Text by Ilaria Gianni


Magazzino, Rome

May 15 – July 15, 2019 

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Spes contra spem

I had never found the opportunity to reflect on the concept of desire. Dwelling on the term I discovered that desire is not a need, or the expression (often physiological) of a void that needs to be filled to avoid discomfort, but something that goes beyond reasoning and knowledge, positioning itself in the sphere of the most primordial emotional drives.

Of Latin origin, the word desiderio (Italian for “desire”) is composed of the negative prefix de-, and the term sidusmeaning, star. Desiring means, therefore, literally "lack of stars", in the sense of "feeling the lack of stars". A second version suggests instead that it may refer to the idea of estrangement, of detachment, and that the verb "to desire" would mean "to look at the stars the stars carefully"": Perhaps waiting for a sign, perhaps because the spectacle of astarry sky represents the unattainable. It’s widely known that he ancients derived wishes and forebodings from lookingat the sky.

Linking to the origin of the word, the challenge of thinkers over the centuries has been to reconstruct the logical-conceptual path that led from the stars to the desires, coming to the conclusion that desire is, in truth, part of a pre-logical, innate mental order: the belief that something inaccessible and unknown can act on the course of life. Levinas, not surprisingly, associated the idea of the infinite with desire (Transcendence and metaphysical desire, Levinas, 1979). In these terms, to desire follows the hope, typical of the human race, of being able to go beyond the limits, to enter into relations with wider boundaries than those allowed to live. Projected towards what does not exist, desire relates to what we hope can happen. An emotional mechanism that is repeated, found in the past, in the here and now, in the future.

Giving place to a dialogue between times, cultures and worlds, (all) waiting for a transformation, (all) eager to receive their own missing piece and to see their hope realized, Namsal Siedlecki reminds us that the desiring universe has remained unchanged over the centuries. Whether it is - quoting the epicurean morality - necessary or vain, this will is individual and remains secret. An act, buried in one's conscience, entrusted to a symbolic object removed from circulation, offered to a dark place or to a superior force. Thus, when we throw a coin in a well, or leave a votive offering in a spiritual temple we always turn to an extra-human, unknown subject, a magic power positioned beyond our rational knowledge. The history of humanity is full of myths, legends and rituals with, at its root, the demand for a dream to be realized. Often linked to the precariousness of life or to its extremes, desires are generative. However, to keep them company is the counterpart of uncertainty: an aspired fantasy in opposition to reality.


In the Namsal Siedlecki laboratory-exhibition, ancient ex-voto - a phrase that literally translates from the Latin meaning "following a vote"- from the Gallic era, found in the Auvergne region in France, confront themselves with the coins, thrown nowadays in the Trevi Fountain in Rome. In a temporal and alchemical short circuit, objects full of expectations, feelings and life meet in an unusual wishing well, to merge and transform into modified symbolic devices, where the galvanic stratification triggered by the artist does not allow any control. A bathtub that works day and night combines elements, times, hope crystalized or waiting for fulfilment. Desires, in the form of ancient artefacts representing parts of the human body, witnesses of the fulfilment of the volitional expression, linked to thousands of coins laden with trust, suspended in their final outcome. The feeling of expectation and that of certainty, apparently so distant, are mixed together, reminding us how much they are related.

The stratification implemented by Namsal Siedlecki with the exhibition project A, it is thus the reflection of a cultural process that is repeated, yet in constant transformation. Ernst Bloch teaches us that the world is never accepted "as it is", and hope is a symptom of a universe in constant motion. Desiring becomes synonymous with the desire to be witnesses of the evolution of one's existence. Impalpable, invisible, desire opens a portal to new possibilities, guides the mind to devise a path in search of what is lacking in the lived moment, projected towards virtual - or stellar –worlds, where an alternative seems to exist. Impossible to control, this passionate and intimate search, echoes in the well generating unpredictable forms assumed by the merge of votive and symbolic objects. In the new source of desires where secrets, hidden hopes and performed miracles of different ages meet, objects undergo a transformation, sometimes legible, sometimes unsuccessful, reflecting the uncertainty and expectation of the same desiring act built and wanted by thought, but always outside terrestrial control. Spes contra spem, suspended, like the stars.


LAYR, Vienna
High Art, Paris
Sørlandets Kunstmuseum, Kristiansand
Der Tank of the Art Institute, Basel
Lafayette Anticipations, Paris
Kunsthalle Lissabon, Lisbon
JTT, New York
Édouard Montassut, Paris