Michele Manzini was born in Verona (Italy) in 1967. For many years his art has been concentrated on the definition of figures that can suggest instability and conflict as unresolved elements. His work develops through the use of a wide variety of media, among which video, photography, installations, writing, and performances. He has exhibited his works in numerous shows and venues in Italy and abroad, among them the Italian Institute of Culture, Prague, 2009; MAXXI, Rome, 2009; SUPEC, Shanghai during the 2010 Expo; and the Venice Biennale in 2011 and 2013. His videos have been selected for important international festivals and have been screened at the Saitama Arts Theater in 2015; the Perez Art Museum Miami, 2016; and at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York, 2016. He has published various essays and texts, among which “Il paesaggio e il suo mito” Editions de la Villette, Paris, 2002, and “Mescolanze” Edizioni Kn-Studio, 2011. In 2009 he was awarded the Terna prize for contemporary art.
Research and Art Interests
by Michele Manzini
First of all, before the struggle was formally declared, two kinds of knowledge and two languages found themselves opposed with regard to their reciprocal and exclusive relationship with the truth: tragic knowledge, the language of myths and stories, and philosophical knowledge. We are in the fifth century BC and the field of the dispute is Greece. Tragedy proposes the cognitive experience of dissent, disruption, precariousness, and the impermanence of existence.
Against this idea was a powerful adversary: Plato and his philosophical knowledge; he managed to blacken and undermine his antagonist. Plato’s victory was the foundation of philosophy and the negation of knowledge being found in poetic and narrative fiction.
It was Nietzsche who later re-proposed the terms of that battle by stating that it was necessary to go back thousands of years, to the struggle by Heraclitus and Empedocles against the philosopher Plato, in order to discover a form of thought similar to that which he was trying to define by suggesting appearance as the thing in itself.
Plato won the dispute. However he left it to the future to define the precise terms of the struggle, terms which were to turn up with uncertain results at various times and in various places in the history of thought. It be found, for example, in Vico’s proposal of a “poetic logic”, one able to guarantee the “truth of fiction”.
It was seen again in Hölderlin’s Empedocles, permeated with the feeling that in the relationship between man and nature there was no solution or reconciliation.
It flared up again in The Castle by one of the great protagonists of our century: Kafka. In fact Kafka is the “man of the struggle”, the person who leads a battle against the invisible logic of the Castle in the name of the reasons of life, of a truth that is not closed and immutable but receptive of what is possible.
Today, one of the aspects of the crisis of modernity is the ending of dialectic; Bodei saw this as the end of a philosophical thought that was still able to organize both polemos and logos. This ending has generated conciliating philosophies such as hermeneutics, which resolve the dialogic conflict; deconstructionism, which pulverizes the conflict; or weak thought, which makes it evanescent. This ending has also led to philosophies which have emphasized the conflict, but have deprived it of all reason, as in Foucault’s thought.
In a word: logos without polemos or polemos without logos.
The suppression of conflict and otherness lowers the future’s outlook and anticipations.So the future presents itself, not as an enigma, but as something immutable which delivers us back to the present.
Man today is a man who lives only in the present.
I know that we can, all the same, build houses, places, and breeding grounds, and that we can plan a landscape. But in all those places where the horizon is analogous to that of inert things, then we can have no other enthusiasm unless that of possession or of a conciliating vision.The realm is that of the “delicate monster” of boredom, of that boundless apathy that I could call melancholy. Here Dürer’s angel has her wings folded. She cannot rise in flight because, if it is true that a being unfettered by things is lightness, it is also true that this lightness is literally unbearable. The gesture of a hand caught forever in a ray of light in an interior by Vermeer where nothing can ever happen, or Hamlet’s eternal mourning as he refuses to confront the death of his father in a positive manner, deny any possibility of movement for a thought that is formed through an infinity of forms which are also dissonant with each other.
The enjoyment of an image is an important passage in experiencing reality, but its partiality can be overcome within the conflicting dimension of a figure.
The figure is the process of “another thought” with respect to that of classical philosophy, a thought that passes through literary “images” and concepts and that holds together two “half truths”: the greatest abstraction of the concepts and the great strength of myths, unreasoning, analogies, and images. As Musil has said, the figure dwells between these two worlds.
I create figures.
Figures are an attempt at making a form and which I contrast with the fascination of images which, even though laden with truth, shine and then vanish without becoming knowledge.
My figures contain polemos in themselves, in the sense that they contain in themselves instability, conflict and otherness without dissolving or resolving it.
This logos advances laden with unresolved tensions. Its horizon is populated by many, even infinite, possible forms; it is receptive in the same way as the destiny of tragic heroes in the face of the “many forms taken on by the divine”, forms which are the terrible yet stupendous richness offered to modern people
Harmony and dissonance, instability and conflict, unresolved tension, the idea of a “figure”, esperience of limits and threshold, the concept of distance, tragic knowledge, relationships between things/space and the subject.