In a famous interview with Larry McCaffery in the summer of 1993, David Foster Wallace gave the following answer to the critic’s final question: “For me, the last few years of the postmodern era have seemed a bit like the way yo feel when you’re in high school and your parents go on a trip, and you throw a party. You get all your friends over and throw this wild and disgusting party. For a while it’s great, free and freeing, parental authority gone and overthrown, a cat’s-away-let’s-play Dionysian revel. But then time passes, and the party gets louder and louder, and you run out of drugs, and nobody’s got any money for more drugs, and things get broken and spilled, and there’s a cigarette burn on the couch, and you’re the host and it’s your house too, and you gradually start wishing your parents would come back and restore some fucking order in our house. It’s not a perfect analogy, but the sense I get of my generation of writers and intellectuals or whatever is that it’s 3:00 A.M. and the couch has several burn-holes and somebody’s thrown up in the umbrella stand we’re wishing the revel would end. The postmodern founders’ patricidal work was great, but patricide produces orphans, and no amount of revelry can make up fort the fact that writers my age have been literary orphans throughout our formative years. We’re kind of wishing some parents would come back. And of course we’re uneasy about the fact that we wish they’d come back – I mean what’s wrong with us ? Are we total pussies? Is there something about authority and limits we actually need ? And then the uneasiest feeling of all, as we start gradually to realiz that parents in fact aren’t coming back – which means we’re going to have to be the parents”.
If it was three in the morning in 1993, today it’s more like 6am and the first lights of dawn are breaking outside. No one has gone home yet and disaster is unfolding as we look on, powerless. Caught in a weird pendulum between past and future, the combined influence of melancholy and anxiety brings on a mild asphyxia that makes deciding whether to tidy up or give in to the chaos impossible. We begin to wonder what the point of this endless party was, the reasons behind this chaos that has overcome us and what new authority we should impose. We now have to face up to this new order, following the revolutionary upheaval. But what went wrong? Foster Wallace’s ghost and trickster party ends badly, with the imposingly cumbersome principles of modernism such as the family furniture trashed, vandalised. We did not see beforehand, before disaster struck, that those same principles had become sharp, dangerous, agile and terribly alive weapons in the hands of our unwelcome guests.
In ein reiner Morgen in Amerika (a clear morning in America) Tomaso De Luca (Verona, 1988) explores the temporal interspaces between days and historical eras – a dimension populated by ghosts, awkward guests, presences that we would rather overlook but with which we are obliged to come to terms. Although apparently maimed, precarious, the decayed modernism of ein reiner Morgen in Amerika still displays its subversive potency in these sculptures – their ability to transcend polarities or categorisation, their substantial and programmatic defiance of being explained away in simple terms due to their unity as a whole. Each bearing the name of a person, the sculptures are positioned in different rooms like guests in a home that has been taken over by a party. Like a jungle of houseplants or the complex landscape that can evolve within the confines of an overfull ashtray, the figures seem to have decided to ‘be what they shouldn’t be’.
This morning, which finds us all utterly drained, exerts its purifying force, making everything seem surprisingly clear and sharply in focus – making us realise that nothing went askew in the revolution because revolutions are, by definition, ‘askew’.
ein reiner Morgen in Amerika by Tomaso De Luca
Through July 15
Courtesy: the artist and Monitor, Rome; Photo: Giorgio Benni