Broken Fall (Geometric) at Galleria Enrico Astuni

Broken Fall (Geometric) at Galleria Enrico Astuni

Galleria Enrico Astuni

April 7, 2010

11 April – 10 July 2010

Opening: 10 April 2010, 7 p.m.

Curated by Giovanni Iovane & Alessandra Pace

Via Iacopo Barozzi 3 – 40126 Bologna

Falling is a metaphor and also a recurrent practice of modernity. The act of falling bares nuances and accents, which differ from the more generalist act of flying. The modernist flight implies in fact the conceptualization of the void; a non-performative presentation flavoured with a pinch of romanticism, as in the renowned photograph depicting Yves Klein who leaps into the void. Falling entails instead psychological complications—the ghost of failure lurks amongst us since over a century— but is also something inherent to the artistic act, which supposes a trajectory, a direction, an insistence on gravity and, most of all, the focus on an event, which adds or substitutes something to our daily panorama. According to Jean-Paul Sartre, the first Western artist to depict an actual fall—that is, a solid body with a specific weight dropping through space—was Tintoretto. The painting that initiates the representation of weightiness, and even of the moral effects of gravity, is The Miracle of the Slave (1547-48). Here the Saint does not flutter in the empty sky, but rather dashes head down (like Superman, Sartre acutely points out) aiming directly at the centre of the painting; it is no longer a simple flight but an actual geometric fall. A few years after Tintoretto’s picture Bruegel the Elder paints the Fall of Icarus (1555). Despite the title and subject of the painting, the artist essentially paints a landscape. In this landscape we can immediately detect a peasant at work and a ship in the foreground. But we strain to spot falling Icarus, and only after closer inspection do we notice two small legs about to plunge in the sea, which represent the event. Within a few years, the geometry of the fall appears both in its full plasticity (Tintoretto) and also in its conceptual and moral irrelevance (Bruegel). With the eyes of modernity (and of modernism) the fall head-down and those two small reversed legs still come across as marking the essential “positions” of the geometric fall. Of course the 20th C has added its own alterations, which are psychological, sentimental, or ostentatiously process-based. Yet these additions and supplements were already unexpectedly contained in the etymology of the word “to fail“: i.e. to deceive, to fall, to falter. Things occur and lapse after a more or less brief flight. The aspiration, or the object of desire, is no longer the leap—and the state of flight itself— but rather the act of the repeated fall, this time to the ground and moved by a precise intention (with the only exception of a romantic and deceptive leap into the void).

In an experimental film by Hans Richter from 1926, Vormittagsspuck, ante-meridian ghosts and dropping objects fall in a disorderly sequence. The fall, with a subtle and intricate analysis of its more or less vertical dynamism, becomes the fundamental “locus” of Buster Keaton’s films. Such intentional act with its precise geometries is taken on by a sphere of action, which includes for example Samuel Beckett, Barnett Newman’s paintings, and in the 1970′s a series of films by Bas Jan Ader devoted to the fall. Broken Fall (Geometric), a film dated 1971, can be adopted as symbol or manifesto for this intent, or perhaps wish of the artist, to present a direction, a precise target—even if “delayed” in Keatonesque-style—as a way of making room by means of an event, according to the laws of gravity and body mass. Whereas in Bas Jan Ader’s work it is the human body, in line with a history and tradition of performance art, which marks the geometry of the fall, in Bruce Nauman’s (late 60′s) or John Baldessari’s (early 70′s) it is a bouncing ball which offers the possibility of a straight line or other geometric figures—with an apparent and ironical overtake of Barnett Newman’s vertical lines—which inevitably recalls Icarus’ reversed legs.

In the last decades, the fall or hybrids of the flight with endpoints, such as levitation, have turned into yet more ghosts of Modernism.

They are spectres that testify to the survival in the contemporary visual panorama and in popular visual culture of the persistence of enquiry tools, which aim to determine what happens when something falls—or what would occur if something fell—on a specific point defined in space. Within this domain, as far as the human body is concerned, Bruce Nauman in his studio certainly provides a source of observation and experimentation. Acrobats and tightrope walkers have returned on the contemporary scene to defy the obsession with failure and the possibility of falling (an example is the documentary film Man on Wire, 2008). The homage to the modernist ghost of Klein suspended in the act of flying can ironically—and anthropologically, Michel Foucault would say—multiply itself in a series of “found” images of levitation (a subtle response to the active role that Marcel Duchamp assigned to the spectator in completing the work of art). The geometric fall can lead to the suspension (also of disbelief) in mid-air of some leaves, or of the social anxiety entailed in the fact of being placed on a precarious pedestal. Relating to the element of “deception” imbued in the etymology of the term suspension in flight (sub = from below + pendere = hang)—which lends itself to a supplementary inquiry that questions the force of gravity— a vast repertoire of objects persistently decline to fall to the ground. Finally, the geometric fall is also a matter of technique, which from Tintoretto to Jackson Pollock concerns the position of the painting in relation to dripping (and falling) paint.

Exhibited artists: Mario Airò, John Baldessari, Simone Berti, Hugo Canoilas, Gino De Dominicis, Rainer Ganahl, Susan Hiller, Tim Lee, Cristiano Mangione, Bruce Nauman, João Penalva, Superflex

Film screening:
Bas Jan Ader, Hans Richter

High resolution images click here

Opening hours:
from 11 April to 10 July 2010 Tue.-Sat. : 10-1 & 3-7, Sun. & Mon. by appointment (Tel. +39 051- 4211132)
info [​at​]

Press Inquires:
+39 349 6878026
astunipublic [​at​]

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