Lia Boscu, Come Dine with Me, collage (2015)

Lia Boscu, Reflective Spaces, collage (2015)

 

Between the language (langue) that defines the system of constructing possible sentences, and the corpus that passively collects the words that are spoken, the archive defines a particular level: that of a practice that causes a multiplicity of statements to emerge as so many regular events, as so many things to be dealt with and manipulated. It does not have the weight of tradition; and it does not constitute the library of all libraries, outside time and place; nor is it the welcoming oblivion that opens up to all new speech the operational field of its freedom; between tradition and oblivion, it reveals the rules of a practice that enables statements both to survive and to undergo regular modification. It is the general system of the formation and transformation of statements.

 

 

 It is obvious that the archive of a society, a culture, or a civilization cannot be described exhaustively; or even, no doubt, the archive of a whole period. On the other hand, it is not possible for us to describe our own archive, since it is from within these rules that we speak, since it is that which gives to what we can say – and to itself, the object of our discourse – its modes of appearance, its forms of existence and coexistence, its system of accumulation, historicity, and disappearance. The archive cannot be described in its totality; and in its presence it is unavoidable. It emerges in fragments, regions, and levels, more fully, no doubt, and with greater sharpness, the greater the time that separates us from it: at most, were it not for the rarity of the documents, the greater chronological distance would be necessary to analyse it. 

Michel Foucault

A film by Lotte Løvholm, Nanna Nielsen & Karen Andersen 

NATHALIE MBA BIKORO. PIETA'(THE HAMMER, MOTHER & CHILD)

Chiara Cartuccia

 

“The child is innocent and forgetting, a new beginning, a game, a self-propelled wheel, a first movement, a sacred “Yes.” For the game of creation, my brothers, a sacred “Yes” is needed: the spirit now wills his own will, and he who had been lost to the world now conquers his own world.”

Friedrich Nietzsche [1]

 

The performance installation Pietà; The Hammer, Mother & Child is the result of Nathalie Mba Bikoro’s investigation of maternity as a catalyst of intensity, which summarizes the main traits of life, focusing on its paradoxical aspects. Bikoro’s narrative depicts the act of giving birth as a personal, arduous journey of transformation, which comes to be representative of human strength as a capacity to unflinchingly accept life in all its painful and joyful facets.

Similar to Michelangelo’s masterpiece that inspires the title of this performance, Bikoro’s apparently violent act of hitting the stone does not produce a destructive effect: the hammer does not destroy, but it rather releases a secret life incarcerated in the stone. The material, the white rock, undergoes transfiguration, but it doesn not evolve into something absolutely different. Instead, what the viewer witnesses is a metamorphosis that becomes possible only through a measured mixture of variation and continuity. Nothing comes from nothing: in the same way that the origins can always be traced in the final product, any kind of historical progress, personal or collective, stems from an organic dialogue between the old and the new, between past and present. According to Benjamin, “history is the object of a construction whose place is formed not in homogenous and empty time, but in that which is fulfilled by the here-and-now [Jetztzeit]” . [2]

In this context, the extreme, radical mutation symbolized by birth, a “no-being” that becomes “being”, is used as a premise for artistic and conceptual investigation. 

 

Bikoro elaborates an intimate system of correspondences between herself (creator, both as mother and artist), the new-born (a vivid manifestation of life at its most), and the stone, an inanimate object shaped by creative intentions (the son of art and imagination). The performative gesture closes the symbolic circle of the elements, gives them unity, and sets the entire process to action. The act of change is a state of constant movement, although this flux is always inherent to each singular instance, and in this sense eternally fixed. This is the reason why once we encounter death in life, we are unable to distinguish between the two: same as the love for the present moment always implies a memory about the things passed, presence is nothing without absence. After all, the concept of resurrection is essentially nothing else, but a declaration of awareness of the ultimate unity of these two opposites. This in mind, the title of the performance “Pietà” sounds almost ironical, since it intentionally makes the viewer think of mourning and grief, although the default theme of the artwork is birth and new life.

Life derives its forms from experiences (the figure of the mother) as well as from expectations (the stone and the child). Death and birth are both liminal moments, which elucidate the coexistence of temporalities in a man’s lifetime. This blurry edge between living and not-(yet)-living is a perfect place for creation, since it is open to possibility and novelty, which Bikoro’s artistic intervention intends to represent.

 

[1] Nietzsche, F, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, translated by Walter Kaufmann, New York: Random House 1954
[2]  Benjamin, W, On the Concept of History, translated by Dennis Redmond, original German version Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag (1974)