetime manifold that is radically in the Universe, of it rather than ontologically outside it. Spacetime turns from a grid-like box into what Einstein fantastically calls a “reference-mollusk.” ‘Einstein turns to the most squishy thing he can imagine. But I rather think we should bring back the mollusks. Hyperobjects are not infinitesimally small … thus they have Gaussian coordinates rather than Euclidean ones. Hyperobjects are time-squished. To this extent H. P. Lovecraft’s monstrous god Cthulhu is a hyperobject, a giant squid-like being floating asleep in a non-Euclidean realm out there in the Universe. Our ecological devastation has summoned these Cthulhu-like hyperobjects to terrorize us… I’m happy to swap a world of wholes and parts and distances for intimacy. I’m happy to swap knowing exactly what I’m doing and why for a more democratic argument among all beings as to what should be done. I’m happy for a time of zero landscape.’ vi
While the human brain infinitely tries to harness its own symbiosis and the zeroing of landscape as an-other, the boundaries of Spaceship Earth have long been breached by human activities. As well as satellites in Earth orbit, spacecraft orbit the Moon, Sun, Venus, Mars and several other celestial bodies; there are landing sites on the Moon, Mars, Venus, Titan, asteroids, and comets, and four spacecraft in the region of the heliopause, where the solar wind meets interstellar space. Earth’s orbit remains the densest in artifacts. According to figures from NASA, there have been more than 4,600 rockets launched since 1957. The fragmentation of these objects, from collisions with other bits of space junk, and detonation, has resulted in more than 21,000 objects that are larger than 10 cm. The estimated amount of particles between 1 and 10 cm in diameter is approximately 500,000, while those smaller than 1 cm exceed 100 million. Together, this material is estimated to weigh 6,000 tons, equivalent to 1,000 elephants.
‘We have entered the Space Age. Mankind has measured the distances between planets and has sought to conquer them… (He) has engaged humanity in search for the impossible’. vii The objects from Lucio Fontana’s Nature series resemble meteorites, fallen down to earth after a journey through space. All is represented by nothing, absence is a reality or lack of understanding, it is a hole, a cut in the mind’s possibilities. “A butterfly in flight stimulates my imagination. By freeing myself from discourse, I loose myself in time and I start making holes”. Holes in reality. It’s hard not to think of Chuang Tse here (“Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man”. viii
In 1949, Fontana created a pivotal installation that anticipated major conceptual movements, including Light & Space, Op Art, and Minimalism. The exhibition begins with Fontana’s first spatial work, Ambiente spaziale a luce nera (Spatial Environment in Black Light, 1949), this pitch-black room, illuminated by Wood’s lamps emitting black light, contains sculptural papier-mâché forms painted in brilliant fluorescent colours and suspended from the ceiling. The installation seeks to disorient the viewer, who by walking under and around the forms in the darkness experiences a sense of teetering between the infinite and finite. Influenced by aerospace discoveries of the time and Fontana’s own interest in science, the work’s aesthetic impact is otherworldly and prescient for its conceptual underpinnings. The artwork evades the categorisation of “object” by bringing form to the formless and awakening visitors to a multi-sensory art experience. With this first work, Fontana realises the key points outlined in his Manifesto Spaziale (Spatialist Manifesto), a formative postwar text calling for the convergence of art and technology to discover new forms. By abolishing the constraints of conventional mediums, this environment embodies Fontana’s vision outlined in the Manifesto: ‘…with the resources of modern technology, we will make appear in the sky: artificial forms, rainbows of wonder, luminous writings. ix
«Television Manifesto of the Spatial Movement»
For the first time throughout the world, we Spatialists are using television to transmit our new forms of art based on the concepts of space, to be understood from two points of view:
the first concerns spaces that were once considered mysterious but that are now known and explored, and that we therefore use as plastic material:
the second concerns the still unknown spaces of the cosmos - spaces to which we address ourselves as data of intuition and mystery, the typical data of art as divination.
For us, television is a means that we have been waiting for to give completeness to our concepts. We are happy that this Spatial manifestation of ours is being transmitted from Italy - a manifestation destined to renew the fields of art.
It is true that art is eternal, but it was always tied down to matter, whereas we want it to be freed from matter.
Through space, we want it to be able to last a millennium even for a transmission of only a minute.
Out artistic expressions multiply the lines of the horizon to the infinite and in infinite dimensions. They are a research for an aesthetic in which a painting is no longer painted, a sculpture no longer sculpted, and in which the written page leaves behind its typographical form.
We Spatialists feel ourselves to be the artists of today, since the conquests of techn ology are by now at the service of the art we profess.
AMBROSINI, BURRI, CRIPPA, DELUIGI, DE TOFFOLI, DOVA, DONATI, FONTANA, GIANCAROZZI, GUIDI, JOPPOLO, LA REGINA, MILENA MILANI, MORUCCHIO, PEVERELLI, TANCREDI, VIANELLO.
Milan, May 17, l952
Source: This manifesto was distributed during a television broadcast by Lucio Fontana, he was not able to read it.[x]
Lucio Fontana was affiliated with the post war German group ZERO. Founder Otto Peine’s efforts to overcome the strict boundaries of painting and bring attention to the dissolution of art’s borders by implementing elementary powers culminated in the late 1960s. Piene developed his so-called “Sky Art Events”. Beginning in 1968, he created “air sculptures” from the works with floating light objects and filled balloons he’d already made in the context of ZERO; he let these works— including his monumental rainbow for the closing ceremonies of the 1972 Olympics in Munich—float over buildings, stadiums, and urban areas worldwide. It’s particularly these ephemeral, transitory projects that can be considered signs for the particular connection to nature and early ecological awareness. They best embody the open concept of art that would find its echo in the contemporary positions that followed, for instance Olafur Eliasson, Carsten Höller, and Tomás Saraceno
At the Neue Nationalgalerie July 17 – August 31, 2014, in the hours between 10 pm and 3 am, falling somewhere between Nancy Holt’s sun tunnels and Yayoi Kusama’s reflective rooms of the same decade, The Proliferation of the Sun harnesses cosmic forces for expanded cinema. Projected onto several floor-to-ceiling screens as well as a huge sphere, the imagery filled the glass-encased ground floor of the Neue Nationalgalerie. It was like swimming in a petri dish among atomic-green and neon-pink amoebas, or floating in deep space among glowing planets. The projected images take over the space in a radical way and stand for an optimistic attitude toward life that speak to the politics of the time. As a German soldier Peine, became fascinated by the glowing lines of searchlights and artillery fire in the night. The term “proliferati” comes from the age of atomic weapons and the so-called “Non-Proliferation-Treaties” that negotiated the restriction of nuclear warheads. Instead of spreading lethal destructive power, Piene unleashed abstract, decidedly peaceful visual worlds into the open space.
The Proliferation of the Sun, provided an entirely new experience of image and space at the time. The artistic work was driven by the appearance of the Kodak carousel slide projector in 1964, which made a rapid alternation of slides and their continuous projection in an unending loop possible for the first time. In the 1,120 hand-painted glass slides that Piene made, he once again combined the open circular form of his early smoke and fire paintings with the luminous brilliance of rainbow colours. While employing elemental forces—light, heat, and colour—in his art, Piene also embraced technology, creating kinetic works and gigantic inflatable “air sculptures.” Three of the latter—in the shape of comets—were restaged by night, on the roof of the Neue Nationalgalerie. Otto Peine passed away in the Taxi after installing this long dreamed of sky work and retrospective. Projected into the space, the forms distantly recall stars or planets. Piene himself has called his work a “poetic journey through space”.
[i] Bart D. Ehrman
[ii] Timothy Morton, Dark Ecology: For a Future Co-exsistence, Columbia University Press, 2018
[iii] Ariella Budick, Lucio Fontana in New York: The Maestro of Mutilation, Financial Times. 2019
[iv] Ariella Budick, Lucio Fontana in New York: The Maestro of Mutilation, Financial Times. 2019
[vi] Timothy Morton, Zero Landscapes in the Time of Hyperobjects, Graz Architectural Magazine.2011
[vii] The (W)hole art of Lucio Fontana at the MAMVP, Art Life Magazine, 2014
[viii] The (W)hole art of Lucio Fontana at the MAMVP, Art Life Magazine, 2014
[ix] Lucio Fontana, Television Manifesto of the Spatial Movement, 1952
[x] Lucio Fontana, Television Manifesto of the Spatial Movement, 1952