The wall and its double

by Emilio del Gesso (2003)

In a survey of Italian art of the last two decades, Licia Galizia’s work is, by certain aspects, unique. In her artistic career she has developed a personal relationship with the idea of space and with the idea of wall, always looking for an equilibrium between thought and action. She has created installations which are at the same time static and on the move, which once defined and settled in a given place become performances implying the patent paradox of remaining stable. One of the characteristics of her works is that they involve the spectator-visitor who is somehow always invited to participate as active-passive protagonist in the space. In a duo with the musician Paolo Marchettini at the Castello Cinquecentesco in L’Aquila she had already created an exchange between the unbroken line and music: between the wall and its “instrumentalist”. In 1992, at Mara Coccia’s gallery, the spectator-onlooker was asked to move and recompose the iron or white aluminium elements on the wall. The wall becomes, in other instances, a real stage theatre of lines and segments by way of placing, more or less regularly, metal track and plates. However aseptic the instrument being used, traditionally more appropriate on a building site than as a form of artistic expression, Licia Galizia creates a space of apparent duplicity: by insisting on the craftsmanship aspect of details and trim she creates at the same time a lyrical space for lines and fragments.
The present exhibition at AAM gallery is the inevitable stage in progress of this journey. What was subtly enunciated in other sessions is here expounded and made explicit: that is the attempt to create an “active” wall by establishing a relationship between wall and writing. In this case the walls of the rooms become sheets of paper or supports of a poetic text. The sentences of this text are written on metallic track placed on the walls of the gallery. These lines are parallel and on top of one another in the same way as the geological layers of rocks. This method of laying out the lines is in itself a contamination, not only of the wall, but of the very idea of a palimpsest, which even if genetically linked to the idea of interference doesn’t share the place of a scriptorium any longer, but the surface of the wall. The basic assumption of this installation refers to a word play relative to the idea of being straight/straight line/straight text: a quality shift by which the wall gives and takes back what it gives. Actually the interference, meaning an addition or subtraction, is the fundamental feature of this installation. On the walls of the gallery the words are virtually interchangeable, because the spectator can highlight them by moving some of the straight elements which focus attention on some words and not on others.
A key concept at the basis of the installation is that of polysemy: meanings and thoughts as variables of the spectator’s experience of looking in a bi-univocal relationship subject to possible interpolations. Nonetheless it is not a series of random words which is presented before us (they compose phrases from a text by Rosa Pierno with explicit references to Dante), but they are words on the loose whose conceptual autonomy in relation to the text depends, so to speak, on the game played by the viewer.
The space thus segments itself through the writing and shares with it the apparent virtuality and its being repeated over and over. To play with the intertextuality of the wall is not a pure divertissement: the very idea of this installation has its internal logic and a distant origin, not only in the personal biography of the artist, but in a historical and anthropological tradition which is also rich in polysemies and different meanings.
In other contexts (the word itself concerns the idea of space as writing: con – texts) the languages which structure the spaces have their importance as their functional meaning is made explicit: thus a road network with no road signs would lose its urban function. In the same way, the graffiti in the underground or on the walls in the suburbs structure a space by making it semantically its own and by determining its identity. In this sense if the writings on the wall by Licia Galizia define on one hand the identity of the place as a mental space, on the other they define it as an exhibition in its own right playing on the ambiguity that written words normally create in an art gallery. We usually do not realize how every exhibition or art show is characterized by a system of signs within the space and very often the artist makes the compromise of exhibiting works by the perverse label “Untitled”. This installation is then conceptual before being real. And that is even more true when you think that polysemy is a recurring accident even when you talk about pictures or paintings with titles not corresponding to the object represented whether it be “The Tempest” by Giorgione or “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo (“Gioconda”, “joyful” in Italian). This is what Michel Butor called “verbal aura”. A recurring effect of this type of code system can be an impact of complete neutrality or a sort of fascination. It is inevitable that the code used by Galizia becomes a fabrication, not so much because it deals with poetic material, but because it enhances its ironic and paradoxical potentialities. Unlike Dada artists who made an icon of linguistic paradox (see Duchamp with his Mariée mise à nue par ses célibataires mêmes or even more Apolinère enameled) here paradox doesn’t resort to calembours or double meanings, at least not explicitly; paradox, if anything, coincides with ars combinatoria and the transcribed texts as well as the space of the installation maybe tend to create a theatre of memory. In the same exhibition (almost a separate section) Licia Galizia has materialized, so to speak, some of these linguistic accidents into portable objects by the shapes of rolls and volumes, which are something new compared to the work of former installations. They are actual books although they can’t be read in a traditional way, because they, too, share the idea of space: as rolls inscribed into a frame they are open and closed at the same time. When we get to these unusual verbal handiworks, we are tempted to interpret them as an evidence of the ability of words to evoke and create, while what Licia Galizia is actually doing is revaluing the complete autonomy of the artist from every metaphysical bond by again proposing his role of creator-founder of reality.