Gigiotto Del Vecchio - Bianco-Valente: Halfway Between Newton and Descartes, 2007
The idea that there could be a relationship between mind and brain, or mind and body, first came to the fore at the start of the scientific revolution, with Descartes as one of its leading exponents.
Indeed, although the world could be easily described in mechanical terms as an interaction of bodies and movement, this vision ignored one substantial element: human creativity (and especially the creativity of language) and the fact that, unlike machines and animals, human beings can only be invited or incited to perform a determined action, not forced. At this point the solution was to admit that there are two types of reality: one composed of surface structures (the world) and one composed of deep structures (the mind) (Chomsky).
Unfortunately, like many other scientific theories of the time, Descartes’ theory was proved wrong when Newton demonstrated, not without regret, that the universe cannot be conceived as a merely mechanical device. Indeed, according to Alexandre Koyré, Newton not only proved the purely mechanical theory to be untrue but also confirmed that the workings of the universe could only be explained by contemplating inexplicable facts. Obviously this solution seemed completely absurd to the great English scientist and philosopher, who spent most of his life trying to find the right answer to this complex philosophical problem.
One solution may, however, be provided by a line of thought which distances itself from the mathematical rigidity of numbers and patterns in order to explore the poetic and the creative pursuant to the determinism of scientific assumptions.
The fact that Pino Valente studied geology and Giovanna Bianco has a degree in languages (having presented a thesis on the history of film) makes them “intruders” in an environment which, despite its many connections with art, is undoubtedly an area of purely scientific study. Ever since their first video experiments – REM (1995) and Welcome X (1998) - Bianco-Valente have pursued their desire to investigate memories, sensations and personal experiences through the viewfinder of a video camera prior to understanding their various shades of meaning.
Yet, despite the impossibility of capturing a true gesture or thought, all the computer machinery explored in Bianco-Valente’s studies is stripped of its recognizability, overawed by its existence as a machine and made to function by looking inside (Breathless, 2000; Machine is Dreaming, 2001) whilst it is moving as the artists search for the dynamic antithesis between physical and mental movement.
Having resolved the impossibility of visualizing mental movement by setting up an iconographic translation which seems to place them halfway between Newton and Descartes, the artists are free to develop a theory of humanist technology which reveals the inevitable reciprocal stimulation between mind and body, materiality and immateriality.
Activation of the neuronal process produces images, thoughts and sensations which technology is only apparently able to reproduce: machines and computers are tools designed to facilitate research which, unguided by the human hand, are capable of nothing.
Bianco and Valente do all they can to avoid losing human contact with thought and action. Their images are blurred right from the very outset, right from the moment of filming, refiguring the memory without any need for mechanical manipulation (apart from minimal changes to the level of contrast and a subtle chromatic exasperation). In the same way that man will never be conquered by machine, the fact that "the flight of the living from the body prior to its slow but gradual disintegration puts an end to cerebral activity, and thus to existence, is also post-organic.
The sum of all a human being’s experiences is a uniquely intricate trail which leads through billions of neuronal synaptic connections".
Yet, having reduced the body to a mere organism, it is necessary to create an alternative – spiritual – scenario in order to provide the answers which the organism is unable to give when questioned as a living body. That scenario is the psyche. As was pointed out by Husserl with regard to Descartes’ error, the only way to avoid the dualism which has pervaded the whole history of Western philosophy (Galimberti) would be to ignore the “scientific” body and focus merely on the living organism, thus doing away with the need for psychology.
Modern neuroscience and the splendid words “mind and brain” do n o t h i n g more than reproduce the error made by Descartes - or rather by Plato by whom the idea was originally conceived - in rather more elegant terms.
Humanization and the rationality which the cognitive process inevitably requires are the concepts underlying RSM, a project commenced in 2001 which has seen Bianco-Valente travel to Brazil, Yucatan, Australia and India in order to verify a medieval astronomical theory. According to this theory, it is possible for human beings to control their life and destiny by moving around the globe in line with the movement of the sun as seen from the earth and in concomitance with the celebration of their astronomical birthday, thus creating enormous possibilities for themselves, for their network of awareness and for their spiritual and cultural experience.
Rationality and humanization was also the theme of Unità Minima di Senso (2002), a sculpture focusing on a thin, 1 km long strip of paper "on which we described the images and memories which most affected our personal history: scattered thoughts, units of the plan according to which our existence is created. We tried to capture the transient traces impressed in our minds in order to entrust them, through the written word, to this fragile strip of paper whose mission is to ferry them into the future".
As humans we are aware that only by opening up and offering our knowledge is it possible to share our awareness with others.
Pino Valente and Giovanna Bianco are simultaneously spectators and protagonists of a linear philosophical journey which, with no real start and no real end, offers a new analytical approach to life, its nuances, its reactions, its relations and the possibilities it offers for study and knowledge.
Their early video works had a start and an end; now things have changed. In line with the philosophical journey which now fills their lives, their new works are endless loops of images which accompany, illustrate and show the way. Bianco-Valente have finally found an effective way of translating reflection into image.
Taken from Bianco-Valente, Meu mundo é hoje, ed. VM21 artecontemporanea, Roma, 2007.