Prepared with nothing but the title—Tiziano e Giorgione—one is both compelled and halted by the head-on confrontation between the two singular works that Michele Gabriele and Alessandro Di Pietro installed parallel to each other at the end of a long garage-like space in Turin. Barriera, its location, is normally the depository of several contemporary art collections belonging to a club of lawyers and accountants that was chosen by Treti Galaxie and curator Matteo Mottin for their present exhibition.


Tiziano e Giorgione, Michele Gabriele, detail, Treti Galaxie, 2016, photo: Marco Cappelletti

In its preparation, Gabriele and Di Pietro made a pact—in a way as a sentimental but also parodic rendering of an anecdote that art history tells us about Giorgione and Titian, according to which the latter promised to complete the work of his friend after Giorgione’s early death by the plague in the autumn of 1510—a promise which Titian famously kept for some late paintings of Giorgione.

Gabriele and Di Pietro envisioned a similar plot for their lifetime: to give control over their coming legacies in the hands of the friend. Working separately, with only the intermediation of the curator, both artists agreed upon a few formal principles to guarantee the spatial disjunction: an equally-sized format, horizontal, rectangular and one-sided in its representation; to work on a single object to display and to hang it on the same wall on the inaccessible side of the theatrical channel, thereby separating two ›riversides‹: first the sphere of the artwork, which in spatial terms is thus autonomous, and secondly the field in which the work is seen, and which thus becomes a space of distanced beholding. The beholder, in other words, feels that his actio in distans is part of his own limitation and the withdrawal of something in the work’s narration. Hence, there is a secret about the sphere of the work, as there is one about the pact between the artists. What should be known and remains unspoken becomes clear in the explanatory text in the antechamber of the exhibition space:


Tiziano e Giorgione, installation view, Treti Galaxie, 2016, photo: Marco Cappelletti

The artists thus developed works as if they were their very last. […] Every artist works in constant relation to death, and despite the bane of uncertainty, entrusts the task of surviving them to their works, thus keeping the memory of their creator alive. Death, while accompanying all artists day after day, observes them through their work, but in this project death becomes the protagonist. Gabriele and Di Pietro decided to place this thought, this tension and the awareness of this presence at the center of their approach. A preponderant presence at that, which could not but alter their creative processes.[1]

Tiziano e Giorgione can initially be read as a meditation on a shared form of life inscribed through labor in the form of a visual artwork and installation. It might allegorically be read as a work on the (im-)possibility of an eternal friendship that does not depend on the living bodies of friends but rather on the idea and the faith preserved in the friend’s uncompleted work. The bio-finality of the numbered encounters of this friendship has thus no limit and end as an idea, since artworks, as long as there is time for them, can be activated and finished after the lifetime of their authors. This however requires the gesture of a work which is already unfinished, like a promise, a warning, a prophecy, or a joke with a secret pun. During the making of the two works there was therefore no interaction between the artists. The pun is yet to come.

The explanatory text claims that Gabriele worked out of an anxiety that he would not be able to finish the work before his death, thus in an accelerating quickness and rush, while Di Pietro, on the other hand, procrastinated, postponing his decisions until the very end. Gabriele digitally sketched the work on a screen and rendered it as exactly as possible into raw matter of steel, earth, paint and plastic once he began to install it. His work fixes a complex system in one hermetic body; it might seem as if a gated structure is both flattened and frontalized: we see aggressive fences, a panoptical vision, the inside/outside, transmitters or transceivers, ineffectual modalities and means of violence such as the barbed wire as sculptural elements and the effect of violence on matter in terms of its destruction and contamination. Gabriele represents an illegible screen that seems to show a motionless deserted territory without any potentiality in its semantics, but a strong potency as a flaccid apparatus. Given time, the caricature of the curator/muscle-man appears within the deserted earth-fields of the inner screen, which adds a comic component to the former perception of the material nothingness and the violence of the fencing. The curator plays the role of the deliverer; he is a kind of donor figure, a facilitator or mediator; he is the angel that only survives in joy. His muscles however belong to the same semantics that return—metonymically—in the pink plastic flesh that the artist intends as beacons. Their double-function for the representation is a presence of flesh-without-soul and color-without-nature. This impression of the color’s paleness is confirmed by the light design taken from the ceiling and installed uniformly throughout the space.


Tiziano e Giorgione, Michele Gabriele, Treti Galaxie, 2016, photo: Marco Cappelletti

Since the entrance to the space opens vision first to the left side, and thus to Gabriele’s work, Di Pietro’s screen on the right side is first seen standing as close as possible to it at the river. By stepping backwards, further distancing one’s own position from the work, an enigmatic script appears, while the soft and slightly wave-folded overvoltage turns itself into a glowing background that recalls the lightest computer readout: Distract Yourself: a Flat Vampire is Sucking Silicone until you’ll Shine bright. The effect relies on a simple installment; a special tissue, normally used for sport sneakers, is juxtaposed across a simple light source on the adjacent wall.

The double-work of the young Italian artists is well-placed in a limbo, in-between the established, market-oriented works of the absent Barriera collection. This inaccessibility has its absolute metaphor in a safe and by all means closed door. To understand its function in the perception of the exhibition it might help to recall Franz Kafka’s enigmatic parable Before the Law, where a man from the country asks a gatekeeper to gain entry into the law, which is over and over refused. After a lifetime of waiting, the man finally askes the gatekeeper why no-one except himself has ever requested entry. Just as the old man is about to die the gatekeeper shouts at him: Nobody else could have got in this way, as this entrance was meant only for you. Now I’ll go and close it.[2]

If the supplicants are the artists, one might paraphrase that the entrance into the other room is always possible, but not now. In their no-mans-land, between the financial depository of the lawyer’s club inside the art collection and the life-world of the beholders outside of art practice, the Tiziano e Giorgione-show creates, surmounts and sublimates the limbo of a precarious intimacy. In their lifetime of preparation, what are the events of arrival and what will they get for themselves from the time that remains? What does it imply for one artist, in his or her technique of solitude, to support another one, following the classical imperative by Paul Celan, that if the world is gone, I have to carry you.[3]? What does the blood pact then mean beyond its peculiar or rather comic link to the Venetian painters of the 16th century?


Tiziano e Giorgione, installation view, Treti Galaxie, 2016, photo: Marco Cappelletti

There is a strange theology at work in the installation. The cross and crown of thorns in Gabriele’s work, the segregation of the work itself, the reflection of the light in Di Pietro’s work, the structure of the mystical river, the flattened rod screen that cuts the space in half, the enclosed door to the depository as an uplifted crypt of capitalism as religion, if nothing else, the allusion to the coming dead of individual lives, the survival through the fulfillment of the friend’s care and thus the eschatological time of the artwork’s intention.

What remains in a time that has just started to end? Maybe the insight that there are hopefully endless demands in your work, but that it is not up for you to give it its final form. Before the law, in the limbo, there is a space to risk a faithful oath. The fluid of this prelaw is the blood the artists invested and exchanged in their pact.

Toni Hildebrandt

Toni Hildebrandt lives in Rome where he is since 2013 a Fellow at the Istituto Svizzero. He also teaches in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art History at University of Berne and in the Independent Study Programme at the Maumaus in Lisbon.

Featured image: Tiziano e Giorgione, Alessandro Di Pietro, Treti Galaxie, 2016, photo: Marco Cappelletti


[1] [Anonymous], Text laid out in the antechamber of Barriera, Turin.

[2] Franz Kafka, The Trial, trans. David Wyllie (New York: Dover, 2003), p. 155.

[3] Paul Celan, Atemwende (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1967), translation of the author.

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