For an author like Nicola Frangione – who was born to express his view of the world through his voice and gestures – graphic work is connected with three main moments: making the first note of an idea which will be thoroughly expressed through performance; objectualising the plot as a score, a transcription that takes in the various inputs and codifies processing; finally, revising a few details arising from theatrical action.
The first moment epitomises an unlimited series of quick notes, which are often kept at a personal level, just like the effects produced by an idea coming to mind onto each artist (for a painter this might involve suggesting two colours as foundations for an emotion, given in letters or through touches of water colour, for a composer it might be associated with two tones and the value of the pause separating them, for a sculptor or an architect it might mean the graphic representation of a corner): although such notes might be inaccurate, they play a major role if the required theoretical preconditions are to be recognised and the structure of the composition established, however complex it might be.
The documents that have survived this season page up – breaking the rules of the background orthogonal graphic grid – fragments of handwritten sentences, using characters varying in colour and body size, for oblique trajectories related to marked co-ordinates – for example, T for Time, A for Art (see “The heart between the teeth”, “Eating textuality dramaturgically”).
This is the season of ready made structures, centred, we can say, on ineffable time: relevant examples include a table where the dial of a clock placed in the middle does not indicate the time but opens to the opportunity to “manoeuvre” time through a handle fitted onto the pin of the hands, and the one that carries three cylindrical objects painted red and three bolts, vertically arranged – a sort of wind instrument taken to pieces –, dealing with the periodical recurrence of time (a brief graphic translation with three horizontal water fronts can be found in a work which takes its name from the flow of the tide).
The second moment is centred on the need to rearrange the discourse, in order to make the network of data that is being sorted out universally intelligible: this way of expounding the theme also shows the stakes the possible interpretations are going to move round. From the terms used here it can be directly inferred that this moment can but assume the form of scores, which have been functioning as venues for meeting signs, echoing voices and breathing traces for centuries. Each impulse recorded by Nicola Frangione based on the panoply of sensors he is provided with is effectively transcribed in his scores. Like any respectable paper score, the sheet gathers together printed signs and handwritten evidence of his commitment to studying. And like any respectable score, it immediately reveals those characters – so typical – of thickening and rarefaction, breaks and lagoons of pauses, which dynamically stimulate our observation and allow us to be part of the sound event they codify. Thus these sheets, real conceptual scores, enlighten us as to both the text and the scheme of action and the interaction between the movements and the objects on the scene. They make up the basic map, suggest the framework of an event that is steadily in fieri, as organized from performance to performance, relying on that outline to develop its own raison d’être, its own persistence and its own renewal. In their reduced thickness and regularised extension they accommodate the reflection of physical presences (to be understood as both a virtual image and, for example, a real translation of the ready made structures used during the artist’s previous plastic season in graphic blocks) and function as supports for ascertained breathing didactics, gestures and diction. Their writing, based on standard black and red, rarely makes room for any other colours; whereas it makes room for farther-reaching sign dynamics, with nuclei, arrows and reinforcement and frequency symbols, thus having a significant visual impact and breaking with what can now be defined as the “tradition” of visual poetry.
Writing two dates on several scores testifies to the inappropriateness of any excessively strict chronological reference as the result of work in progress, from the primary idea to its last change in the performance (this is the case with the words that are always the same and always different, from event to event, and the countless disputes between writing and painting along a myriad of sheets).
The third moment involves working out the details of action graphically. It assumes the form of sequences of metamorphoses of the previous works – resulting from video enlargements and corrections –, as transferred onto paper again. This is a technically updated re-edition of a procedure that had already been used by the author when he had introduced the projection of photographic reproductions of the above-mentioned ready made structures into his performances, behind or round the action, transferring the symbolic values, while somehow extending the dramaturgical ones.
On the one hand, the chronological sequence of the three above-mentioned moments is self-evident (although it is no use classifying the form of art we are dealing with into periods that can be dated, these compromise-like procedures help us understand each other); on the other, it should be emphasized that the second and third levels can, in turn, individually function as foundations and cornerstones for further projects, accommodating, within the (numerical and dimensional) growth of sign data, independent cores of expressive opportunities. In this particular instance, it is the order established in the second moment that becomes responsible for the further evolution of the third moment, as made, by derivation, into an autonomous source of inspiration, as the result of the introduction of digital photography as a working instrument.
Considered as a whole, within the constant composing balance, the graphic evidence of the work by Nicola Frangione bears witness to a change from compressed spatiality to rarefaction, in line with the values expressed by the parallel performances. If these – intimate processing of the visible as evaginated and made public – used to identify, at an early stage, the excessive semantic burden with the roots of their vitalism, as experience grows in time, they rely on a reduced approach, thus resulting in purification and a concentration of the flow energy that supports the theatrical event, up to the latest tangent proofs, to a steadily lively minimalist, well-understood area.
Likewise, as far as Nicola Frangione is concerned, the practice of installation (like for objects, always through recovery materials) has steadily been aimed at formal elegance catering to the progressive reduction of the elements involved. Just think of the installation of the caged monitors dating from 1983 and the recent installation of two “cages of thoughts” enclosing the hypotheses of flight of a stone and a feather, namely objects varying in specific weight, with the consequent degrees of freedom (needless to say, this theme is closely connected with our daily acts and words, their foreseeableness or its opposite) and with one more opportunity to get away from the problem (a very common approach).
The latest phase of the works on paper mentioned above provides clear evidence in this respect. There, action, which eventually joins its graphic expression, promotes, in turn, an unmistakable purification change from what I am used to defining as “background noise”. Digital enlargements and processing of the scores allow staves, monograms and notations to be given free movements, thus configuring vortices of headwords, larger spaces between lines and weaker links between graphemes. This results in marked rarefaction when communicating object and sound indices. Within significantly enlarged spatiality, locating sign bodies at a very short distance allows us to perceive space in between and cross its boundaries, going beyond the threshold of background noise, which cannot be heard, like a sound activated too close to our receptors.
This means heading towards silence.
In addition, the deformation of digitally printed characters can effectively be compared to sound distortion as caused by changing speed parameters, in recovery as in reproduction, which can often be experienced in the management of magnetic tapes in electronic music.
To sum up: the latest sequence of works on paper by Nicola Frangione, which are capable of supporting large dimensions when transferred onto canvas, stands out mainly because of the high tension innervating the surfaces, as if the outer limit of the icon had been reached, a sort of film sensitive to our touch, just like the screen of a palm computer, or to a glance of ours – configured in an electromagnetic flow – or to a gesture of ours – supported by electronic flows as detected by optical readers, with a view to a new, powerful increase in the playful factor, as steadily part of the artist’s work.