Less is more, the phrase made famous by Mies van der Rohe, has been repeated so many times out of context that it has ended up often serving not only to remind us of what is specifically modern in 20th century architecture and thus offering the theoretical key of minimal art, but even to grant aesthetic legitimacy to new forms of gastronomy offered by restaurants or to influential trends in fashion clothing, not to mention the deideologisation of certain political projects or of a weakening philosophical discourse. However, we have not been reminded, with the same insistence, of that other phrase with which Mies used, in perhaps a more incisive way, to consider his own architectural adventure: beinahe nichts [almost nothing]. This neglect towards selective quotes is not really innocuous: it reveals the conclusion that has usually been reached, concerning the modern movement in architecture, in terms that are rather esthetical, such as a determined formal purging of ornamentation and like a more or less geometrising abstraction of constructive materials: in summary, like an essentialist and emaciated decision sheltered by a certain artistic aestheticism. From Nietzsche’s criticism of aesthetic ideals, however, we know that any asceticism leads to turning the outward appearance into nothingness, turning it into a desert by deploying the inward appearance: that is probably why art is, as Nietzsche also thought, the most radical form of subversion of ascetic ideals or, formulated in a positive way, the way to recover the outward appearance.
And, in spite of this, with this essentialist and ascetic characterisation of the modern movement, perhaps the constitutively dangerous component of this contemporary Abgeschidenheit [detachment] has been thought little of: its approach towards those confines in which even the work could disappear, skirting silence and emptiness and getting closer to nothingness to the extent of becoming almost nothing. Without running this risk, this undressing runs the risk of becoming just another formal resort, a new way of ornamentation. Adorno warned us of this in a lucid way when he pointed out that radically modern pieces of art are those that come dangerously close to silence: namely, those that run the risk, in the process of applying the logic of decomposing, of getting close to the place in which the work itself runs the risk of failing to be such, namely the danger of not existing.
It is not irrelevant to begin with this deviation so as to pose some reflection upon the work by Domènec, marked from the start by a recurrence of themes based on dialogues with architecture from the modern movement (in particular with Alvar Aalto and Le Corbusier) and by a close proximity of the dangerous limits of silence of which Adorno spoke. I am thinking, in particular, of two of these works by Domènec which, in a certain way, concentrate, in my opinion, a large part of his artistic concerns: 24 hores de llum artificial (24 hours of artificial light) and Ici même (dins de casa) (Right here (at home)), which are two projects that, on the other hand, include and carry on with, as if in a way of advancing and retrogressing, other works arising from the concern itself.
24 hores de llum artificial, as you know, recreates, on a real life scale, a room in a Paimio hospital by Alvar Aalto, reduced almost to a pure abstract structure, in an area which is illuminated constantly by a white light which configures a space with no shadows and no voices or noises: a clinical place in its purest state. It is true that this work is an architectural redefinition in an artistic key and, to a certain extent, also, sheltered by the strategy of quotes, a palimpsest: in this sense, he goes back to Aalto and, at the same time, he erases him. This paradox does not appear to me to be gratuitous: it is precisely the work by Aalto, seduced by the world of live nature like a metaphor of architecture, it is the area chosen by Domènec to set out a work in the nearest place to the idea of somebody’s ectopia, of one such, shall we say, Peter Eisenman. the clinical place in Paimio, a world within a world, a place within area, becomes, through Domènec’s radical intervention, a clinical intervention upon the clinic, a non existent place which is asserted precisely through the thing which it denies: we have, here, in an exemplary way, a very close impulse due to the implosion of contradictions, Hegel’s Aufhebung, even though, more than discussing dialectical excellence of the here and now in a higher synthesis of area and time, we should refer to it in terms of the deconstruction of here and now through the pure indication of a place with no area and beyond time. The difference is by no means banal: since Foucault’s time we have known that the appearance of the clinic leads to a subversion of the expression and the new creation of an area.
Nowadays we know that any work of art is also, in addition to many other things, a discourse on art: that all works are enigmatic scriptures (the code of which has been lost and the sense of which is based, above all, on this loss) and, at the same time, a reading, namely, a review, an interpretation. Domènec does not hide, but rather converts the reading into an explicit activity and, due to the distance used as regards what we are talking about, we could even call this, in actual fact, ironic. A type of irony like the one that beats in the silence used by Beckett, when words are quiet or when, precisely due to the fact that they are unspoken words, they speak more: like those silences that occupy, in his theatre works, more time –and more space –than the words actually spoken. On the other hand, there is, as in all reading, a vocation of commentary (reading is interpreting, legen is aus-legen), but which does not lead to a substantialist sacralisation of what is commented (the book, the work of art), but rather its erasing: in fact, all readings erase the book that has been read, like the room in 24 hores de llum artificial erases the rooms in Paimio. Each reading is inscribed in what has been read until it erases it. Maurice Blanchot knew this and Marc-Alain Ouaknin reminded us of this recently,: consubstantial Judaism in any act of reading. The first attitude before tradition is objection.
Foucault formulated this, also with precision, in actual fact in the prologue called The Birth of the Clinic. Archaeology of the Clinical Expression, a text which does not seem arbitrarily chosen to be remembered here: “In our times, [the chance of criticism and its need] are linked -and Nietzsche the philologist is a witness of this – to the fact that there is a language and that, in the innumerable words uttered by man –whether these are reasonable or irascible, demonstrative or poetical- a sense which befalls us has taken shape, which leads our blindness, but our conscience lurks in the darkness waiting to come into the light and start to speak. We are historically consecrated in history, to the patient construction of discourses on discourses, to the undertaking of listening to what has already been said. Is it so awful, for this very reason, that we do not know any other use of the word than that of commentary? The latter, in fact, questions the discourse on what is stated by this and what is meant by this, it attempts to bring out this double meaning of the words, in which this finds itself in an identity with itself, which it is supposed is closer to its truth; it thus involves declaring what has been said, repeating what has never been uttered”. Therefore, commenting, exercising this form of criticism that is every type of reading as a rereading, it is to admit a residue, necessarily a non formulated one, of the thought that language (also the language of the work) has left in the shade; and, therefore, commenting means that the things that are left unspoken slumber in the word of the work and that, by questioning it, we can make it speak although this is not specifically meant.
In this sense, eliminating the shadows is, in 24 hores de llum artificial, an artistic strategy to force what has already been said (by Aalto, by the modern movement, by the clinical architecture of the century) so that it states what is not uttered. In this sense, also, there lies in the recurrence which leads Domènec to turn and return, over and over and again, to the areas in Paimio, to the conscience of an unexpressed individual that does not allow itself to be revealed once and for all, but rather a background or residue which, only in the interminable rereading, may be explored in its enigma. Domènec’s work is, therefore, a lucid exercise of criticism and, therefore, of artistic writing of a sense that only allows itself to be travelled over in its deployment as a work. If the appearance of the clinic means subverting the expression it is because it goes beyond the limit between what is visible and what is invisible (up to that time): when Domènec goes back to the Paimio sanatorium –and he does so as if he were intervening clinically in the clinic – he subverts, once more, that distinction, redisplacing it towards other places and making other areas emerge there. The area given to 24 hores de llum artificial. If with the appearance of the clinic, evil, the anti natural and death come into the light, they are brought to light in a new area which allows a new expression to be born (“that which was fundamentally invisible is offered suddenly to the brightness of the expression” -writes Foucault), Domènec, with his intervention, which is a rereading that erases the text and the work in which his work, as a text, is inscribed, knocks off balance, that background on which the clinic itself again,–as a metaphor of the modern expression – is based. With this, due to the area’s idleness and the confrontation with silence, he provides a view of what is not seen, he provides a reading of what is unwritten. From here, perhaps, from this displacement of the limits, emerges a new, certainly disturbing, area and a new expression. The clinic within the clinic, the area within the area, the light within the light: the expression within the expression. Rewriting which is erasing.
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In Contre Sainte-Beuve Proust wrote that the writer invents a new language within his own language, a language which is foreign, since it leads his language to the extreme in which the language becomes delirious, making one see through it, something which had never been seen before, even though man had never stopped looking at it. Therefore, the writing of delirium is a writing of vision, in the same way that the vision of delirium, which carries the images (already seen) to the extreme that they also become foreign images, is a vision of the writing. From this, therefore in Critical and Clinical, Deleuze was able to take a lesson: when language carves a foreign language in its interior, it produces an explosion within the confines of language. Thus, “when delirium become a clinical condition, words no longer lead to nothing, one no longer listens to nothing nor sees nothing through it, except for a night which has lost its history, its colours and its songs”. The white night in 24 hores de llum artificial, devoid of history because it has been erased, devoid of colours and sounds: like the writing in artificial light by Derrida, the only way to reach the outside is through withdrawing into the writing of the text, the image. Pure emergence from the outward appearance in the inward appearance of the work (the writing). Paimio was brought to its own outward appearance by a withdrawal into the inside of artificial light, it appraises it from within. Even Deleuze: “Any work is a journey, a trip, but one which only travels such and such an outer way by virtue of the inner roads and ways which make up this trip, which constitute its landscape or its harmony”. Domènec: writing on writing, images on images: movement.
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Reflection on architecture, that of Domènec’s, which is also an approach towards the silence of area: where area is turned into an invocation of shapes and other areas, a utopian breath, also, having become, through the passage of time, pure undressed political structure. The policy –that in the sanatoriums, that concerning the discourse on health – on the areas which substitute the politics of areas: areas built to be lived in and which end up being areas of confinement. Areas of confinement full of an annoying noise of eccentricity: from here, the recovery, by Domènec, of the silence of certain areas that time has turned into mutes. From here, the artificial light to write (Derrida) and to convert the text and work into a deconstructed area: the only chance to inhabit, during the waiting, areas which demand to be reread.
Displacement towards the inside of areas of modern architecture to open other areas: the chance of an image which is born out of the displacement and which inaugurates a new temporality for these areas. Temporality launched forward by a return to the past, as if it were a rewriting and erasing of the past. The outward appearance is already present in 24 hores de llum artificial, pure deconstructed inward appearance, pure displacement. Un lloc (A Place) and Ici même (dins de la casa), on the other hand, provoke the explosion of the inward appearance in the outward appearance which they inhabit, opening up a static area, paradoxically, in the circuit of displacement. Domènec’s paradoxes: cartography of certain works which overturn the real cartography of areas and times in the works.
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Domènec’s dialogue with Le Corbusier and his unité d’habitation is the core of the works that surround Un lloc and, in particular, Ici même (dins de casa). In the intervention of the bus shelter in a waiting area, Domènec has brought to the outside the reflection concerning the inner area, the clinic, in artificial light, which he has unveiled in 24 hores de llum artificial. With this he has returned to the Lebenswelt [the world of life] his deconstruction of space based on modern categories. And he has done so, also here, and perhaps even in a more emphatic way, with a certain ironical distancing: having turned it at the same time into an advertising panel and a waiting place. Again, the space of silence, here amid the urban noise, like a space within a space which inaugurates a time within time: the waiting time through the construction designed for living in.
Heidegger wrote, in a basic text called Construct, inhabit, think, that space is not an absolute and neutral constant in which things are contained, but rather the things that open it up. Works that are constructions do not take up space, but rather open it up: they make it and they unfold it from that artistic strategy which is purely spatial. The work sets in place an opening of the space from the work, because space is only visible and, as such, comprehensible, in all its difficulty, as one thing (here the work) shows it, making it emerge from its non existence and from its invisibility. Ici même (dins de casa) shows urban space confronted with its own paradoxes: space to live in which is a pure junction without any inhabitants, a place that leads to nowhere, utopia as a type of propaganda, an outside that is an inside, within which hiding can only be shown on the outside. Constructing to wait, which is a way of living, and to think, which is also a way of waiting.
A bus shelter for waiting in the place that makes waiting impossible: to live there where thinking is harder. And arriving, from the ontological viewpoint of the work, at an almost nothingness: there where the work aims to be inconspicuous as a work, there where the glance is calling out to be taken, also he is, as far as its deconstruction.
And, in the last instance, with a precise and metronomic recurrence, just one sound, also an almost nothing which ends up being a sound of absence, the sound of a scheme. The absence of bodies in 24 hores de llum artificial, the absence of people waiting in Un lloc and in Ici même (dins de casa). Absence and pure scheme of nothingness which just cannot make its presence but which, in spite of this, is quite visible. Just a sound: the liquid (milk) poured into a glass, the swallowing, the gulping, pouring, swallowing, gulping, pouring, swallowing, gulping, pouring, swallowing, gulping, ….
(Domènec. Domestic, 2001)