The debate, which led to the understanding of the art crisis as one of the components of the ruination of European culture following World War II, between 1945 and 1950 concentrated mostly on the grand themes of “young art”. In particular it concentrated on the power of renewal of the works of Picasso – namely a possible escape route from the formalism championed by artists prior to the 1930s – and on an increased reconsideration of the past. Cubism, as a functional language, is the movement that actually paved the way for the revision of languages to the point of allowing both impressionist and expressionist accents to coexist within a single philosophy as a model for a new form of communication. The poetics of the Informal period, which developed between the 1950s and the 1960s and were known as the “poetics of non-communication”, consist of nothing more than an obligatory choice to remove art from the fossilizations common to the beginning of the century. This is an operation principally based on operative intentions whose tools – identified as the beginnings of a negation of “science based on reason” – are the consequence of a selection of values. By forgoing language however, art was reduced to a purely formal act. In this way, art was led astray from its function as a “cognitive act”.
Hans Hurting embraces these poetics, but substitutes rationalism in the place of the simple desire to make a gesture. In creating space, he simultaneously erases it and therefore negates it of its own reality.
Further advances made by individuals such as Burri, Gonzales, Pomodoro, Leoncillo, etc. led to the perception in matter of an extension as well as a duration that is purified, however, of spatial and temporal structure. The matter, manipulated due to its limitless availability, renders itself analogous with the spirit of the artist. Together they make a contribution of “existential continuity” – Argan.
According to Burri, in fact, it is matter which bears the signs of the transgressions and the suffering of the human conscience. For Tàpies it is matter – whether it be a wall, cement or other material – that bears a striking resemblance to the political situation of the moment. But if in Moore’s opinion it is not so much the matter (the statue) that creates space, rather it is space that shapes the matter by conforming it to itself, and according to Leoncillo it is the gesture that molds matter due to existential necessity, for Manzoni all of this is overturned: it is not the role of matter or space that it is important, it is the idea.
And so, art is nothing more than a “pure mental act”. And if this is true, no judgment is possible. All that remains is what the observer is able to understand and make his own. Therefore art that crumbles, that shatters, cannot – by reason of its very nature – be considered as matter capable of producing culture.
Due to the research of poetics conducted during the second half of the 20th century, something changed, at least within some artistic situations. The change concerned overcoming the harsh reality of the functionalist era in order to arrive at the “science fictional” one, undoubtedly generated by technological thought but subjected to the “bacterial” modulations of the subconscious. If Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Land Art, Conceptual Art, etc. have abandoned their fields so that performatory affectations, Video Art, etc. could gain more ground, various effects of globalization have led to focusing interest on the use of technology and a greater concentration on products generated by the imagination. The fact that we can do without centuries of history, as Lévi-Strauss maintains, is not the problem:
during the course of a man’s life nothing changes if less of his time is spent loving or hating. This is not true, however, when one speaks of Art, because hidden within its “existence” is the sense or the reason of man himself. It would be a serious loss, for example, to do without the great cultural power brought about by recent artistic contributions, which, in addition to being informative with regards to the occurrences of war (never lacking throughout the history of humanity), render a future for planet Earth possible.
If, as mentioned earlier, Burri, Pomodoro, and Moore before them have made it possible to draw attention to the existential reality of some of the most significant moments of the 20th century, if Kosuth sought to cross the boundaries of the “significant” to the point of rendering unintelligible not so much the artistic undertaking but the sense of the work itself, then this means that all time barriers have been crossed. And so we find ourselves living in a moment which is not the “future” of mankind but an “alternative future” of planet Earth. Giacobbe Giusti, after having explored the possible methods of manipulation of matter, and after having realized the importance of the application of new rules to sculpture (those relative to the laws of orbital movement), moved beyond. He arrived at new conclusions that, although fantastic, abide within the realms of classic philosophy.
A recurring theme in Giusti’s artistic research is, without a doubt, the relationship between human beings and alien creatures or Androids.
At the source of this line of thinking we find the poetics of Philip K. Dick, one the most important American science fiction authors since World War II.
Aside from the connection between reality and simulation, that which characterizes both individuals is the sense of pessimism that permeates their works. It is a pessimism rooted in religion, but also in existentialism, where some ethical values, while present, are considered as points of reflection on mankind. Therefore the impact that mass media has had on man, and its function as a sort of common conscience, which plays a role that alternates between group and personal responsibility, becomes apparent. Moving away from these suppositions, Giusti develops his own philosophy which is rooted not so much in the eschatology of man or the future as human progress, but in alterity as a consequence of technological progress which leads man to come face to face with another (that he himself created) as if he were standing before an abyss. The incompatibility between the future and an alternative to that future gives way to a form of pessimism. This leads the artist to create works in aluminum that, although they preserve the model “image” of man, nevertheless seem artificial – a result of technological intervention – and devoid of any communication. And this gives rise to the other theme that finds its definitive outlet in Robert Silverberg: exile.
Exile, from his theological point of view, is not only a place of suffering and abandonment but also one of reflection and of returning to one’s roots. The desert, often chosen by great prophets as a place of solitude and emptiness, also leads to the rediscovery of oneself, a return to life. In Giusti’s works, however, this concept is not presented as a conclusion that is inevitable, but as one that is possible. The dominant characteristic, particularly evident in the exhibit L’Altra dimensione del pianeta Terra (The other dimension of planet Earth) held in Arezzo in 2007, is the difficulty of certainty. If Homo Sapiens is seen as the final evolutionary stage of the human race, the next step can lead to nowhere other than his decline; a decline both existential and ethical, which will force him to survive by cooperating with or succumbing to “creatures” which he himself “made”. All of this is seen as a fantastic fabrication of our own thoughts: but how much of this is pure fantasy and how much, on the other hand, is concrete? For us, of course, the most comforting response is that the possibility that this “disaster” will occur is nil. Yet this answer fails to consider the various advances made in robotics over the past few years. In fact, it is important to remember that many things once considered possible only in our imagination have actually become real.
Therefore it is not impossible to imagine that some sort of evolution, under the form of degeneration, could occur in the human race. And that would be the same as regressing. In fact, what Giusti offers in his exhibits is existential provocation. Although the landscape that he recreates with stones, flowers and trees is fantastic, i.e., derived from fantasy, it has its roots in the nature of the Earth. They are related in some way, contrary to what one might think. The other dimension relates to humanity, not to some other genus. The problem of the past or the future does not concern the alien race or the Androids, but man – Homo Erectus and Homo Sapiens.
It is not only sculpture, but sounds and lights as well, that lend themselves to summoning our past and take their place as fragments in our history, creating a compilation of sorts within the work of art. The landscape becomes a composite: real and special effects meld together and render each other complete, much like the result of a temporal visit to the history within ourselves, the history from which we cannot escape since it bears witness to our reality. The entire existence is therefore the union of sounds, lights, images and words. Still frames of news broadcasts, images of planet Earth are fragments of a society that survived, a civilization linked to matter and, as a result, its only witness. The same sounds that arrive from space seem to be the signs of survivors, a call for immediate help.
The works completed after 2004 are testimony to beings that survived the decadence of their own nature but still bear the signs of “mutation”. For this reason the artist does not speak of human beings but of “post-humans”: survivors which have declined so rapidly that they appear primitive. Giusti compares this degeneration with the technological evolution of state-of-the-art Androids and reveals the paradox of the superiority they have with respect to their creators.
As “state-of-the-art Androids”, they take on the task of incorporating the history of man and, even though they are artificial, they see themselves as the true heirs of humanity.
If, in the beginning, these “beings” were to be kept at bay or to destroy for fear that they could one day revolt, in Giusti’s works they take on the role of “heirs to humanity”. For man – now “post-human” – there is no other choice than to live as an inferior being among Androids convinced that they are the true “humans”.
Therefore, the art that moves the spirit of the artist and allows him to formally put into practice the application of various astral laws – creating objects similar to astral stones, meteorites, asteroids, flowers and plants – is the fruit of an imagination which comes from within. It joins with an outside reality made up of a system in constant transformation, and of an obscure presence of mysterious forces.
Nevertheless, that which the observer feels is not a fear of these forces but an appreciation of these forms that, although derived from the energy of the universe or from their impact with the earth, still preserve some of the aesthetic dictates of our culture.