...À REBOURS DE L'ÉCRAN
In a thin yet ample publication entitled Thinking Sociologically, Bauman and May ask themselves why our identities are being transformed. Their answer appears quite simple: "not only because the introduction of new technologies, but also through the increasing role that the markets play in everyday life...the new technologies require a continuous updating of competence. Nevertheless, the problem that remains is to define whether we use these methods to carry out an objective, or if these devices become an aim in themselves. "We can now say that this argumentation does not only allows us to start this text, but it also contributes (for good or bad) a reflection on how to point out the "question", this question of that is also valid in contemporary art. In the hardware and software of what is real, we can say that the risk of acting or being acted upon by technological devices exists in everyway – either if we look at the segment that connects art the market and technologies – or if we look at the share that keeps up identity and the sphere of new forms of communication. We are in any case victims or executioners of a communication structure that passes through the screen, and that apart from stimulating power and pervading "the technologies of the self" marks the weight, the weight we use to live and relate with ourselves in the world of daily media [...]
A daily and apparently infinite reality dominated by the screen. Within this screen we are lowered down, and inside of which we grin and bear waking up to face a new day, it is our universe. A long time ago we could have said that the television was the window on the world, but now television has become the world. The real street, the real town square: the true subconscious is represented by the television itself. The screen no longer influences taste, as they are now united in a constant state of development [...] Bauman and May having observed that this revolution has completely assailed the body and minds of the natural and human worlds, it is quite normal that they ask themselves worryingly: "the implementation of mechanical valves and the adaptation of artificial prosthesis in the body could be something more than a simple re-establishment of a "natural" function, they could eventually be used to develop human and mechanical potentialities. Technological innovations could allow a larger control, but what kind of consequences should we except? And for whom? These problems require a type of comprehension who's origin comes from the outside of a process that would not recognize anything but its own rationality".
Thanks to the information revolution (which happened right before our eyes) we can now re-affirm that the screen has become a new totality [...] The screen is the latest product in the evolution of ergonomic devices that subtends the relationship between man and machine. But while previous surfaces were not removable from where they were disposed (like paintings in a museum) the interface of a scientific instrument is transportable and its screen does not only offer the opportunity to watch what the memory reproduces, but also what the memory program allows itself to scan inside of and watch across. The computers screen is able to connect itself to memories which are totally independent in regard to their own physical position [...] Since the virtual phenomenon has exploded the critical researchers have most of the time underlined the question regarding machine and prosthesis. Virtual machines (when well constructed and adapted) can be helpful to people who can not move limbs, or who have suffered bad physical accidents and are obliged to live their lives in wheelchairs – even after several surgical operations. Naturally the world of art avails itself to a symbolic and conceptual tradition. In continuing to adopt this kind of linguistic path, it is notable to intervene in the universe of natural, social, and genetic malformations resulting from the conflict with the machine. A media artist (or better yet, a non artist) acts inside of the possibilities being offered by the ordinary technical structure of communication. In Antonellio Matarazzo's case this action does not set aside the fact of having a particular idea of this linguistic behavior. We could now say that the idea acts on a synthesis which is confirmed in the multimedial effect of the screen.
We must register the fact that back in the 90's various artists of the European scene were attracted by the esthetic senses of ugliness and suffering. Maybe amongst these artists the Chapman brothers are the most resolute because of their synthesis between pain and technology in the famous 1996 sculpture entitled Ubermensch. Starting from these presumptions Antonello Matarazzo can not be considered anything less! Antonello Matarazzo – still not having the possibility to be managed by a dealer or producer that would take in consideration his difficult research – has singled out with much forward thinking the strong theme of the relationship between pain and technology, working in advance either regarding the reproduction of the digital image, the film, but above all the "screenic sense". The Chapman's "Ubermensch" is a scientist who in its form of life gathers the tragedy of technological development. Whereas Matarazzo's average man began instead from the configuration of a simulacrum of show business society. He then creates intervals using Pacciani's voice (the monster of Florence) and so on and so forth with the illustrations of Freaks, the Meridionali (the southerners), and in the most recent Steak&Steel to then abandon himself in the lyrical apology of the complaints (as Jules Laforgue would say). To be able to synthesis Matarazzos's figure we could say that he is a quintessential media-maker, for many years being part of a specific branch of media research. He allows himself to be under the watchful eye of the most attentive critics in order to underline the fact that the ordinary artistic dimension has already been surpassed. Precisely for these reasons one who wants to continue to pursue an experimental direction has to discover from the inside the universe of communication, and then has to associate the image of the tutor and of the orthopedic corrector, with the one of the painting, photography, film, and of video in an expanded manner.
Antonello Matarazzo, after various years of painting, has now started to condense his techno-image upon a thin reproduction of a small screen. When he put in practice some films (either of short or medium length), when he recorded some videos or photographs, or when he painted (even if the narration and the Kinetic disposition of the work were oriented to follow the praxis of the adopted technique), the relative products frequently show themselves disposed to an interval and a sequence of pauses all the while paying attention to the screen and its technology. This reflection is also valid for his photographic work including both pittoric and video research. In the end, from painting to video, from photography to cinema, in Antonello Matarazzo's work the screen returns (as does the diagonal of the image) – as Barthes also says – comes back in the form of a reflection in the manner of a generalized imaginary, where everything transforms itself in images and is like a cross dissolve, appears chez l'ècran o rebours de l'ècran.
Why does Matarazzo have such a fascination with suffering and so many other codes that are synonymous with messages of: aggression, danger, fear and suffering, but why not of death? How come he can not ignore a pessimistic state of mind that Barthes himself expresses when speaking of photography: none of us living in advanced societies can avoid availing themselves to "consuming images" and no longer live on faith as societies have in the past; they are then in turn more liberal, less fanatical, but are even falser (less authentic) – this is what in the communal conscience we translate as the admittance of a nauseatingly boring impression as if becoming universal the image would produce a world without any differences. From this world we could only hear the cry of anarchism, marginalism, and individulaism: we abolish images, and we save immediate desires (without any meditation). In fact speaking of Antonello Matarazzo's work the desire of tending towards the graphic exhaustiveness of the screen that would neutralize the image of suffering, that would horizontally pass through painting, photography, film and video is a kind of anarchism, and a voluntary marginalism very close to our critical desire. It is as if Antonello Matarazzo would substitute the image that lies in advanced society with that of the mistake, the defect, the trauma, and the shout of human differences. He also substitutes a not easily paralyzable deficiency, a trace of evident human sickness that is tormented by the friction with the machine of which the reader can not pretend to ignore [...]
There are certain images of our similarities that thanks to a very simple system of "bringing us back" should represent figures of the collective memory – as in the girl coved by an innertube in Antonello Matarazzo's Pneumokreutz. In front of this image we breath in a strange atmosphere, and inside the image the innertube transforms itself into a kind of forceps that encages in a torture instrument the siege of the image itself. The material used to represent this uncomfortableness and pain is a schermatic and porous paint that condenses itself in the detail, as if it were a memory carpet. Assembled underneath this strange helmet the figure tends to isolate the expression, and seems to reproduce the expression of indifference. It is almost as if the artist would like to witness an evident assembly to indicate and underline the estrangement. The female figure (despite the torture instruments) does not suffer, and the painting is not interpreted as a real configuration of the tracts of human suffering. This however does not mean that in the exchange of relationships between the human and the technologic there is indifference.
In the second instance – and here speaking really conceptually – it is the spectator indicated as an alien who suffers strongly from the schermatic conditions in which the historical figure reproduced by Antonello Matarazzo installs in itself. In fact looking at the sequence of Steak&Steel it is easy to notice the inconsistencies between suffering and alienation. These images blow to pieces the famous quote by Saul Bellow: "suffering is the only valid way to break the sleepiness of the spirit". If the suffering index is to be found in the absence of dramatic expression – as in Pneumokreutz – this is not valid for the other images of the series where a large collection of adolescents, young bodies, children, and cripples by destiny show a physical aspect that is explained thanks to a rather large amount of steel. Therefore the figure of Pneumokreutz seems light (As if it has taken a bath in an amniotic liquid) and remains ambiguous between the sense of the cinematographic film and photography as the record of an era, and escapes from an emotional procession. We see malformed adolescents held upright with the help of mechanical braces – these adolescents confirm Jobe's revelation: "Homo nascitur ad laborum" (5,7). Looking at Steak&Steel the words of Wordsworth are also confirmed. Oscar Wilde quoted him in the De Profundis: "suffering is obscure and permanent and its nature is infinite" [...]
In the sphere of Antonello Matarazzo's painting, the most characteristic tract is the contribution that comes from an anonymous story. This story hits and shakes us to the bone because it seems to reach us from and obscure zone. It is a zone of worrying and enigmatic shadows coming from a terror novel that when it shows itself as an event becomes undomesticatable. The shading technique that Matarazzo has perfected in Steak&Steel is closer to his last works. It is as if the suffering bodies and the technologies of pain would contain on the screen of The Fable, Le Cose Vere, Mi Chiamo Sabino, Astrolìte, La Camera Chiara, Warh, Miserere, A Sua Immagine, and Apice a type of painting that is on the borderline between the photographic and cinemagraphic discourse. As Artaud would say, then, this is a cruel image (but not as in bad painting) because it is modeled on an abstraction that gloriously shows itself inside an ancient vision that is at the same time modern, medieval, and gothic in its contents, yet at the same time videographic in its analytical approach. Living day in and day out inside the screen we no longer take notice of the torture we represent and that we surround ourselves with. None of suffering's tracts represented in Steak&Steel can frighten and horrify us. They can not because the prosthesis' that are being worn by these martyred subjects are the transpositions of those invisible leather straps that tie our heads and the section of the body in a refined manner as do pollution powders. The conflicts that we live with in our everyday lives are treacherously capillary and global: the daily media has transplanted the antidotes that allow us to accept the oppression of an unknown pain. We are far away from ourselves, our suffering is a screen, an image, that is itself conveyed in the laments and screams of the media mongrels – because between us and our nature there is the media's defect of indifference. The screen has objectualized us, has created the technology of suffering, and has dipped us in its position like the goldsmith dips any type of metal in a silver liquid. The screen has transformed us in this metallic effect that with pleasant nuts and unexpected clutches, saves us like an unexpected stroke of luck.
(extraction of a text published in the catalogue Steak&Steel, International Printing Editore, Avellino 2005)