A Bridge to the Desert
“A bridge to the desert” is a game of allusions to which everyone must be free to give their own interpretation. It is also RENN’s invitation to enjoy the artworks in total freedom, free from any influence, first and foremost from the personality of the Artist, who from the very start did not want to put their name to the artworks. However, in a monograph readers try to look for a clue, an opinion that they can consider. A Curator cannot avoid offering some suggestions at least. Here are some interpretations, limiting ourselves to the most immediate: the first bridge is precisely that of the exhibition, within the Biennale Arte 2022, which presents to an international audience this work that was originally entrusted to the care of the oldest desert in the world. But the work itself is also a bridge that invites reflection on the relationship between the different human cultures, represented by the sculptures scattered around the desert.
A bridge that is reflected in the conceptual mirror of all the statues taken together, which represent the human race as a species, in turn, called upon to reflect on its own place in nature.
This nature has an essential beauty, consisting of colors, shadows, spaces and times that are typical of a place as far away from today’s artificial habitat of what Aristotle called “the social animal” and that today we ought to call “the artificial animal”: ethologists have shown that many other species have social structures, build and use tools, but only humankind has detached itself from nature to such an extent to position itself outside nature, shaping nature to its liking, from the bowels of the earth to space, from the depths of the sea to the constituent components of its genetic heritage. By choosing to set these stone figures in these natural surroundings, older than life itself, in landscapes that appear to belong to some as yet uninhabited planet, it is possible to sense the call to reflect on this extraordinary event in the universe’s history: the result of billions of years of evolution of particles that make up the very fabric of time and space, the atoms, the molecules, the galaxies, the planets, and then the seas, before the advent of the primordial bubbles of systematic organic material that developed into “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful”* that are increasingly complex and interconnected, until the appearance of one of these forms capable of studying all the others and all this, tearing the veil of mystery beyond the limited abilities of its sensory apparatuses to comprehend the mechanisms of nature itself, going so far as to bend them to its needs and wishes. This product of evolution, by chance and necessity, that can now make an exception from the basic mechanisms that created it along with all nature, must now reckon with this divine power to overturn chance and invent progress: in a universe where everything is down to chance, it has to invent good and evil, right and wrong. How is it possible not to feel petrified and lost in the desert?
*On the Origin of Species – Charles Darwin, 1859
Marco Furio Ferrario discovered the artworks of The Lone Stone Men during a journey in the Namib desert in 2015. Struck by the power of their artistic expression – from the positioning in pristine and almost unreachable places, to the playful element of interaction with the audience – he was driven by pure passion to bring the works to international attention.
The realization of the exhibition was possible thanks to the free contribution of art historian Stefano Morelli, who enhanced and translated the uniqueness of the project into the exhibition: the encounter between two elements hitherto external to the art world, a curator with a philosophical and scientific background and an Artist who are making their debut only now, after years of activity in which they left their works in the care of the desert and for the benefit of the few who could meet them.
The curator collected RENN’s message of the Artworks and their request of privacy, translating them in the motto Art Before Artist.
A priority assessment in the wake of the Kantian Critique of Judgment definition of the Artist as the “mean through which Nature gives its rule to art” (Analytic of the Sublime, §46 ).
Marco Furio Ferrario studied philosophy at the San Raffaele University and Cognitive Sciences at the State University of Milan under the guidance of physicist, biologist and poet Edoardo Boncinelli. His research focuses on comparative human and animal cognition. It started from the study of the fundamental forms of perception to arrive at an interpretation of the most abstract concepts of the human mind, including the aesthetic of beauty and art, as an extension of the elementary questions that the sensory apparatuses of living beings pose to the environmental niche in which they have evolved.
The Curator presented the Artworks to the Namibian government obtaining patronage from the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture.
A point of view
To bring to La Biennale some sculptures made of stones discovered in the marvellous nothingness of the Namib desert. Perhaps such an adventure is what Cecilia Alemani means as “The Milk of Dreams”?
When I was asked to help in this adventure, I was fascinated by the organisers’ spirit and intentions. There was an absolute unawareness in them, and no predisposition for what would happen, but also a purity of intentions and a joyful action typical of children who are going to play war. For this reason, it seemed important to me to go to Venice with nothing but spontaneity.
To my astonished surprise, once on the Certosa Island, a desert atoll off the Arsenal chosen centuries ago by the monks to set up a hermitage on the edge of the Serenissima, I found myself in front of an immense, solitary and fruitful artist.
A blacksmith whose basic aesthetic unit is a stone caged in iron without being imprisoned by it. On the contrary, the stone through the embrace of metal is made light, released in unprecedented suggestions, floating in a new aesthetic. It becomes a sign and empathic symbol of essential and true existence.
The Pavilion is developed in two directions: a figurative one with the stone men who populate the desert, participating in the breath of the landscape, and a completely abstract and conceptual one, made up of the site-specific works created during the Pavillion’s preparation.Unquestionably powerful and diverse works that recall the title of one of the fundamental texts of the history of art: Stones of Venice by John Ruskin.
In the desert of the Certosa island an anonymous, shy, solitary and gigantic artist doesn’t care about all this and continues to play with the stones of Venice.