Common Sensibility: Living Works GNAM, Rome 14-22 January 2017

2nd Jan 2017

Common Sensibility: Living Works

GNAM, Rome 14-22 January 2017

Curated by Ilaria Bussoni, Nicolas Martino, Cesare Pietroiusti


It is the one hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution, one hundred years since the October Revolution took place in 1917. It is not the Cossack horses circling fountains in Rome, or in any other city of the world, that we must fear. It is the arrival of other barbarians that we fear now. The walls of financial citadels have been crumbling since 2008. Yet their monetary foundations remain solid, despite the cracks caused by social movements, by the “Standing Nights”, by the flight of refugees. Indebted lives huddle around the neo-liberal episteme, taking their affects to the pawnshops in the hope of being relieved of their guilt. Individuals once again, guardians and owners of hate and frustration. What was common has been sold off, bought with budgetary rigour, quantified by rating agencies. Collective imagination is shrinking, while waiting for superheroes. The poor and the rich feed on psychoactive drugs, which vary according to their social standing. The languages being taught are those used by technicians and bureaucrats. Exceptions to the rule of law multiply, tracing maps of power, command and logistics. The future is merely a verb tense, though not every grammar has it. Before starting to play children are taught to question the rules of the game. Work is sometimes a form of begging. We sleep less. Life is often shaped by money. Even the flowers of the desert might become intolerable. One, many stories are over, while others are commencing.


Bodies consecrated to something other than dominion trace new pathways. Happiness is not a right. Architectures of enjoyment elude new and old forms of realism, also social ones. A hand reshuffles the cards being given out. We have stopped believing in capital letters. We trust dangerous instants, while at the same time we discover ubiquity. Use is the measure of creation. The spirit expresses itself in mottoes and no longer in monuments. We rediscover Sophism, and with it the art of dissimulation. A people is lacking and will continue to lack. Art works are made with life. We are all ready-made artists. Monochrome, also a wine. Haecceity is questioned. Knowledge comes from strange animals, half cats and half lambs, half spiders and half saints. The aim of a gesture is in the style. Autochthonous is who lives there. Reserves do not protect but only enclose. Producing art is not a faculty of the Angel. The third conditional has been abolished. Grace is found in the Third Landscape. Money can be eaten, though it doesn’t taste of much. The common is the fabric of our emancipation. People engage in painting among other activities. The sensible is a matter of  struggles. Knowledge is social and ignorance is shared. Sublime is ripped out of the night sky. Revolts are aesthetic. In the community everybody is a translator. Anonymously. Weaving.


Credits to: Muhammed Alì, Chourmo, Gilles Clément, Pierre Dardot, Gilles Deleuze, Fabrizio Ferraro, Claire Fontaine, Rubens Gatto, Vitas Gerulaitis, Comité Invisible, Christian Laval, Henri Lefebvre, Karl Marx, Hermann Melville, Toni Negri, Jacques Rancière, Giorgio Passerone, Mario Tronti, Paolo Virno.


Critical theory, activism and artistic research can come together. Also in a museum. Here they will come together on the one and triple plateau of “sense”: signification, the direction of motion, perception. It is thus possible to imagine another plateau, and another thousand plateaux, on which signification, directionality, sensoriality interact and reinforce their respective potencies.


It is possible to imagine that the various practices of thought and of artistic production are not ordered on the basis of general criteria, of transcendence and subordination, but that they interact swapping place, interfering and enriching one another. It is thus possible to work towards a scenario in which some works of a permanent collection of a national museum are exposed not with the purpose of inviting the audience to the usual contemplation of the works, but to use them as carriers of possible encounters, a voice among others, pre-texts for other works, which in turn will be conceived not as the final result of a process but as instruments for further transitions, as exponential works.


It is possible to view works not only in their finished form, looking at their final appearance created by the artist, but from the point of view of the material employed, as a restorer would, as “open” works, broken or damaged, so that our gaze may grasp not what makes them complete but what is missing. The relation with the work goes beyond the mechanism, it takes place backwards, and investigates the dimension of “care” that could be at the heart of contemporary curatoriality, works being taken care of and incurable works.


It is possible to try to create, inside a museum, a situation in which a work is made in the moment of – and thanks to – the encounter with an audience.


It is possible to conceive an archive that, instead of protecting and preserving knowledge and collective history as a unit, would disperse the documents and elements, and that by doing so would multiply its presence and use.


It is possible to try and question the concept of contemplation to turn it into a moment of idleness of the viewer; idleness not intended as absence of action, but as an exercise of other modalities of experience, a moment in which the role of visitor-of-an-exhibition is emptied (that is to say returned to the emptiness that it usually already is), in which the stimulation of various senses is activated.


The spaces of the GNAM and the works belonging to the its permanent collection will be used to question roles, functions, definitions: a new play in which visitors will take part with their interaction, artists with their works, philosophers and activists with their theories and practices, restorers with their techniques and curators with their knowledge, but also movie directors, astronomers, actors, cooks, winemakers, dancers, poets, lovers. It is no longer about (it is indeed dubious whether it ever was) tracing a distinction between right and wrong contents, beautiful and ugly art; rather it is about the ways in which discourses, words, images, gestures, artifacts, that is, the fabric of aisthesis, the forms of our perception, intertwine.


To research forms of the sensible will mean to free us from ourselves, from dominion, to follow enjoyment, and acquire a greater potency to act, and joyful affects. To weave a common that preexists us, but that however can never be without our taking part in it and without our experiencing it. Articulated in a relationship, of equality and of interference, between different practices (political theory and artistic experimentation) and different disciplines (visual art, music, critique of taste). Another work will respond to the art work. And the audience will be looked at and questioned by the art work, not the contrary.


At the centre of this game we will place the allegation that individual authoriality, the most resistant form of proprietorship, together with its younger sister, the division into disciplinary sectors, accompanied by moral judgement and by ideology, is used to bend singularity, which is made to adapt to a common destiny, of isolation and of fear. Here it is important to bring out the sense of what is possible, between what has been and what will be, firstly by displaying that potent and marvellous register of the sensible that we have in common, which can only be constructed with the tools and perspectives belonging to happiness.



section 1 – exponential works     

A poetics of translation, a scenario of equality among diverse practices. The art of multiplication of use in the pathway of emancipation.

Twenty-five works belonging to the collection of GNAM become a pre-text for a second work, a third one, a fourth one … an exponential one. Words, performances, voices, gestures, shape a landscape of objects and signs where the singular and common adventure of intelligence unfolds. The transition from a work to another weaves a relationship between words and things, experiences and materials, tracing a provisional pathway through knowledge, the visible, the sayable, undermining authorial hierarchies, legitimate stances and ownership. And echoing with new intentions. 


section 2 – incurable works

They break, deteriorate, shred. They are made of materials that come apart. Viewing them from behind, looking at what is missing, they lose the unity of a finished object, which makes them similar to consumer goods.

In part, they lose their aura. Their value is the value of the substance they are made of.

Five broken or damaged works from the museum’s collection are illustrated by their “curators”, by the people who, by restoring them, are reactivating the integrity that is automatically lost. Knowledge, a relationship founded on care, invisible living work: all of this ensures the infinite life of a work, but it also forces us to question contemporary curatoriality. Which part of an art work resists being cared for? Is it possible to complete what is missing or, on the contrary, must this be seen as irreducible resistance? Artists, restorers, curators, are invited to discuss this.


section 3 – works under construction

Rules are established by institutional practices. They do not preexist nor do they endure. They are not given once and for all. There is no obligation, no restriction, before one takes sides. Sometimes there is an agreement, sometimes agreement is sought, and this is the course of a revolution. It is the rule of improvisation.

Four works by contemporary authors and artists who address the process by which a work of art is born. A dress rehearsal without performance. A film, a chorus, a concert, a theatrical representation.


Section 4 – works in struggle

Stories that have reshaped life, away from work, from forms of dominion. Images, slogans, manifestos, posters, leaflets … Discourses carried out by words, music, gestures. Images to suggest, shift, impact. It is the archive of the possibilities that were.

An archive of possibilities that perhaps will be, made of the same material of past stories. Not a “museification” of the heritage of struggles and dissent to be displayed under glass. Not a small treasure for new enclosures of cultures that should be free and that today are kept inside so many reserves. An archaeological deposit to be used, with the awareness that the museum storing it will disperse it, allowing it to be ransacked, stolen, by whoever wants to use it. An archive everyone can contribute to, collected anonymously and dispersed anonymously.


section 5 – works in contemplation

Poetics of idleness. Diffused aesthetics. Practice of the sensible.

These works allow us to be other than ourselves. They seek our attention with the only aim of undoing. Not still life but live life. To contemplate the sky (if the sky is clear), to respond to the call of the kingdom of plants, to break the bread, to drink the wine. Four collective experiences to sharpen our senses, lead by professionals and connoisseurs.


section 6 – works on the run

Images in movement in the temporal and spatial cracks of common sensibility.

Affects and percepts proliferate on the surface, tracing escape routes and ruptures, and modify forms of life.