A bench drill and a jigsaw of excessive size, but on a real scale. Soaps, paint cans, sandpaper, brushes, brushes, glues, varnishes, thinners. That is what we see when we walk 'Piano piano si va lontano', a show by the artist Aimé Pastorino. But well looked, these work tools, typical of a carpentry workshop, suggest something else: perhaps a cross of historical memories in which family history is plotted with social history. And vice versa.
Based on Pastorino's memories, the workshop aims to replicate the place where her grandfather built wooden crafts and games. The artist spent her early childhood among these tools, observing and absorbing a work mode. Or better, a culture of the world of work associated with an industrial imaginary - there are, for example, some magazines about the Czechoslovak industry that her grandfather collected. In the tension between artisanal creation and industrial production, these two productive and, therefore, cultural zones, that capitalism always struggled to divorce, is where Pastorino seems to find the reasons for an aesthetic-political commitment that allows us to test the image of another way. In that encounter, the wood is worked with a technique that resembles the tooling. But this does not seek to participate in the irradiation of an artistic, serial, depersonalized industry, but to devise an art of industrial merchandise. It is less of a massive art than of doing the massive, art: wherever they were work tools, merchandise placed at the service of the production of new merchandise for the market, here the fetish of the merchandise is kidnapped what there is of Art in the object. And when that happens, the workshop can return as a work of art. here the fetishism of merchandise is kidnapped by what there is of art in the object. And when that happens, the workshop can return as a work of art. here the fetishism of merchandise is kidnapped by what there is of art in the object. And when that happens, the workshop can return as a work of art.
Conversely, the work can also be thought of as a workshop; that is, as a space for individual and collective creation, and as a learning space: we can conjecture that behind it, of its culmination as an aesthetic object, there is human work. And that because there is human work, there is conflict. And because there is conflict, there is interpretation. And because there is interpretation, there is memory.
The presence of the grandfather occupies every corner of Piano Piano ... - we can almost see her manipulating these work tools. However, it is her physical absence that allows the work to be. This absence is a condition of possibility for individual history to become a collective history and the always tense and conflicting reciprocity between the object represented and our gaze can occur. Therefore, far from being onlyart, the objects here are something else. And that something is the plus of meaning that forwards us to a collective memory in which the traces of a national and popular history are cast and drawn. Precisely, all this is what authorizes us to interpret and decipher those pieces - and with them our present and our past (thus, in the plural, since there are many) -, that before dead pieces are living objects. In other words: it is what enables us to change the question of what we see for what we see of ourselves when we do it.
It is evident what each of these objects shows us: the commercial brands that produced them (Federal, Alba, Colorín, etc.). They may not have been, but Pastorino chooses to reveal them, make them visible. Not so much because I suspect that these products could not exist if they were split from their brands than because they believe that behind them there is a history of anonymous workers, of factories and industries, of objects and subjects that are part of the popular cultural landscape of our peripheral cities. These objects tell us about history, but also about those other anonymous stories that swim in their underground currents. As in Edgar Allan Poe's stolen letter , Pastorino hides the secrets to make them visible.
Hence, before a kitsch, pop, nostalgic or retro gesture, typical of that postmodern life that in its merely aestheticizing desire seeks to produce, as Eduardo Grüner points out, a history without historicity, a memory without memory, an image stripped of its power symbolic, in short, an aestheticization of politics, what is noticed here is a political gesture. But not in the manner of the pamphlet, where everything is already said before starting. Rather like Ricardo Piglia, for whom to narrate is to turn on a word that does not finish being said, because when it is said the story is closed. It is precisely what is hidden in Pastorino's work that gives her her right to existence. There, inhabits her political gesture: in the interpellation to interpret them, in the search for the construction of an intersubjectivity that can be recognized in the ruins of a common past, in the desire to transform a present full of fright. In short, in a sociological curiosity. Away from any conservation claim, everything that appears in Piano Piano ... resembles what Walter Benjamin called politicization of art.
What was left of that world of images that Pastorino recreates? Her work symptomatizes an unease, denounces a state of affairs: the decomposition and the consequent danger that would suppose the disappearance of the national industrial imaginary and that working mass that serves as support, and that made it possible for that workshop to have been as it was. But that is not how we see it - because it cannot be as we see it. No attempt is made to restore things as they really were, but as presented in their memory; not the past as it was, but as inspiration to produce something else. Many of the marks printed on these objects no longer exist, they have disappeared. The various economic and political crises that our country went through have shattered them and the world of images and passions contained therein. But if they return here as art, it is to try to tell us something. As Adorno used to say, the critical lucidity of art is to install itself as a difference with that torn reality to make it evident. But also, we add, to give us hope that, piano piano, art can be reunited with life.
That which could initially be interpreted as the search for the elaboration of a duel, or as a tribute with which one seeks to maintain a family history in a memory, ends up being a story of the ups and downs of our erratic and meandering national culture. Some of that can be learned in Pastorino's grandfather's workshop. That is no longer her's. Because it belongs to everyone now.