I have been trying for a long time to convince Bruno Lisi about the need to exhibit his work, at least the most recent work, in “unusual” places and in particular in some Roman “domus”, underground, uncontaminated by daily use, by excesses of light. That light all too enveloping, well known to those in Rome who are surrounded by it, clouded, then irreparably crushed by it. But this longed-for “different” venue for the artist’s recent works was certainly not motivated by consolatory searches for special effects, much less by a claim to legitimation induced obviously by the historical qualities of the places. It is the very condition of B. Lisi’s present artistic path that calls for the “historical need” to find again a hypogeal dimension in a kind of Heideggerian resetting of his work, almost to underline that not only man has to find again his own naturalness in pursuing a “poetic” life, but also that the work of man must aim towards this poetic aspect. B. Lisi’s recent works, going back again to the essential nature of two sole materials, the methacrylate and burnished metal filaments that animate it, seem to invoke a calming position that preserves them from the din of the noisy majority that today has pervaded the entire world of the art system. In this sacrifice of chromatic kindling by the artist, there is a real aim towards the cupio dissolvi, almost in, an extreme attempt to withdraw himself from any form of consumption and homologation. The spectral filaments can even slither nervously, imprisoned as they are in the material that fixes them in an unchangeable dimension; they can flow, open themselves, offer themselves and then drown, hurl down and then surface again, become so dense as to almost make a bundle of stalks like a votive offering, to then scatter without end, moved by a wind that has forced them to disperse. But this is only pure semblance: it would seem possible to disrupt everything with just a breath and yet the artist accentuates their vocation to show as figures blocked, frozen in a pursued condition of academic neoclassicism. It will be just the sudden bursts of light in a place filled with shadow, shadowy saps of some rare moss to give back a little fever to those sleeping figures. It will be their being crossed through by sudden lacerations, by unforeseen and unforeseeable gaps in that darkness where for vocation they would like to place themselves, to give back their life, but only to make clear that life is elsewhere. As in the phases of alchemic transmutations, the artist’s present path seems to concentrate in that extreme phase of the nigredo which isn’t the last one but is the one that lays the foundations for starting all over again. It is an invitation to “start all over” after the depths have been challenged, the bituminous excesses of the bottom, to discover, as B. Lisi seems to suggest, that writing in pure loss is the only way to write freely. Just like the Alpheus River which returns to its origins, the artist, nearly following, even though involuntarily, the instructions of Roger Caillois in Trois Leçons des Tenèbres, seems to humbly note and give voice to that exhaustion of sense for the unrestrained excesses of the growth of the sign. So there is no avant-garde nostalgia by using these “modern” materials, no desire for the future, as Dorazio’s research in Forma I seemed to indicate, though he made himself a “bard” of these materials, yet rather a solipsistic retreat of the artist to give a meaning, if still possible, to his continuing production of art, contravening the rhetoric question of Asor Rosa of “Scrittori e popolo” when he wondered about the meaning of making more poetry to reconfirm himself in his conviction of “how it was possible that words didn’t freeze in the poets’ mouths”. So, today B. Lisi goes to the roots of modernity and seems to find it again and indicate it in that crisis of the late eighteenth century classicism that sees Giovan Battista Piranesi wondering, on the altar of San Basilio in Santa Maria del Priorato, about the memory of the past and the need for things new. In that confrontation-clash between the rococo waste of the jubilation of the saint and the icy, crystalline beauty of the pure forms of the retro-altar, begins the liquidation of historicity in favour of an appalling yet superb idea of modernity founded on the “silence” of the form. This is what B. Lisi’s enigmatic, impenetrable suspension seems to suggest today, with his aphasia, with his superb portrayal of himself in a studied otherness. Yet on the artist’s part it is certainly not an indignant self-portrayal, rather a mellow return to the idea of the “book yet to come”, of the subsequent work with which to knot the strings again, of which the present phase is offered as an experiment of infinite entertainment. Though necessary to make those repeated filaments take the same flight to the elsewhere of the terminal metal summits with which F. Borromini concluded his domes, as in S. Ivo alla Sapienza where, as C. Brandi would say, the miracle takes place: the dome disperses in the sky with a final flash made of a few sinuous metal bars like “bird who first goes into a spin and then crashes and leaves light filaments in the air”.
(translated by Helen Pringle)
(text written for the exhibition “Cristalli d’acqua”, Museo della via Ostiense, Roma, in collaboration with AAM, 1-23 October 2004)