Bartleby, Melville's mild-mannered, pale and emaciated scribe, is that man without reference, possessions or distinction, who silently, passively and fearlessly resists the demands of the lawman for whom he works. He is a “pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn" figure, but with a "fluty" voice who, through the continuously pronounced Formula I would prefer not to, triggers a mechanism of enigmatic suspension in the novel between being and not being, between words and actions, between the sensible and the intelligible, making the language and the characters fluctuate in a swirling and silent void: a suspension, conceived as a condition of pure power, on the limes of the becoming of all possibilities, which recalls that of the skeptical philosophers.
The works of the five artists chosen for A Bartleby, a group exhibition on show from 25 September at the Alberta Pane Gallery in Venice, embody these suggestions, as they are essentially liminal in terms of techniques, concepts and forms.
Installation or photography? Canvas or performance? Sculpture or wall-mounted work? The visitor is perpetually challenged and stimulated to investigate the contingent nature of what he or she is observing, which also finds its premises precisely in this apparent un-detectability.
Marie Denis's vegetal works fix the transitory condition of the natural element: between past and future, enclosed by glass or boxes, a sensitive and poetic universe is made everlasting and, at the same time, seems to exist only for the here and now. Placed on the ground or hung on the wall, her works (sculptures, installations, éstampes on paper and works on glass) weave a continuous and ever-renewed dialogue with the space and the viewer.
The role of the viewer is also essential to the works of Igor Eškinja, a Croatian artist who constructs his artistic vision in the narrow meeting point between materiality and immateriality, between two-dimensionality and the third dimension, in the tension between plurality and emptiness, in a challenge to the limits and possibilities of perception.
Installations made of ephemeral materials are juxtaposed to their representation in photographic form, in an alienating game of realities, in which emptiness is often a substantial element.
Silence and stillness characterize the environments painted on canvas by Léonard Martin: the scenography elements represented, seemingly inert and static actually embody the possibilities of a past history and, at the same time, those of an experience that has not yet taken place. Giant mobile sculptures, which like contemporary marionnettes bring the history and art of the past into the present, often accompany the artist's works as installations or videos. Between sculpture and performance, between stillness and movement, between video and installation, Léonard Martin's works thus reveal a timeless narrative that flows in osmosis between mediums and ages.
In addition to their dual nature as a performative and pictorial act, Davide Sgambaro's artworks in the exhibition visually echo the words of Melville's writing in his ironic, yet desolate, observation of the precarious condition of the contemporary human being. In his works, the artist uses different media to address society's fears, inadequacies and beliefs.
It is precisely the social environment and that of intimacy, the outside and the inside, the absence, which is actually a strong presence, that are the tracks on which Lucia Veronesi's artistic practice moves, in a perpetual state of becoming, in which the accumulation of techniques and materials conceals, modifies and reveals, as in the case of the Lonely Heart series on show.
If Bartebly, in his existential condition of absurd im-mobility, ceases even to carry out his activity as a copyist, failing to transcribe slavishly the words and triggering an infinite circle of suspension, the artists in the exhibition make this fertile and indeterminate terrain the source of all determinations, which is up to the visitor to discover, perceive and define as form and thought.