One of the constants in the work of Anish Kapoor is the creation of openings on the crust of the world. Lucio Fontana did the same on the surface of painting, and, by extension, of art, undermining, for the first time and for good, the seductive illusion of representation [Hey, guys! Crack!]. Kapoor is first and foremost a sculptor and so is dealing with space. Long before he appeared on the art scene, space was investigated in a precisely and lucidly measured fashion by Minimal Art (especially in America) and then restored to us, to the Western aesthetic culture, integral and stripped of any superfluous ornament or symbolic overdetermination. Ultimately Fontana was still dealing with representation – albeit undermining or, if you like, fatally wounding it – and with the object, the objet as intuited by Marcel Duchamp, who, on the strength of this intuition, did not even bother to construct it, limiting himself to finding (trouvé) what had already been made (readymade). Kapoor, like the other major artists of his age, does devote himself to construction, but no longer that of the object, of the objet, but rather of the space of aesthetic perception. In line with this conception, object, objects, material construction, presence and encumbrance become instruments of an operation the sense of which – note, the sense more than the effect – goes beyond them and makes them means of an elsewhere. This is apparently contradictory: the sense, the direction traverses them, pierces them, marks a going beyond them and their earthly contingency, but it does not erase them, does not render futile their unavoidable presence. They remain where the artist has positioned them, where we encounter them. They occupy together with us a single space, which, however, we cannot even claim to share, given that ultimately it is an empty space, and emptiness cannot be shared. This space brings together subject (the artist, the viewer) and object (the work, or rather its object components) and thwarts hierarchies and privileges, which a certain tradition had attributed at various times to one or the other. There is a reduction of the distance between the gaze and the seen, which induces an intensification of perceptual and aesthetic experience. The perspectival model, which has given form to all Western art and culture from the Renaissance onwards, is called into question. We are no longer protected in the closed room of the machine for seeing. We are no longer firmly anchored to the point of view, our gaze is no longer directed towards the vanishing point, towards infinity, which is not given but is promised in the framework of representation. Likewise, and as a consequence, what are called into question are messianic expectation, ultraearthly salvation, utopia, what is beyond the threshold of the ‘reality’ of the senses and of ‘experienced’ life, and all those imaginary territories that, though they are not given in the framework, are inscribed in it and determine it. What remains then is the presence of sensory matter and of individual and collective consciousness. If this occurs, it is because in all Kapoor’s work there is a copresence of the male and the female, in the mechanical sense of the term but not excluding the sexual one. The work is thus the diaphragm, mechanical and erotic, that forms between the construction and its sense. If this could be said of many other artists of Kapoor’s generation in Europe and North America, in the work of the Anglo-Indian artist this dimension of the work – a dimension amongst others, because the work of art as such is never, to use Herbert Marcuse’s terminology, “one dimensional” – is particularly clear, especially whenever there are perceptual games or illusions: the void inside that is perceived as surface, or that takes shape; the reflection that overturns or erases the image; light that alters or modulates colour; figures that take shape as a result of physical effects, especially optical ones.
“… it is my role /…/ to define means that allow phenomenological and other perceptions which one might use, one might work with, and then move towards a poetic existence.”
In the chapel of the Castello di Ama, a bright circle opens in
the centre of the paving, a small, flaming chasm. Fire and light.
A precious substance, as indefinite as it is beguiling, and with
certain effect: “[A] thing exists in the world because it
has mythological, psychological and philosophical coherence”,
commented Kapoor in conversation with Homi K.Bhabha, and added:
“That is when a thing is truly made …”.
So what are we dealing with? What has destiny placed on the path of our ordinary, absent-minded journeys? What is its necessity, if there is one? Kapoor’s recent works pose these kinds of questions. Now, more than in the 1980s, when his works first made their mark on the art world, his claim that he has “nothing to say, no message to give anyone” appears pertinent. If, in fact, one could talk then of continuous rather than systematic work, of uninterrupted work, now, and in particular since Taratantara, the gigantic 1999 piece for the Baltic in Gateshead (the conversion of which was still underway), his works appear to be signs dropped from the heights of the artist’s individual consciousness onto the disordered texture of today’s landscape. We are light years away from the systematic dissemination of Sol LeWitt’s Wall Paintings. The signs do not relate to each other, they do not form a network. Splinters imprinted on the crust of the world, a crust pierced at different levels, at different heights or altitudes, with varying and different degrees of penetration, suggesting a multiplicity of directions and possibilities, of varied thickness and depth, of varied and different impact.
[He certainly could not say he loved that city, the overall design of which he was ultimately unaware, in which he never exactly knew where he was, where nothing helped to determine and recognize positions and distances. He never went for a walk. Very often he had to go through areas or neighbourhoods in order to reach some destination. That was when, turning into a street, or just looking more or less distractedly in a certain direction, extraordinary scenes of varying size presented themselves, which chance more than the intentions of the builders seemed to have produced. And old memories and immediate emotions were then aroused, like marvellous inflorescences on the thick desert of the construct.]
Pier Luigi Tazzi