“When the tobacco smoke smells also of the mouth which exhales it, the two odors marry by infra-thin.”
Traces left by absences, building architectures of desire and readymades as projections – the third encounter took our “Four square meters of infinite space” into another dimension with author Elio Grazioli (professor of History of Photography at Università di Bergamo), Aldo Iori (professor of Contemporary Art History at the Accademia di belle arti di Perugia) and a room filled with art aficionados.
The presentation of the book Duchamp oltre la fotografia: strategie dell’infrasottile Duchamp beyond photography: strategies of the infrathin) published by our long time friends and collaborators Johan and Levi was the meeting point of visions and otherworldly theories on contemporary art, reality, images, Duchamp’s legacy and his forward-looking concepts on imagery and art.
The infrathin, l’inframince as it first appeared in one of the artists’ letter collages speaks of the unseen, the instant that escapes our perception, a term that bears no definition, but only examples, as Duchamp emphasised: “The warmth of a seat (which has just been left) is infra-thin”, or a space between “the detonation noise of a gun (very close) and the apparition of the bullet hole on the target”. Professor Iori also managed to draw a parallel between Duchamp’s art metaphor and the Japanese Ma concept (間) that can be roughly translated as a “gap”, the space between two spaces, that which lies in between.
Parting from this great underlying theme, Elio Grazioli engaged in an in-depth and at times hermeneutic exploration of the concepts that Duchamp worked with: from explaining the main 3 categories of signs – icon, index and symbol, to considering the readymade as a sort of photo made with the object itself instead of a camera, and thus entering a 4th dimension of objects as projections. Furthermore, the readymades can be seen as recordings, as proofs of the hole left by the object inside reality, sending our gaze into another dimension just like photographs capture instants that are already gone and that can be seen as openings in reality thresholds. Speaking of reality and how photography has changed the way we look at it, Grazioli went ahead to point out how we are currently living in a world of images, one we can’t even call reality anymore, since the concept of it has been long surpassed: a world in which terms like “fake” and “truth” can no longer be seen in opposition, but met in a union in the realm of the infrathin. So what about our relationship with images then, with the quantity, with the infinite mindless scroll towards the end of the internet? “We should go humbly insane in front of images. Even when you post them on Instagram, you should cry a bit and be moved”, Grazioli said, insisting we should not take things for granted and forget how to actually look at images, even when faced with such an overwhelming quantity.
And take for granted we shall not, as the evening wrapped up beautifully, sliding between these subjects and perspectives with an enthralled public and a contemplative state of mind. Duchamp’s vision seems not only to have passed the test of time, but to have become even more relevant as our lives are now being spent in virtual dimensions and experimenting with holograms that the artist envisioned and theorised way ahead of his time. So at least the next time we find ourselves quickly looking at an image, merely brushing its surface, maybe we’ll remember to that actually “It’s not what you see that is art, art is the gap. What art is in reality is this missing link, not the links which exist.”, as the artist pointed out in his 1957 talk, “The Creative Act”.
di Emilia Barbu