by Gianni Romano
The show begins with a large image that takes up the entire entrance space and partially covers up the glass door from which one enters. You are out on the street and are trying to enter the art space, although the artist has displayed the space so as to give you the feeling that, in a certain sense, although you are entering you remain in an outdoor dimension. Entering this space the spectator is forced to penetrate the image, to walk through it and plunge into the landscape that it portrays. You are inside the image of a landscape, a fragment of an industrial area that is subdivided into zones that can be distinguished by various different activities and are crossed by train-tracks, thus becoming three separate - although similar - areas.
Most likely the projection of this image will influence your entrance from the train station - or, at least, you’ll have a similar impression to the one you get from the cooling system of an electric circuit. Beyond the train tracks (made up of old wood and lead character types), you find yourself surrounded by Berkel computer chips, perked up by Japanese and Singapore built electric terminals, diodes and microchips.
In this landscape decontestualization, the chips remind one of boilers and containers. BTicino recessed lighting switches resemble old factories. The pivoting globe of an IBM typewriter dominates the ground that it stands on and is quite fascinating, with its typefaces reflected onto its round walls, as it makes you imagine who knows what kind of terrible wonders may be hidden in its insides. Ubiquitous cranes, made up of discarded saw blades, signal that you are in a permanent construction zone.
Greenery is not excluded from these surroundings, although, as in all industrial areas, it is only marginal greenery, which is destined to survive in interstitial spaces that casually develop from property to property - places that grow according to technical production needs, without the slightest notion of urban planning. When, some fifteen years ago, Luca Pancrazzi started his artist career, one of his most frequent activities consisted in spraying Space Available on suburban walls of the city of Florence. That term is generally used to signal that a space can be rented for commercial purposes.
Pancrazzi has always privileged ... anonymously urbanized spaces... places that lack an evocative image, that are devoid of any kind of characteristic connotation which is able to bind them to the history, the traditions, the relations, or the architecture history of a place. I have always been interested in places that are built for an immediate function: transitional places, tied to a contemporary fruition of the territory.1
Luca Pancrazzi loves to be dragged by events into visual adventures of all kinds; perhaps the entrance to this exhibition puts you in the latest of his visual adventures, but, as is always the case in these things, perhaps there is something else at stake. There are too many potentially significant elements that cannot be considered marginal. The most important of these is the landscape.
Notwithstanding the fact that an international factor is widely spreading through art, and that it continues to produce crowded exhibitions in which Mexican artists are potentially capable of producing the same work as Korean ones; you could loosen up to such commonplace reflections, such as Luca Pancrazzi’s birthplace, calling to mind familiar and idyllic images such as those of the Tuscan hills or humming, without any sign of hesitation a refrain from a famous Italian TV ad that goes: Also in Tuscany. In fact, this concept of landscape as a characteristic element, is so undeniably true, that the refrain could be rephrased as Only in Tuscany. Specifically because of its geographic conformation (and, therefore, not only due to the traditional motivations regarding the co-existence of those hills, their towns and their art history) the Tuscan landscape - contrary to that of the Marches, which is all bent towards the sea, another goal all together (one need only think of the work of Enzo Cucchi) - seems to have a life of its own, to repeat itself, obliged as it is to figure and repeat its motifs.
Many a critic has underlined how Pancrazzi seems to be anthropologically connected to the theme of landscape — There is no longer the precedence of the landscape to the gaze or of the gaze to the landscape…2 — although it is very difficult nowadays to define landscape as a concept. In fact one can’t limit oneself to the traditional iconographic patrimony that this seems to infer, yet to the perception of present day landscape , perpetually moving image, that cannot be frozen into a passe-partout icon, landscape as a constantly transforming context, the image and form of a culture that is fixed by currents and cycles in history. If it is true that landscape is modeled by history, we should consider the fact that twentieth century culture also leads through fragmentary and syncretic attitudes, that end up producing a thought process that has no reference (if not that that history bestows it) and that is modeled time after time, according to its models of significance. As a consequence, traditional landscape is tied to its past as much as present day landscape is modeled after the impulses of present life.
The very term landscape is constantly redefined, and assumes different aspects according to the contexts in which its image is applied.3 As much as upturning context is concerned, landscape is no longer the optimal and idealistic representation of life lived, nor can it represent that form of cultural synthesis, which traditionally was resolved by an ideal image, rather it is an in-between area where meaning is negotiated. Although it preserves the memory of Thomas Pynchon’s enthropic zone, Frederic Jameson and William Gibson’s hyperspace or the high standard fiction contained in J.G. Ballard’s vision, contemporary landscape makes use of the speed of communication to move toward an elsewhere that appears to be very different from its former models (which were strongly informed by history).
As an example, Land-Escape is a work series made up of photographs with which Luca Pancrazzi recently realized an exhibition that..., coincidentally, took place in Tuscany.4 Confirming what has been said up until now, escape from landscape should be intended as escape from the cliche genre of landscape (specifically implying, the cliche concerning Tuscan landscape), which brings you in closer to Pancrazzi’s research on the typologies of available spaces. However, these landscapes are unmistakably fictitious, they aren’t landscapes that are portrayed by the artist, rather they are created ex-novo. By using a skillful compositional array, the artist creates sculptures with discarded materials such as: chips, sensors, valves, graphics cards, electrical appliances, bric-a-brac; these sculptures are then photographed and touched up on the computer. The escape from landscape is nothing but an insight in technological material that makes the construction of a landscape of the media possible, so that there can be a reconstruction of landscape by using basic elements. With Endogenous Landscape, the artist made what in Land-Escape was only a mere impression become something three-dimensional and livable.
Entering the gallery you penetrate directly into the image’s intangible quality; however, this image is not abstract, it is the projection of the original model which is lying in the underneath space. This game of reflections, and bit projections that portray matter correspond to a different living mode. Making use of the architectural typology of space, Luca Pancrazzi has opened up one of the large windows that look out onto the canal, thus enabling the public to reach a former meeting place (by using a ladder that was designed by the artist himself), and permits a flow that revives a panoramic flux that has long been relegated to the memories of the old inhabitants of this part of town. It is a visible gesture that confirms the artist’s interest for transitional places. Pancrazzi has reconstructed one on his own, by defining and translating the virtuality that underlies art into a livable factor.
There’s another important factor which shouldn’t be neglected and that is the grid. Those who have experienced art of the last century will surely have in mind the image of Mondrian’s forms, and even more so, Italians should remember the perspective grids of De Chirico’s piazzas. Then again, sometimes in Brice Marden’s work the use of a grid tends to deny space, whereas in Agnes Martin the grid appears to be an essential tool to explore the space. In the works of Malcolm Morley, the grid acts as an intermediary between the reality of the media and that of imagination , in Hockney it is a vector of false contemporary myths, and in Mark Francis’ acrylics it ends up in becoming a fusion or a form of visual dissolution. Strangely enough, Luca Pancrazzi, although he often realizes pictorial work of photographic derivation, has never (if not sporadically) made use of the grid. With Endogenous Landscape, however, the grid comes back and it can be spotted as an influence in the small streets that divide the industrial area into different zones; furthermore, it is present on the entrance glass pane where the iron window frame tends to repeat the checker motif and totally breaks up an image that in and of itself had already been built on a shattering concept.
But the grid does not imply simply painting, in the 20th century Manhattan becomes the concrete vision and materialization of a city built on a grid structure; it is neat, and yet, in its own way, irrational.5 In 1932 Nelson Rockefeller asks Diego Rivera to decorate the entrance of the RCA building with a murales. This project corresponds to the opening of the new frontiers that, according to Rockefeller’s view, need no longer expand sideways, but rather upwards, and most of all to the inside. These frontiers should express:
1.Man's New Relation to Matter. That is, man's new opportunities based on his new understanding of material things; and
2. Man,'s New Relation to Man. That is, man's new and more complete understanding of the real meaning of the Sermon on the Mount.6
The development of a digital culture, of a third culture7 (or techno-culture) has turned fragmentation into a habit, i.e. the abandonment of a linear and discursive logic, and therefore, the former distinction is no longer necessary: at least not in terms that relate to matter, since what is in store for us is a digital future, in which information and formation follow logics that are closer to the creation of software than to the production of hardware. Syncretic and synchronic attitudes, new hybrid models that replace the grid’s mechanic logic, a mixture of un-centered concepts that derive from art and treasure the quality of daily experience, facing the complexity of every day life with more spontaneity.
There’s a significant passage in a recent essay by the architect Albert Pope, that associates the absence of the grid to the difficulties concerning contemporary urban planning: Contemporary urban evolution suggests that the disappearance of the grid coincides with the disappearance of the city, yet it is apparent that this disappearance is never really complete. In the contemporary city, just enough of the grid remains to sustain conventional urban associations. There is a grid, yet there is no grid, just as there is a city and at the same time there is no city, but rather a form of spatial organization that only resembles a conventional urban environment.8
If the grid obliges the artist to imitate reality (except when it acts as a contrast toward mimetic impulses, which are then followed by interventions on the artist’s part), Luca Pancrazzi skips this step which up until now was mandatory, and transforms the shape of the landscape into bits, leading them toward a different direction, he uses them as speed for communication, creating a non-analogic landscape. At the same time, Pancrazzi’s landscape cannot renounce displaying all the phases of this process: from the minute and manual one of building the actual model, made up of rubbish elements, to transferring the image to the transparent surface.
Exhibited in the Via Solferino space in Milan, Pancrazzi’s landscape induces compulsively toward fragmentation, just as the Tuscan landscape suggests the coercion to repeat itself. However the signal of a crisis is not so much fragmentation, nor the fear of the non-figurative, so much as a form of fragmentation that is obtained thanks to endogenous material, the entrails of technology, that underline the loss of the old metaphysical space, which by now has dissolved into significant areas of communication.
1 Gianni Romano, Luca Pancrazzi, "Interview" Flash ART #210, Milano 1998.
2 Marc Augé in Luca Pancrazzi, "All'ombra del tempo", Emilio Mazzoli Editore, Modena 1996.
3 For example the anthropologist Arjun Appadurai, who elaborated a theoretic grid of five currents of global culture that use the suffix scape so as to accentuate the culturally built perspective of landscape: ethnoscape, mediascape, technoscape, financescape and ideoscape. Arjun Appadurai, "Global Culture", M. Featherstone editions, London, Sage 1990. See also the essay by Massimo Canevacci, "Sincretismi" (Costa e Nolan, Genova, 1995).
4 Luca Pancrazzi, "Land-Escape", Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, Italy, 1998.
5 Rem Koolhaas, "Delirious New York", 010 Publishers, Rotterdam and The Monacelli Press, New York 1994.
6 Bertram D. Wolfe, "Diego Rivera - His life and Times", A.A. Knopf, New York, 1943 (referred to in Rem Koolhaas, ibid., pp. 220-229)
7 Gianni Romano, "La Terza Cultura", Flash Art #212, Milano 1998.
8 Albert Pope, "Ladders", Rice Un. School of Architecture, Houston and Princeton Architectural Press, New York 1996.