Innocent by Name, Artist in Fact

Art has opposed the transavantgarde to Heiddeger’s universe. This was a universe emptied of matter because it gave too much importance to technique, something which tends to shift the concrete towards abstraction and, as a result, towards control. In its earlier phase the transavantgarde gave back to art its rightful frame; from the history of art it reclaimed the specifics of its own language through the use of material techniques, whether painting or sculpture. The artist once more became the maker of a linguistic creation different from other kinds of representation and without confusing roles and materials. Artists found their own identity in the particular task of creating images, and what they manipulated was not a banal object contaminated by daily life but, instead, the styles that had been used in art in all its various manifestations.
And so once again art began to expect the artist to be subjective instead of celebrating super-subjectivity, even though this was held in check by the fragmentary and disordered way it was disseminated. The work became the tangible proof of a production directly linked to the artist’s cultural memory and so could then be shared with the art systems of other subjects with other functions.
A cold transavantgarde has succeeded to this earlier hot period. But it still exists within a social and cultural situation that is the expression of a post-industrial society, one that tends to computerise its own past by deconstructing, recycling, and reassembling its various components. At first these were less evident and belonged to an imaginative field of representation already codified by art history.
Now, at the end of the twentieth century, art has once more established its frame of reference and feels the need to show the imaginative and abstract content of objects from everyday life. Because these are inevitably destined to be consumed and become obsolete, they are standardised in a way that exemplifies this destiny.
This exemplarity is similar to the languages bequeathed to us by art history. Their abstraction is similar to that of consumer objects which have been emptied of their concrete and unpredictable aspects by the primacy of technique. And so, in the face of this established universe, European and American artists enlarge their field of action and introduce simulations of consumer objects and even of consumerism itself: the ultimate demonstration of the social relationships between man and reality.
It is obvious that to consume means to establish the future of the subject: its relationships with reality are fixed and do not allow any imaginative alternative to productivity.
This productive scenario has produced a modular subject, an existential condition the inevitable outcome of which is the standardisation of life’s essence. Contemporary artists are aware of the modularity of subjectivity and they arrive at this awareness by abstracting their concrete relationship with the world. And so the consumer object becomes the particular image of a work created by a tangible and often three-dimensional assemblage of remains and residue from the productive world. This decision emphasises and frames even further this modularity: It enables it to produce objects which obviously have no precedents: in other words, it is a constructional and compositional linguistic method that is able to organise the inertia of the object into a work of art.
I consider that everyday inertia within the framework of art suggests the inertia of the maker of the work. And in this sense this is the way the artist manages to establish a link between himself and the surrounding world, between his own expressive needs and the dynamics of the reality surrounding him.
Innocente, in his hyper-realist attempt to create a language in harmony with his aims, produces works which we see as objects. The result is that he establishes a super-objectivity of the subject; in other words, he creates an impersonal style that can converse on a contemporary wavelength with the other objects of the art system and the social context. The basic linguistic code of new American and European object-making underlines the hyper-realism of a style that insists on being recognised and being taken into consideration for what it is. It does so in order to arrive at the ultimate consumption of art: contemplation. And here we can see a change in the current meaning of consumption.
Consumption of everyday inertia must work together with obsolescence in order to arrive at further consumption. The contemplation of art, instead, tends to concentrate consumption on the project embodied by the work, something undertaken openly and through the acceptance of the quotidian.
Innocente is aware of what I call hampered metaphysics: he is aware of the impossibility of manipulating everyday inertia. So he does not even try to make the artist’s usual god-like interventions on things: he knows he cannot oppose his own subjectivity to the proven objectivity of reality. But he can certainly reveal himself through the objects he makes and displace the super-objectivity of the subject through a creative method based on the rules of society.
If the symbolic value of representation is unavailable, an artist with the playful pragmatism typical of post-modern culture establishes his role in society by evidencing the rules of such games within the systems of art. These systems underline the primary value of art by creating a selective method that is ample enough to permit the existence of inessentials.
This becomes a further tangible sign of the objective working of art, the reinforcement of the work’s super-objectivity which is confirmed by the super-objectivity of a social system which understands its importance.
This confirms that art is about relationships: in fact its existence is justified by its ability to move freely between various subjects and by its ability to profit from their surface values.
In other words, the present work of Innocente is not about negation but is, instead, about affirmation: it underlines those relationships between material and social production which are by now accepted at an international level and are not involved with ideological oppositions. “The case is what it is” said Wittgenstein. This observation is confirmed from another point of view. Tough reality cannot be eliminated by the hypothetical artistic utopia which various hard-liners would have us believe in: this is nothing more than imposing on art rigid rules which are impractical because of their moralistic stance.
New object-making, having short-circuited metaphysics, does not permit this. Neither does it allow the identification of new procedures with the Duchampinspired use of ready-made which once had the symbolic value of eliminating and re-qualifying the object.
Symbolic value is not to be found in the work itself but, rather, in the exchange value the work has as it passes through an art system that serves to confirm its uniqueness and quality.
This means that today art tends, with all due humility, to be qualified through the relationships it establishes. At the same time it qualifies these relationships by consolidating behavioural patterns that are not diluted in the purely abstract pleasure of creation and eventual contemplation, but tend to follow progressive functional rules within the art system.
This underlines the socialising aspect of a production that does not propose itself as an abstract model but as a circumstance capable of formalising the relationships between itself and the surrounding world. This aim signifies considering art as material production.
This is why Innocente accepts the political realism current among the super powers and other nations. Political realism in art consists not only in being aware of art’s social status, but also of its circulation among various international social systems.
If ideological difference no longer creates dissent in political relationships, art, obviously, cannot presume to create dissent on its own simply by relying on its memory, even one formalised within a work. This difference exists, however, in relationships which transcend those of class and ethnic and political differences.
The breaking down of barriers will inevitably create the basis for a regulated art system, however different in details and particulars. Young artists here at this point in the century are aware of all this and perhaps are even considering the possibility of again creating an art of dissent through the use of the ready-made
—but a geographical rather than a historical ready-made.
And so in the work of Western artists quotations from the Russian avant-garde constructivists create a surprising and beneficial effect that diversifies the works of particular cultural areas. The quotation of non-ideological languages, typical of the Western avant-garde, has for decades represented an act of freedom in countries dominated by political bureaucracy. Obviously the ready-made method does not act in terms of a new metaphysics but, rather, in the gentler tones of languages that cross all geographical barriers, even if such languages have become computerised and mnemonic. The computerised use of geography derives from the possibilities that electronic systems have to present a contextual and global picture of the cultural situation.Innocente’s nomadism begins here. And it continues through the development of a system of communications which has strengthened the anthropological attitude of humanity, both in the East and the West. This means that the artist knows it is impossible to endow his work with a positive utopian value, one, that is, capable of emerging from itself in order to have an effect on reality.
This is why it is impossible to speak of changes in art. We should instead use the concept of metamorphosis, of the transformation of a body without changing the essentials of a physiognomy stabilised by determined calculations.
This increases the characteristics of art’s political realism. These can grow historically by making use of knowledge of other disciplines, such as science, and today they can make us dream, even in retrospect, and allow us to catch a glimpse of a world outside the codified dimensions of the history of thought. Art is inclined to move within the limits of statistical possibilities: this is not to say it is motionless, but that there is a limit to the handicraft-like ideal of creating an individual and unique work. Art’s destiny is to remain inside history and outside solitude. It must accept its needs for relationships with the inevitable social outcome: that of knowing there exist creative procedures which, self-referential at the start, become capable of constructing growing social relationships. In this way the old complex of contemporary art about its function and possible modernity is resolved.
In fact it resolved its inferiority complex by establishing a system of relationships analogous to other languages and other disciplines, inevitably linked to the development of science, and so became dependent rather than autonomous.
Innocente’s new object-making accepts its position inside the art system. He tries to develop a language capable of penetrating everyday inertia rather than attempting the impossible task of changing it. This quiet acceptance demonstrates the condition of an artist today who does not intend to renounce his own present but aims at dialoguing with it through attitudes, materials and languages which are not isolating but understandable and legible, not frightening and negative but affirmative and corroborating.
This is possible just because the artist feels he is legitimised by the super-objectivity of the work, by the hyper-realism of a linguistic order that does not destroy the object but simply respects its everyday inertia. Such a condition determines the super-objective representation of the subject which becomes the witness of its ability to confront its relationship with the world with regards specific production.
According to Jlya Prigogine, science develops in a complex manner in order to arrive at a “new naturalism”, a non-automatic but global description of the world—something Hawking has fixed at 11 dimensions. If this is so then art rejects analogical and competitive models in order to arrive at a humanist way of representation.[...]

Achille Bonito Oliva

[Dal catalogo "Innocente" Electa 1998]


WESTERN CULTURE has made us used to thinking of art's space as an area for representing something rather than for the event itself. This is in line with a mentality that tends to privilege the content of a narrative rather than the support on which art's language is organised. In this case space cor-responds to a notion of its measure and is considered a fixed and definite entity. The strategy of contemporary art, instead, is based on a different mentality; one in which space is a dynamic and precarious quantity, directly determined by the marks that occupy it. Space has been replaced by a defi-nition of the field, a relative and open area that tends to present itself as both a whole and as an abstract and Separate entity. The space for representation was always the place for what was exemplaty, and this was displayed in an absolute manner, quite outside any temporal dimension: in fact time was space made eternal either by renaissance perspective or by the two-dimensionality of a painting that always dis-played itself as a symbolic form of a recognisable and vener-ated world.
With the notion of the field, art's space was invaded by the discontinuity of time and the passage from the represen-tation to the event itself. Space flexibly makes itself available to marks that organise themselves and define themselves synchronically with their own Support, with an immediate impact and without any sense of hierarchy: there are no highs or lows, no right or left.
Innocente creates his work with this spatial ideology in mind, one that tends to consider art as the place for critical and phenomenological verification of a world that is, how-ever, organised according to hierarchies and economic norms that paralyse it and alienate it: in other words, they make it something different with respect to the social body it would seem destined for.
So space is turned into a labyrinth, an intricate itinerary of a multitude ofpaths each leading to other paths. There is, however, no possibility of a circular return to base because the precariousness of the Tines resists any such reassuring returning movement.
The artist starts from a vision of the world that is no longer a-historic but analytic, one moved by the need to recreate, through art, the world as it is. And so he incorporates into his work the codified signs of advertising, elements which are already fixed in a popular and consumerist style. While he fully accepts the basic vulgarity of such data, his accep-tance respects the linguistic norm of the ready-made, of something that has already been found and, as a result, reveals what is unreal and artificial in everyday objects.
The world's vulgarity responds to the historical situa-tions that determine it and make it irreversible. The little figures taken from another world are placed within art's space with unusual improvisation and create new relation-ships, dlfferent to the those that caused their acceptability and consumption. They marshal themselves in a non-mechanical way, one, that is, that does not correspond to the stereotyped codes of behaviour usual in their own environ-ment.
If Pop art was the apex of the artificiality of the productive world, and if it made a fetish of the details of life, this means that it did not possess the world or have the capacity to judge it unless there was also a pragmatic and optirnistic adhesion to the world itself.
Innocente, instead, with a wholly European ideological malignity, is concerned, not with the particular, hut with generalities and so avoids an isolated presentation and crowds the surfaces of his works with nilnimal events. If advertising needs to isolate the product it presents in order to promote it better, the artist here overturns this attitude and multiplies the presences, creating a multiple and simul-taneous communication.
Innocente agrees with Cage's assertion that all of life is material and that it is possible both to steal from it and he its witness. This testimony is not cold and detached because it is not possible to distance oneself from a world that does not have space for calm and happy contemplation. The world is what it is.. a permanent state of tension produced, not only by the natural move-ment of things, but also by economic overloading and social injustice.
And so art becomes an emotive testimony that can recognise the world's chaos, where disorder is not the con-quering of order but, rather, the degrading of reason to sim-ple economic arguments. These live according to a separate and divisive order and place man in a condition of solitude that makes him asocial and separated from others. Innocente, then, adopts a tactic and a strategy. The tactic is to organise the operative space of art (pictures, the walls of a gallery or museum) using asymmetric forms on which he applies elements that, by being simply leant against the support, are mobile and variable.
The fixed support is often occupied by priapic images; these are the erotic structure against which the structural elements move. The fluidity of the whole has the mobility of music - in other words, the possibility of a multiple and variably modular passage and relationships.
But the variations always occur within the same field, which is that of historical vioTence, even though it is accompanied by the lightest of feints and parries. The strate-gy the artist employs is to produce at the same time both a moral standpoint and a positive affirmation of life and of the aesthetic gesture.
Because if art thrives on the contradiction between the affirmation of itself and the negativity of what it is affirm-mg, it is still true that such duplicity cannot be reduced individually but only exercised as a contradiction. Ring up the curtain: ahead there is Bel Canto, behind there is torture.

Achille Bonito Oliva

[Estratto da]