Piazza Vittorio Veneto 9
October 17, 2005 – February 25, 2006
Maria Serebriakova loves standing at the brink of things. She is completely at ease striding along the roads that lead to the very edges of the world. Like a nomad, she journeys across physical and mental spaces, leaving behind her a memory that retraces the steps of her flight. Kneading time, she shapes impossible worlds, fragments of a life lived, which take on shape through the disintegration of meaning, by playing on contrast and the abandonment of contrast, to open up towards the other, be it dream or disenchantment. Unity is broken down in favour of multiplicity; mobility is fixed in contrast to the dynamic nature of the relationship entertained by matter and form; the inside is turned out just as opening becomes closure. The process does not end here however, as the dialectic underlying the works grinds down on the functionality of everyday objects such as chairs and tables, rendering them “out of order”, frozen under a pane of glass. A small glimmer represents our only chance to go beyond the threshold, but it is a mere possibility, built upon the murmur of words that seep through the punctures of the glass doors of an infectious diseases ward, or of a prison for special inmates. Tension runs high and equilibrium is precarious – from one moment to the next the line that demarcates the limits of the world could break, inviting us to reflect that after all, the inflicted and sought after truth is found here at the margins. Memories become desires, transformed into false movement, like in certain photographic compositions which use collage to superimpose images of humans doing gymnastics in a domestic environment onto unlikely natural landscapes. However, Serebriakova’s nomadism also heads off in other directions, concerning itself with other fronts. It evades all conceptual traps which attempt to capture the continuous variation of movement to which she subjects objects – objects chosen for their minimal, though essential, contribution to existence.
In the gallery, two books hang suspended in mid-air, in line with our all too distracted gaze, closed and trapped in a case of which we can read the back. Silently they await us, declaring when you read a word you hear a voice. The declaration is repeated on both volumes, though on one it is written backwards, as though reflected in a mirror. The effect induces us to make a two-way counter-movement of reading, reminding us that the truth of an assertion can always be reversed into its exact opposite whenever useful or necessary. The sober installation piece highlights the impossibility which envelopes the real, rendering it to our eyes a forbidden space in all its apparent transparency – instinctively we want to open those books, free them and listen to their voice in order to bring them to life.
Another work in the gallery is entitled The Encounter, presented with the same formal rigour of a blade which carves out the outlines of a concept in order to test out its consistency and translate it into an intensive tract. It is like being presented with a conversation in a parlour drenched in tension and abandon. Before us we see four pale hands clenching each other, suspended from a metal structure, near yet at the same time distant, waiting to bridge the return of their mirror-image and dialectical duplication.
Another equally liminal land lying ready to be reclaimed as territory by the Russian artist is the Solovetsky (Solovki) archipelago, an area located in the western half of the White Sea, a few hundred kilometres away from the North Pole. The largest island of the archipelago features a XVI-century monastery, used as a gaol for criminals and dissidents under the Tsars and during the Soviet period. This descriptive background serves as a framework in which to place the series of black and white photos which culminate in two large prints entitled Indivisible. They provide a testimony to the permanence of the past in the present, creating a suspension of time that bursts the boundaries of the real. Houses that are not houses, interiors that are not interiors, which open onto spaces that once were places of internment without walls. Once again, it is the concept of exchange, or inversion, that prevails over the descriptive element – the exterior that is enclosed, the interior becomes an open space.
Again against the setting of the great White Sea, the instability of the horizon is brought into play in the video installation Uneasy Balance, creating space and sound around the two large and mysterious cases which hide within their walls two boats “inhabited” by human presences. Approach is like a journey through the dense northern fog in which we barely manage to make out shapes. They are the linchpins for an infinite dialogue which restores substance and sense to sight – a silhouette that finds concrete form in the almost tactile perception of a place of rest, evoking touches of life.
Gian Alberto Farinella