An attempt to bring the subject closer
by distancing it
Saretto Cincinelli

Everything starts before it begins.
Jacques Derrida

What is folded is included, inherent.
Gilles Deleuze

To remain rigorously on the margins of sculpture, to strategically inhabit a tradition in order to dis-orient it from the inside: this is the perspective in which the works of Daniela De Lorenzo can be placed since their debut: they are among the most signifi cant works that were developed in the nineties to have been elaborated in Italian art.

With the passage of time we can now distinguish two periods in the artist’s research: the fi rst mostly anchored in a sculptural and spatial dimension that extends more or less from 1985 to 1993, and the second, much freer and more susceptible to further and more sophisticated subdivisions, that starting in 1993, seems explicitly marked by a temporal perspective. This schematic subdivision doesn’t intend to defi ne an abrupt break, but simply, to register the result of a series of coherent and progressive drifts aimed at substituting, almost without continuity, the spatial organisation of the plural, yet atomistic structure of the fi rst works, with a temporal structure that is better adapted to the possibility of metamorphosis. In fact, under no circumstances would an attentive retrospective look at the macroscopic lightening of the sculptural materials from the beginning, the adoption of the fold and the changes introduced with the use of photography – all traced back to a need to consider shapes that are increasingly less authoritative and defi nitive – be seen as a ‘traumatic’ change in direction.

Conceptually implicit in the artist’s research, the fold (and its tangles), will progressively acquire the role of a guiding principle: since the creation of Biff ures in 1993, what unites one element to another in her sculptures is more important than the space that separates them for De Lorenzo, and multiple is no longer synonymous to what is made of many parts, but of what is folded in various ways. The desire to “create one thing that is at the same time two things” (De Lorenzo) is the origin of a work such as “eco” 1 (echo) that, even though it shuns any idea of abstraction, is presented as a counter-image/fi gure that eludes any unambiguous attempt at identifi cation.

Halfway between a table waiting to be set and a stretcher covered hurriedly to hold an injured person, “eco” is abandoned in the corner, held up by excessively spindly legs, like a silent question: an object without a past and with an uncertain future, whose very truth seems to reside only in solidity, and protests, by the fact of its existence, a transformation of our conception of what is real. The semantic and structural instability to which it seems destined in reality derives not from a precarious adaptation to what is pre-existing but from its primary questioning: like the eco from the title, the work repeats itself untiringly, transforming its identity into the principle of non-identifi cation.

In taking the form of an exquisite process that weakens the borders of diff erent disciplines, even the apparent singularity of the choice of photography is re-dimensioned as soon as we realise that the act of photography is not defi ned as a result, and that the artist’s work, at least at the beginning, fi nds its centre when her work as photographer is almost over. The fact is that for De Lorenzo the origin of an image is never simple or direct (in principle there is never one but a dyad): the shot, and the negative are, taken to an extreme, comparable to simple materials and photography tends to defi ne itself as the product of a work more than of a way of looking: a work involving spacing, doubling, and metamorphosis of the origin which contradicts, or at the very least complicates, any modernistic idea of “specifi city”.

Regardless of the medium used, in reality the artist thinks of the form and the presence of the work in dynamic terms, of the potential rather than of the absolute. Constructing an image rather than capturing it, De Lorenzo’s photography coherently places the fold as its origin; the fi rst photos, the result of a superimposition of negatives taken from her coeval sculptures in felt, derive from an internal duplication of the image, that doesn’t restore the subject but complicates it by deconstructing it.2 Produced by an original spacing, lacking a common matrix, the artist’s prints are not simple portraits of sculptures but, it could be said, of her re-portraying herself (in the Italian there is another play on words here suggesting that the artist also ‘retreats’ from sculpture): by way of a symmetrical and enigmatical multiplication of the folds that make up the subject, in reality, they do not represent but rather make present the consideration of the sculpture in its not-yet ness or, bring the form back to the base of its possibility.

In the successive self-portraits,3 the work that generates the image, incorporated into the same phase of shooting, renders any duplication or inversion of the image from the start superfl uous. What is attempted here is: to dilate the snapshot beyond the point of no return, to give solidity to meanwhile, to the invisibility of between, to a becoming that does not become, that in not ceasing to end, and not fi nishing to begin, seems to incessantly modulate rather than model the image.

Portraits that are in a certain sense missing, anticipated or late; De Lorenzo’s self-portraits show not what has (been)4 but, paradoxically, that which is about to happen: facilitating the movement of the fl ow of time, the artist enwraps the connotations of her own face that, in turning inwardly, become a kind of phantom’s head that evaporates the icon, re-vealing a face in its un-facing. Here the temporality of the action seems to be central: the performance implicit in each self-portrait seems to become one with the self-portrait as performance. Affi rming their paradoxical specifi city by inverting the focus, these works photograph a latency, bringing the grain of the image into the foreground, while conserving the vibratory trace of their birth inside of the same result, backing into themselves to testify what has happened to them, and bring back a face into vision rather than showing faces. The more recent “Aff ondi” (“Thrusts”) seem to move in the same direction by bringing closer while distancing diff erent parts of the artist’s face, actuating a fusion without confusion between a metaphoric fold in time and a sort of material folding of the image.

From 1995 on, the fertile relationship that had been established between photography and sculpture ended up emerging as a constant, reaching the point where by now the two poles are kept alive by playing a continuous game of references and secret relationships:5 if the fi rst photographic work, centred on the construction of the image, negated any diff erence between making and taking,6 it brought the photo closer to the sculpture, the successive one, centred on dilatation of the snapshot, brought the genesis of the image back inside of a single shot (and from only one negative), it brought it back to a more suitable practice of capturing invisible aspects of what is real: diff erent perspectives that are contradictory only in appearance. Similar to the fi rst photographic prints that brought back the no-longer of the sculpture towards the not-yet, the successive attempts to introduce the length of time to the snapshot transformed the photo into a paradoxical trace of the possible that counter eff ected, après coup, the very stability of what is visible.

Within the thick weave of references intertwined by De Lorenzo the change of point of view ends up, as clearly shown in the exhibition Harmonica (2002), consolidating the complex relationship that solidly binds the two poles of her research: here, the movement of the large felt work turning slowly on its own axis, rather than contradicting the immobile or virtual one in the photograph, seems to take turns with it. In this exhibit the system of looking that has governed the relationship sculpture-photography, formerly one-way, seems to be turned upside down: if before, as we saw, it was the photo that looked at the sculpture, here, it seems as if it is the latter that looks at the photo, in order to grant it a last chance for existence. In Daniela De Lorenzo’s work everything seems to duplicate itself and complicate itself in order to come back to life, and to exist at least two times.7

An example of this is the multiple channel video-installation Dammi il tempo! (Give me the time!), an infi nite variation upon the identical theme of a performer (Ramona Caia)8 who attempts to repeat her previous postures that have been immortalised photographically and are projected lifesized from slides; a video-installation in which her inevitable falling short of the objective seems to count more than the success of the performance: her enactment of an almost that testifi es to the inescapable diff erence that separates the “Medusation” of the photo from the permuting of the video image, the (im)possibility of resolving an anachronism, the paradoxical attempt to annul the original delay between the pose and its repetition, that diff erential gap which, in separating movement and immobility, defers the epiphany of an exact match to infi nity.

Compared to the photo, a Medusa gaze that captures every presence and immediately transforms it into an icon, the video seems to be a sort of antidote, capable of restoring dynamism to the latter:9 it is in superimposing these divergent peculiarities within the single body of a plural image that the artist creates the short circuit between movement and immobility, that simultaneous co-presence of not now and now that makes up the nucleus of the work.

Thus, the spectator will repeatedly see the fusion without confusion of the two irreconcilable images that produce the novel sensation of the coexistence between real and virtual with regard to the same event. While the dynamism of the video image demands an anchorage to the present, the immobility of the photographic image seems to be removed from it, to inhabit a temporal lacuna, a non-chronological precedence that resounds ambiguously as both the echo and the matrix of the moving image.

A further, close look at the way the work was made reveals that the cast shadow of the performer indicates that the video recording, which has no light of its own, relies entirely on the light conveyed by the slide. The luminosity of the photographic has been thus ends up illuminating the presumed alwaysnow of the movement-image “like deferred beams of light from a star” (Barthes)10 and the “past”, which, due to its antecedence, should be below, tends to overlap après coup with the “present”, provoking an almost hypnotic eff ect that disturbs the immediate hic et nunc of perception. Coexisting with the progression of the video, the unchanging persistence of the slide assumes the prominence of a spectral “double” that, perceived in its actuality and at the same time in its virtuality, seems to obstinately take the ongoing movement of the performer back to its before, within the correlated dynamis (‘power’) that made it possible. “As reality is created – wrote Bergson11 - its image is refl ected behind it into an indefi nite past; thus it fi nds that it has from all time been possible, but it is only in this precise instant that it begins to have been always possible…”. In duplicating what is real, what is possible takes its place in the past, with a retroactive movement, showing itself to have been possible via a systematic anachronism.

Like the impalpable light from the De Lorenzo’s slides that accompany the action of the performer, Bergson’s possible accompanies all actuality with an aura, translating into a “before” that does not allow itself to be circumscribed within a chronological succession but which exists as an inexhaustible virtuality that is never attenuated by the sum of its realisations.

The anachronism that structures Dammi il tempo! like a Deleuzian crystal-image, turns out to be even more evident in the “minimal” articulation of a video-installation that, avoiding any attempt at narrative, off ers itself as an infi nite variation, as an inextricable interweaving of diff erence and repetition:12 in the passage from one screen to the other, we don’t really witness a progression but only the repetition of diff erent movements while making them; we never see something that could take the form of a beginning or an end: the performer’s attempt to replicate the pose in the photo is grabbed, singularly, like a movement in surplace, a permanent oscillation around an immutably static life-sized fi gure, the image-model that the performer should commiserate with, but in reality this is true only for the spectator. The absolutely untranslatable quality of the light from the slide that touches the protagonist and then appears on the back wall, like a sort of set, and ends up being decidedly inadequate in orienting her movement. The continuous oscillation of the performer becomes, mirroring her absolute lack of visual control of the model and her decision to trust her memory, or to risk following outside indications, the attainment of a hypothetical coincidence that is verifi able only by looking back. Regardless of appearances, the spatial and temporal superimposition that sustains Dammi il tempo! does not take the form of a “classic” superimposition here, it is not about overlapping, as in the artist’s fi rst photographic proofs, two self-suffi cient images – rather it is two images, asymmetries that are ‘aff ected’ by an original excess/lack, that exist solely because of their reciprocal and parasitical overlapping. If it was about a superimposition of the coincidence between the pose and its copy, between movement and immobility, as dreamed by the protagonist, it could be obtained by way of the ploy of a static-image; instead, the original contamination of the two components of the image impedes their separation. Even though it is absorbed by the same shot from the photographic point of view, the remake of the gesture-posture acted out by the performer ends up resounding inevitably like an impossible posthumous readjustment of the pose, a sort of dejà vu that shows nothing but its irreducible dis-location, a snag that resonates in the image like a recorded echo of a ‘presence that is somewhere else’.

Through the simultaneity of the real and the potential, which is skilfully delineated in Dammi il tempo!, Daniela De Lorenzo destabilises to the point of indecideability the hierarchy whereby the moving image is perceived as being anchored to the present and the static image is relegated to the past. This enables the spectator to experience the actuality of the “present” from the perspective of its potentiality, that potentiality which, intersecting at every point with linear chronological succession, shows both the inextricable co-belonging of faculty and execution and the “diff erence of nature” that prevent one from being reduced to the other.

Saretto Cincinelli
Testo dal catalogo Encara de Nou 2008, La Gallera, Valencia.
a cura di Alba Braza.




1 Presented at the exhibit “Biffures: Daniela De Lorenzo - Eulàlia Valldosera”, Galleria Bagnai, Siena, 1993.
2 Here, complicate and duplicate refer to what is folded more than once, which, as we will better understand further on in the text, lives at least two lives.
3 The series “Distrazione” 2000-2001, comes to mind, but a similar discussion is valid for “Controcanto”, 2004, or for the series “Ritrarsi”, 2003.
4 It seems superfl uous to remember that for Barthes “no longer” constitutes the noema of photography, Roland Barthes, La camera chiara, (Turin, Einaudi, 1980).
5 Limiting ourselves to personal shows, those that come to mind are “Viceversa”, Siena, 1998; “Giocoforza”, Roma, 2002; “Harmonica”, Turin, 2002; “Mormorio”, Bludenz, 2002; “L’identico e il differente”, Como, 2003; “L’un l’altro”, Florence, 2004. 6   According to Szarkowski, the difference between photography and other media is through the distinction between make and take (you make a painting but you take a photo), to make implies synthesis, and to take implies selection.
7  The felt sculptures have certainly lived two lives, the object of the artist’s fi rst shots; two independent lives, in the cases where they have survived their photographic double, two successive lives, not infrequent, in which the latter has completely substituted the original sculpture.
8  In addition to collaborating on “Dammi il tempo!” Ramona Caia has worked with De Lorenzo on “Agile”, 2005 and “Animazione”, 2007.
9  Even if, on another level, we must recognise that if the photograph eternalises the image, video embalms movement.
10  Roland Barthes, La camera chiara, (Turin, Einaudi, 1980), p. 82.
11  In H. Bergson, “Il Ricordo del presente”, in Il Cervello e il pensiero, edited by M. Acerra, (Rome, Editori Riuniti), 1990, p. 107.
12  Only the protagonist remains the same every time, her clothes, her postures and even the dimensions of the images, cut at the time of shooting, are subject to change, as is the soundtrack that, mysteriously, accompanies or doesn’t accompany some shots