July 29, 2005

The Tmesis of Maurizio Nannucci

Maurizio Nannucci’s recent Text Festival commission in Bury Art Gallery reads:

DIFFERENT LANGUAGES
SAME
PLACES DIFFERENT
PLACES SAME CULTURES
DIFFERENT CULTURES
SAME HORIZONS

To transcribe it as a line would be misleading. To write it in the column above or any parsing variation like it cannot represent the experience of viewing either: the text is a circle of neon light installed in the 1901 rotunda of the main Gallery entrance space in a way that makes it impossible to read as a coherent ‘sentence’ without the effort of a circular walk or spinning on the spot below it. And where is the start? The words occur in almost all sequences.
This architectural space has always instigated a peculiar valorised opening; it is actually quite small but its classical proportions distended upwards articulate grandeur and seriousness – qualities aimed at educating the early 20th Century working class of Bury in their proper (respectful) relation to culture. Calming and restrained, the space has remarkable historical Ideal resonances but Maurizio Nannucci’s installation adds a missing layer to complete the register of its public existence. It is as if the Victorian architects designed the space in the expectation of DIFFERENT CULTURES. The text works architecturally as tmesis. It works chromatically as tmesis. It works linguistically as tmesis.
The Bury Text Festival asked the fundamental question for artists who use language as a medium: faced with a modern world where the written word and sign overlays and consumes every environment, how can poets and text artists work with language? From advertising to road signs, from logos to global branding to digital communications, the visual/virtual hegemony of packaging, identity and commodity, text is the ontological and linguistic landscape to everyone’s existence. The Festival’s methodological survey of current aesthetic response described in TEXT identified five strategies: Materiality, Spatialisation, Parataxis, Intertextuality and Restricted Languages. And in various recent installations around the world Nannucci’s works have utilised one or more of these approaches, whilst bringing a unique textual phenomenology into the world.
Everyone locates texts in their world – be it stickers on their cars, novelty mugs or shirts with slogans, designer logos on watches, cars, clothes, texts on their phones, on and on, but fundamentally our texts are simply extensions, proliferations of a textual background radiation we are given and re-apply through what Jean-Paul Sartre called the hierarchy of mediations. Nannucci’s PLACES SAME CULTURE (exemplifying all others), parts the textual curtain, inserts itself, muscles in, “confronts two prosaic edges with one another … tmesis is a seam or flaw resulting from a simple principle of functionality; it does not occur at the level of the structure of languages but only at the moment of their consumption; the author cannot predict tmesis: he cannot choose to write what will not be read. And yet, it is the very rhythm of what is read and what is not read that creates the pleasure of great narratives” (Barthes). A question to leave hanging: is Nannucci’s use of English as opposed to his native Italian part of his dislocated effect, the place from which his cleavage and his insertion comes? What Bakhtin called the chronotope, the interpenetrating insoluble space-time-art unity of the work.
Intensely horizontal, a spinning plane between the ground and first floors, its midnight blue light (blue glass with T14 powder) penetrates and merges the upper and lower spaces. "It (colour) becomes an integral element in the writing, which is not only a collection of words but the material through which I express myself...Colour remains a primary fact. It is, after all, the first thing the viewer notices."
Nannucci’s Bury Gallery rotunda words have restricted themselves to
3 DIFFERENT
3 SAME
2 PLACES
2 CULTURES
1 LANGUAGE
1 HORIZON
but Escher-like its circularity changes the viewer’s relationship to its repetition, we experience a moto perpetuo; Steinian insistence replaces repetition, "like a cinema picture made up of succession and each moment having its own emphasis that is its own difference and so there was the moving and the existence of each moment as it was in me." In situ, incrementally the tmesis of SAME HORIZONS expands so each word, standing in relation to each other word, stands alone, capitalised, hand-written in a pure light, butterfly pinning the substantial ambiguity of language to twelve words. After all, what would the words “DIFFERENT LANGUAGES SAME PLACES DIFFERENT PLACES SAME CULTURES DIFFERENT CULTURES SAME HORIZONS” mean? no punctuation no beginning no end. These moments of turning repeat in the repetition of shapes, capitalised and reinforced by neon technical specification, PLACES SAME keeps a continuous line of bulb so that E F S M N seem to rhyme/chime, the mimesis of language, language imitating itself. Finally this self reflexivity of text functions on the metaphorical level, politically democratising language and location, in the words of the poet Philip Davenport, ‘challenging the Othering process’. DIFFERENT CULTURES SAME HORIZONS parts an institutional façade; it welcomes the public to their culture, it celebrates interactions between people and peoples: in its light it celebrates and restates the Enlightenment against approaching darkness.

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