Vittoria Broggini - Bianco-Valente: The Crossroads of "Visual Text", 2008

“Any representation of the aesthetic experience as a sort of emotional immersion or orgy is obviously absurd. [...] By claiming that art has something to do with simulated emotions, one ends up saying, analogously to the theory of representation as a copy, that art is a poor substitute for reality: that art is imitation, and that the aesthetic experience is a surrogate that can only in part compensate for the lack of contact and first-hand encounter with what is Real."
(N. Goodman, Languages of Art )

When you have to deal with works that can in someway be considered the so-called “visual" arts, often we neglect to consider a fundamental point. This is to say, before talking about them, we have to experience them . Only after we have experienced them is it possible to develop a theory.

These considerations – which are “elementary” in a pregnant sense of the word – are valid for all works. But they are even more so for the work of Bianco-Valente, as it is woven from the coexistence of images in movement and sounds.

Therefore, following my experience at this exhibition, I will proceed through “samplings”, first by “describing” the perception of individual works grouped into categories and then by collecting some common conclusions that derive from such perceptions – and from the relative descriptions – one by one.

Untitled , 1998, Altered State , 2001

A video of just a few inches set into the tuff wall of a room.

This is Untitled , a work dated 1998.

A true “crossroads” in the works of Bianco-Valente.

The sound acquires a greater spatiality than the video image.
The environment is travelled and beaten by the sound waves.
Environmental development begins.

The interest in the landscape, a constant presence from their first works on, is now evident in both the choice of the subject of the video and in the method of installation, careful to amplify the acoustic dimensions and expand the idea of landscape until they embrace the physical waves of the sound frequencies.

The new “environmental” vocation of electronics (in which the audio element dematerializes in the manipulation of its minimal parts and is then remoulded until imaginary scenarios and spaces take shape) enters into the works of Bianco-Valente. Sounds and images sculpt and dilate both the mental and physical spaces, thereby reinforcing the "immersive" quality of the work.

The concept is further enhanced - in other "environmental" works as well – by a masterly choice of musicians (in this case Mass), who always figure among the boldest pioneers of electronic sounds on the Italian scene today (TU M' and Mou, lips!) A further sign of the intention of the artists to dedicate greater attention to the dimension of the sound and the simultaneity of the perceptions.

A simultaneity that even reveals where the sound isn't.

In the work entitled Altered State (2001), the word of scientist Albert Hofmann 1 occupy the right side of the video in correspondence with the hemisphere of the brain where knowledge follows the intuitive, analogical, concrete, relational, imaginative, synthetic, and subjective mode. The right side allows us to understand metaphors, to dream, to create new sets of ideas, to have sudden "illuminations" during which everything seems be where it belongs and, more precisely, all functions can be numbered and marked because they are free of the linear concept of time.

The words of Hofmann blink, they dissolve into a continuous intermittence and arrhythmia that does not allow a sole, absolute interpretation.

The evasive and unstable nature of the “hour of perception” (of either Hofmann or the spectator) will also be distinguished by the vertical line that cuts the projection of Relational Domain (of 2005, of which I will speak in the next section) in which a sort of rift underlines the spectator's point of view, the dilation and abstraction of a point of view with a presumed domain that is reabsorbed by the dense visual pattern of spatial and temporal differences.

Was it not perhaps Merleau-Ponty who said that, “ Time is not a line, but rather a network of intentionality "?

Rem, Mind Landscape, Deep in my Mind, Soft Luggage, Relational Domain,
Uneuclidean Pattern , 1995-2003

This “network of intentionality”, in fact, was gradually constructed in previous works.

Already with Rem (1995), Bianco-Valente announced the deepening of their vision to below the epidermis, the inversion of the glance.
In Deep in my Mind and Soft Luggage (both from 1997) this point of view is driven to extreme consequences: the subject appears as a shadow, the language is increasingly abstract, and “chromatic mappings” begin to appear, giving the impression that they refer to cerebral tissue. On the screen, the luminous and electrical impulses become ramifications, connections of waves, chromatic and biomorphed magma.

From the first Bianco-Valente videos, the linearity of the narrations has always been dismantled: In the sequence, the artists seek new distributions of time and space to drive the image beyond the limit of evocation, producing intricate labyrinths, of space/time. The editing of the video highlights the fractures, accentuates the cuts, the pauses, and the blackouts, the shifts in distance and dimension. In Mind Landscape (1996) there is even a subdivision into numbered chapters.

The invisible cuts of the cinema are thereby brought to the surface to underline the artificial dimension of digital language and, at the same time, call attention to the narrative that skips to inside the body, the mind, the cerebral structure, the dynamics of memory and vision.

These interruptions and resistance bring “intervals of reality” to the interior of the practice of projection, which like a sort of glitch 2, act as interference. These intervals seem to be useful for the resetting of every possible symbolization of the image and, at the same time, constitute an opportunity offered to the subject-spectator to access the construction of sense with his projections.

The vertical line that splits the perceptive horizon of Relational Domain is of the same nature, as is that horizontal band strip that drops into the video image, interfering with the vision and pitching it in Uneuclidean Pattern (2003) (and, as we will see, in the more recent Tempo Universale ). Lines that mark a temporal interruption, a sort of syncopation that cuts through - and expands - our field of perception.

What should be invisible – the splicing of the classic cinema – becomes visible. Bianco-Valente bring the wounds back to the surface. In their video, nothing is concealed and the tools are made manifest to demonstrate a controversial terrain where the distinction between fiction and reality, artificial and real, seems to make no sense.

The preference for a lo-fi aesthetics is constant in the work of Bianco-Valente and emerges in the voluntary choice of low-resolution effects or imperfect playback quality, whereby the reality playback technology never disappears behind the presumed reality of the representation.

The true take is out of focus from the beginning and altered chromatically; so the artists are not urged on by the drive to conquer a vision with its presumed veracity and fullness as a revealer of the structures that represent reality.

The choice to show and not hide the filter that interferes with the vision, the opacity of the diaphragms, the causality of factors inherent to the production of the work are like the need to signal the precarious, material support of the representation. In its concrete technology, the work cannot be distinguished from the raw and organic materials from which it is made (even more and even before “representing itself”).

In the aesthetics of Bianco-Valente, the reality of its accidental, lacerated, and eventual form offered by a “low fidelity” representation leaves the subject with the opportunity to fill in - with his projects, perceptions, expectations and non – the lackings, the interruptions, the latencies, the resistance, and the discontinuity of a tale that is still and will always be incomplete.

Digital technology is therefore intended not as a limit, but as an opportunity and a way of extending the nervous system beyond the traditional confines of the human body, exploiting the capacity of the tool to alter the very core of the experience and the perception of the flow of events and of time.

Deep Blue Ocean of Emptiness, Unità Minima di Senso, Fortify my Arms , 2001-2004
In Deep Blue Ocean of Emptiness (2002), the glance is still “submerged”.

Not to capture memory, but to pass through it deliberately, regaining possession of it through a changing point of view.

At first it circulates in the labyrinthine space “of the garden of forking paths”. Then it turns back, to look underneath from above in a camera move that on one hand narrates the sinking of a wreck, and at the same time follows the vertical ascent of a body during its return to the surface, taking its distance from the bottom.

A movement that is both a loss and a reappropriation, like the sensation we feel upon returning from a trip, when the body and the memory are reluctant to abandon the images and the sensations to oblivion, yet that same tension pushes us homeward with equal force and attraction, causing us to perceive the return home as a new and propitious beginning.

But in the works of Bianco-Valente, the heterogeneity and the simultaneity of the directions and the points of view narrate a subject that, beyond being objective, is above all a condition of the possibility of things, of reality. A subject that dwells simultaneously in different temporal zones and lives in different times.

So Unità Minima di Senso (2002) is the work of fluidity, of the meeting, of the passage and fading out of all these times into a temporal and chromatic polyphony, a synthetic string that contains all possibilities.

In the poetics of Bianco-Valente there is in fact a constant search for new forms of narration, for new ways of “installing time” in space, pushing until the linear model of time collapses.

In a work like Fortify my Arms (2004) (in addition to the already examined Untitled and Uneuclidean Pattern ), the interweaving of the sound with the looping of the sequences opens – paradoxically – onto a continual tale, onto a temporality – a chronology – that never alludes to the return, but rather gives rise to a progressive discovery of the subject (inside and outside the work). A subject that, even if it never abandons itself, eventually finds itself in a sort of suspension of the temporal memory.

The subsequent environmental and perceptive situations of Bianco-Valente seem driven to reach the heterogeneous origins of the subjective experience, where memory, emotion, imagination, perception, and empathy are captured simultaneously and anticipate any objectification.

Therefore, an “immersed” glance.

When the Sun Touches You, Tempo Universale, The effort to Recompose my Complexity , 2006-2008

In When the Sun Touches You (2006) and in Tempo Universale (2007), a new point of view embraces all the others, the gaze is turned upward and follows the natural movement, the gradual evolution of things. Time is suspended like air, heading towards the universe.

It is again the garden of the forking paths; it is the “incomplete but not false” image of the universe as conceived by Ts'ui Pên

“He believed in infinite series of time, in a growing and dizzying network of divergent, convergent, and parallel times. This pattern of times that converge and fork, that intersect each other or ignore each other for centuries, includes all possibilities. In most of those times we don't exist; in some, she exists and I don't; in others I exist and she doesn't; in others, both of us exist.3”

Such works – as difficult as they may be to describe in words - clarify the aesthetic stand of Bianco-Valente.

Their works boast a profound poetic coherence while invalidating the need to trace a line that separates the emotional from the cognitive. They demonstrate that emotions, once they have been artistically materialized in the aesthetic experience, function cognitively.

The distinction between scientific fact and aesthetic fact - rooted as it is in the conviction that the difference lies between knowing and feeling - is in any case senseless.

In other words, art, like pure science, is not a means but an end. Like the scientific experience, the aesthetic one is part of - and not the antithesis - research.

“The aesthetic “stance” is a mobile one, of research, of exploration – it is less a stance than an action: creation and re-creation.4”

1) Albert Hofmann is the Swiss chemist who synthesized LSD for the first time in 1938. He experimented the effects of the substance on himself.
2) The word glitch indicates an error in the procedure of a mechanism. In the field of digital technology, the glitch is the interval that inserts itself into a sequence, generating a lack of homogeneity; consider problems in software , skips in CD s, the discontinuity of images in the defective reproduction of a DVD .
3) Jorge Luis Borges, Il giardino dei sentieri che si biforcano , in Finzioni , Milan 1984, p. 700
4) Nelson Goodman, I linguaggi dell'arte , Milano 1998, p. 208

Taken from visibile invisibile, Bianco-Valente Opere video e ambienti 1995-2008, SHINfactory, Brescia_Paris, 2008

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