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Nature always captured in all its visual and semantic variations, constitutes one of the privileged subjects of investigation by Nico Vascellari. In fact from the beginnings he has addressed this issue by articulating his own research in different solutions both in a methodological and iconographic as well as iconological profile, remaining however always faithful to a principle: nature has no pre-established positions, it is above any cultural - moral or ideological - position that human being projects upon it. It is his the latest problem to relate to it and its dynamics, since nature is not, as it might appear unkind or benevolent; whether we like it or not, nature accomplishes the cycles of its genetical structure. The Scholomance project represents the extreme outcome of this long and multiple path shown until now mostly in form of installation/performance passing easily, linguistically speaking, from folklore to the underground scene; from classical syntax to hardcore, summarizing multiple aspects that have it outlined so far, becoming a sort of emblem able, in a synthetic way, to trace the entire evolutionary process.
As away of example among the most significant stages of this path we may remember Revenge (Young Italian Art Prize 2006-2007) focused on a carved painted and burned fir tree wall, on which were applied amplifiers of different size and power and, on the occasion of the Venice Biennale (2007), the artist entering from a hole in the wall, was able to move into the surrounding environment, white dressed and emulated by other people in a dark suit, modifying volumes and tones of the amplifiers connected to a microphone through which he emitted sounds. Or Cuckoo (2007) where some individuals, at the end of a procession, cut with an ax, huge tree trunks to prepare a sacrificial altar on which the artist and musicians played together accompanied by the rhythmically solemn stride of “brothers” that in a short distance, continued to sharpen the wood causing an unexpected symphony. Or furthermore Bus de la Lum (2009) which was inspired by the homonymous site (a large cavity in the Cansiglio forest, in Veneto, which according to a legend, was associated to arcane powers of miasma emanating from it - actually from decomposed animals fallen into it - turned into sinkhole during the Second World War and place of death for many partisans). That was embodied in a number of plastic components / sound / light associated with each other in varying solutions (from the first view in Rome in 2009 to the last one conceived for the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester in 2016) resulting in multisensory environments, with a primordial and full of mystery flavor. Or, again, Ascesa (preludio) (2014). The event related to Faradda, the Feast of Candlesticks in Sassari, coming in the form of a procession where the pace of drums is assimilated to noise rhythms of techno, translating a religious festival into a pagan ritual. Not to mention a series of measures implemented in the course of 2016, identified as direct precursors of Scholomance. We may think of the bronze castings of biomorphic animals’ shapes taken from corpses found randomly and presented at Villa Medici in Rome and Bonacossa House in Milan; the animals remain as such, the shape is not suppressed but dry, eroded. Narrative is the same, in the sense that an encrusted metal compound, under the action of an incandescent flame, grants them a new life. Or a Fossil Of Experience a small musical instrument consisting of a piece of wood applied to a mechanical gear, which tapping rhythmically on a fossil, causes a sharp noise, with lack of melody and able in its essence, to drop the viewer into an absolute sound dimension, almost primordial; namely that pure and original dimension that Luigi Russolo theorized in the manifesto L’arte dei rumori (The Art of Noises) (1913) and put into practice with Intonarumori (1913). Or the Senza titolo realized at the French Academy in Rome consisting of a metal pipe structure on which CCTV and bronzes similar to the same of above but with a phytomorphic implant alternate: leaves and branches which, through the merged bronze technique of lost wax, regenerate, acquiring imperishable dignity. Scholomance is all that and even more. As the title suggests the work is ideally linked to the concept of “school” which is at the basis of a legend set in the southern mountains of the city of Hermannstadt, today Sibiu, in Romania. Here, nearby a deep and unnamed lake, according to tradition an Academy would be located, directed by Satan where secrets of nature and the language of animals could be learned. Only ten students at a time were admitted. Once finished the course, nine of them could return to their place of origin, the tenth was held by the devil in return for the bestowed teachings and placed on the back of a zmeju (dragon), becoming his assistant and working in a particular on the production of lightning. Being the object of both popular beliefs and Gothic literature (from Emily Gerard to Charles Godfrey Leland and Bram Stoker) the myth of Scholomance reperesents in short, the symbol of human desire -atavistic and never faded yearning- to come into direct contact with creation and the phenomena through which it operates by generating life.

Scholomance drawing by Vascellari from his own experimental repertoire and the one acquired for the occasion, embodies this utopia manifested as usual, in the dual role of installation and performing art. The first one is represented by a monumental metal structure consisting of scaffolding pipes, which has become by the time, a real leitmotiv of Vascellari’s work. Around and within which, coordinated by the artist following a unwritten and genetically in the making of sample, where various authors who, in relation to their specific skills, interpret the theme in question leading for their own, original interpretation. And trusting the vocabulary belonging to the world of music, dance, poetry, visual arts... they give rise to a smooth symphonic action, of uncertain historical and dramatic boundaries where, as in the mythical Scholomance, each performer studies the governing universe rules and contributes to feed biological dynamics. The result is the achievement of a full empathyc state with nature, not only enhancing ecstatic, contemplative or intellectual nuances but rather, operating ones, that recall in some ways the creativity of a protagonist of 1900s: Pino Pascali.
He always has had in common with Vascellari striking similarities, referring not only to the subject in question, but also to the choice of themes and materials. Among others there is for example, Eros and its iconographic reduction, in modern times, to a purely commercial medium, translated by Pascali in a pop way (Primo piano labbra, 1964; Torso di negra, 1964-65) and by Vascellari in a dada mix halfway between Kurt Schwitters and Hannah Höch (I Kate you, 2006; Blonde, 2010); There is History meant as celebration of a mythical and unique age for the first (Requiescat, 1965) and as tragic chronicle of the recent past for the second (Bus de la Lum, 2009); there is the Game conceived by Pascali as an opportunity to transcribe the foundation values of things, as makeing harmless an instrument of death (Cannone Bella Ciao, 1965; Contraerea, 1965) or to sublimate, on the contrary, the plastic objects, transforming them into an industrial “still life”, ready for use (Gruppo di personaggi, 1964) and by Vascellari as an opportunity to denounce the exploitation of the weak, animals for example, by isolating their images taken to advertise consumer products or sell those of simple leisure (Senza titolo, 2014). But there is above all Nature declined by both of them in an anthology of all solutions, inspired anyway by a spiritual respect almost sacred for its true value. Organic substances can be reduced to the primary structure, as described by Pascali (32 mq di mare circa, 1967; 1 mc di terra, 2 mc di terra, 1967; Botole ovvero lavori in corso, 1967; Fiume con foce tripla, 1969) or concentrated in a complete action then filmed, as Vascellari does Untitled [Hymn], 2008); maintaining absolutely intact their original virtues let them ready, indeed to emerge with violence from enclosures that accidentally compress them. Vegetal fibers can take unexpected appearance at the initiative of the one (Cornice di fieno, 1967; Balla di fieno, 1967; Cesto, 1968; La tela di Penelope ovvero Stuoia, 1968; L’arco di Ulisse, 1968; Coda, 1968; Liane, 1968; Senza titolo [Cavalletto], 1968; Attrezzi agricoli, 1968) and the other (Nido, 2009; Untitled, 2013) and at least maintaining unchanged the mythical ancestral memory which they hold. Similarly artificial and serial materials can conceal primitive ones, assuming ironically the appearance, as evidenced by Pascali with his zoo (Bachi da setola, 1968; Ricostruzione del dinosauro, 1966; Il dinosauro riposa, 1966) or more bitterly by Vascellari in his geological relics in bronze or glass (Gnawing my own teeth behind a closed door, 2009). A common passion for theatre that takes more and more different forms and that would be incomplete if reduced as to a few, single experiences, so much his action is unfolded along the entire creative repertoire put in place by the two of them. And that in Vascellari finds a complete awareness in today’s project.


Text by Pier Paolo Pancotto

SCHOLOMANCE is the new exhibition of Nico Vascellari at Palais De Tokyo opening on March 23rd. The first chapter of this new project include a performance with: Carlos Casas, Mark of the Devil, Silvia Costa, Michèle Lamy, Ninos Du Brasil, Ghédalia Tazartès, Nico Vascellari and contribution of Ash/Nargaroth, Delfina Delettrez, Franck Audoux and Valerie Chartrain.

Co-curated by Pier Paolo Pancotto and Vittoria Matarrese.

Nico Vascellari. Scholomance (I)
Palais de Tokyo, Paris
23.03.17, 7 pm

Der Tank of the Art Institute, Basel
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Kunsthalle Lissabon, Lisbon
JTT, New York
Édouard Montassut, Paris
Avant-Garde Institute, Warsaw
Cabinet, London
carlier | gebauer, Berlin