Polysemy of messages and present existential horizon

The increasingly chaotic flow of information that characterizes our present sociological horizon forces us to question ourselves with growing urgency about the meaning of communication and essence of languages. Visual, sound, text messages live more than one life and are charged with always new and unheard truths on the basis of the different context in which they are placed. One can see the paradox of a communicative signal which, emitted by a given environment loaded with specific meanings, diverts or totally reverses its meaning if introduced into a different social, political, cultural sphere. Dynamics of “betrayal” are inevitable in order to spread a concept, but at the same time they announce questions and problems of integration, understanding, wide-ranging dialogue. The multicultural reality, premise and generative humus for a polysemic nature of codes and intellectual, spiritual expression of peoples, is the land on which we will have to confront in order to cause real exchange and cooperation between individuals and anthropogenic groups. What is language? What is the real meaning of a visual, auditory or graphic signal? Where do the most authentic and intrinsic entity and essence of a message lie? Can a truth exist regardless of its meaning, and what existential sense can be obtained from the answer to this question? Widening the reflection in the fluid and elusive movement of the modern scene of life, it happens that the same masses, with the growing phenomenon of migration and immigration, become a cloud of human signals – by analogy with those of information – in constant movement, conglomerates of individual and collective existential contents until just a moment before defined and rooted and then suddenly destined to change or lose their sense after being transferred in a totally different context of culture and above all, relations. People up to the previous day used to being considered fathers, mothers, children, brothers, friends, members of a team of relationships and traditions in which they mutually identify, in a word, human and emotional signals, in fact, of rich and unmistakable weight, find themselves abruptly uprooted and torn from the sphere that gave them indisputable meaning and exposed to the risk of becoming mute and meaningless presences with a no longer visible and understandable value. It may occur to individuals, meant as existential information and words of a relational vocabulary, to transform or reverse their impact if transferred from one structural context to another. More than submitted to a polysemy, at the mercy of a real, tragic, meaningless asemia. But what threatens the dignity and authenticity of human beings and messages is another, opposite but not less insidious and harmful dynamic, typical of today’s human dimension: the deprivation of a sign meaning, due to its obsessive repetition , contrived exasperation and inconsistent exposure mechanisms which are characteristic of the omnipresent media sensationalism. With events, emotions, feelings belonging to the individual sphere, rich in scope in the purely private context in which they are generated, the visual and auditory sign by which they are perceived and the most superficial aspect of appearance in which they occur are isolated, stigmatized, repeated and magnified to paroxysm, and changing the area of meaning they belong to, throwing in the mare magnum of the infinite and uncontrollable public use permitted by the media, contents that can actually maintain their value only in the original sphere of deep intimacy. Weakened by dull indifference, hyper-rational in appearance – but in fact emotionally defensive – refusing to understand the value of individuals of which name and history are unknown, or diluted until the annulment in the senseless dissemination of information without relational authenticity , the message-person risks increasingly to find itself devoid of meaning and of a language really able to communicate it. It is precisely this danger of loss of human sense, as well as semantic, that we will have to challenge so that the current whirling dynamism of beings and information is maker of a prolific enrichment and not desperate and existential impoverishment of content.

Anja Puntari - Oblazione - courtsey l'artista

Anja Puntari – Oblazione – courtsey l’artista

Anja Puntari between human and metalinguistic research

Anja Puntari (Marburg an der Lahn, Germany, 1979) has always focused her artistic research on the sense of images and sounds, meant as visual or audible communicational vehicles, and on how this sense can be established or modified from the sociocultural environment that gave birth or receives these optical and auditory signs. All her investigation – never devoid of an elegant perceptive facies and of attention given to aesthetics, not meant as a decoration but as an enhancement of ethical and cognitive exploration – is aimed at broadening through dynamics of decontextualization and estrangement, the mechanism according to which our brain and our mind perceive and give a meaning to signifiers detached from their usual environment and pulled out of the banality of the usual associative automatism of content. Hers is an exploration path with a high semantic rigour, which however at the same time is intensified with sociological, psychological and highly existential potentialities and resources, since the analysis is never conducted in an asphyxiated and purely metalinguistic sense, within the boundaries of the medium used, but is measured with emotional experiences and able to enter the accurate structural research in a broader human horizon.

Anja Puntari - Oblazione - Courtesy l'artista sm

Anja Puntari – Oblazione – Courtesy l’artista

Loss of meaning, retrieving sense.

Polysemy of images, research of the essence of language, investigation of the present existential sense on a personal and social level are unified and expressed in a masterly way in the Portraits without names by Anja Puntari. Starting with images of the faces of unidentified bodies found in the area surrounding Milan, mostly immigrants arrived in Italy with the hope – or illusion – of a better future, the artist enlarges and absolutizes the physiognomy and features of the deceased choosing to print them in a somewhat large size, larger than natural, at the same time introducing a paradox in this mechanism of focusing and significance: the faces are made evanescent, almost ectoplasms and disappearing ghosts, just emerging from the bottom. It is precisely the same fate suffered by the protagonists, risen to an important social and public management problem (because of the increasing number of bodies found near Milan without identification it was necessary to create a special centre, the Labanof) but substantially still tragically invisible humanely and emotionally, as no one claimed the bodies or reported a missing person. Similarly unnoticed are, in today’s hectic stream of megacities, the buskers performing musical excerpts which are at the basis of Invisible players, audio work in collaboration with Massimiliano Viel. Loyal to her commitment to use existing source materials and not products she makes from scratch, to substantiate her sociological and philological semantics of truth and authenticity, the Finnish artist retrieved from the internet, video soundtracks representing beggars and street musicians from around the world. In most cases, immigrants or people made poor by the global financial meltdown, potential future victims, without family or home, of the indifference and invisibility, possible new nameless corpses. With unheard sound signs of fallen individualities precipitated in the relational and social emptiness, Anja Puntari and Massimiliano Viel sculpt the space and the vacuum of the gallery environment, shaping through multiple audio outputs the three-dimensionality of the exhibition in a place of absence that consumingly fills up: that of the painful evocation of who can only use a beggar’s violin to have voice and scream out for help. Shocking conceptual counter alter to the anonymity and invisibility of the neglected individuals of the Portraits without names and Invisible players are the over sensationalism and hyper-visibility of the suffering of victims of disasters and accidents in the video animations Oblations, or desperate and sometimes mystified tears of Cristina and Dexter, competing TV reality shows. But the contrast is indeed healed in finding that the former do not obtain more dignity from the media system, which is only capable of manipulating and commercializing them so to have more audience – and not at all irrelevant is the observation that most of the dramatic events in which they are involved happen in the underdeveloped countries themselves or in the same clandestine contexts which the subjects of Portraits without names come from – while the latter are symptom and confirmation of a desperate anthropological horizon in which the value of the person seems more and more passing through the rules dictated by the media. Excesses and perversions of attention and linguistic transmission that are nothing but the further side of forgetfulness and the emptying of meaning and significance. It is this imbalance that Anja Puntari re-balances through the filter of her interpretation and expressive code. In Oblations, with a revolution of Copernican impact, she literally “erases” the victims’ images, increasing the focus on the intermittent silhouette of the rescuers. Defused by the elegant simplification of the artist’s stroke, the “pornography” of pain gives way, in the silence of white and reflection, to the sorrowful pulsing, in the figures of the onlookers, of their and our human participation. Similar is the evaporation and dissolution of the cumbersome media figure in Cristina and Dexter. The rain of their exasperate and theatrical (even, sometimes, beyond intentions) tears, melts and divides in a not so different burst of stars and star system-like coloured lights and glamour, which, significantly, is the only background to their empty outlines. But the incongruous excess of recognizability and dramatization of people and events, embedded in a common focus for utilitarian purposes only for unnatural and inauthentic deviations of the attribution of mechanisms of meaning, only serves to enhance the explosive burning of the nearby Portraits without names or Invisible players. Of the contorted features, shut swollen eyelids of the men and women with foreign features shown by the artist, of the anonymous violinist with a neglected message we do not know the lives of, affairs, relations, and less than all the names, but one can perceive , in the suspended artistic participation, the cumbersome human and existential weight, the faces without identity and the lost sounds of Anja Puntari are sense with no longer meaning or signifier, both lost in the eradication which deleted life, relationships and name, pure essence escaped to a linguistic and bureaucratic filing, deprived even of rational, social and linguistic identification par excellence – the name – yet for this reason, beyond any mechanical nature of language and form, by an even more profound and tragic truth and existence. Links of sense (name-soul/body – person) that in their country were precious and unbreakable agglomerations of emotional bonds, social roles and physical visibility, which moving away from their semantic-existential context found themselves to be mere bodies, wrecks, biological sediment, without the least denotation of title. Anatomical phenomenology, deaf matter, organic signs and appearances no longer possible to read and interpret. As it would be impossible to translate and understand the meaning of the languages they speak. Loss without grief (lack of tears so disconcertingly opposed to the excess in tears showed in dramas or reality), dead without a ritual, lacks that are not pacified by the social more than religious code of a funeral , which only now, in Anja Puntari’s art – that analyzes and gives awareness to languages and mechanisms of signification to break through, defuse, and pass beyond them going towards a greater depth –draw from piety and from the sorrowful attention of the visitor, in the absorbed look of empathy, the recognition and dignity of existence. Translation, now, from being mere encumbrance without meaning or signifier to the rise to an unlimited and authoritative value. Perhaps a good language and a real communication for the message-man , pass through the abandonment, beyond any cognitive certainty of rules, slavery and degeneration of the code, to the instinct of belonging and understanding. To let the meaning arrive, even before its reason or name.

Anja Puntari - Cristina - courtesy l'artista

Anja Puntari – Cristina – courtesy l’artista

[traduzione dall’italiano a cura di Violetta Langton]


A proposito dell'autore

Sono un critico, curatore e docente d’arte contemporanea, ma prima di tutto sono un “addetto ai lavori” desideroso di trasmettere, a chi dentro questi “lavori” non è, la mia grande passione e gioia per tutto ciò che è creatività contemporanea. Sono da anni ideatrice, curatrice e docente di corsi e laboratori di avvicinamento all’arte contemporanea in numerosi enti culturali e universitari, condotti secondo la metodica sperimentale di didattica dell’arte da me ideata che sintetizzo sotto il label di CCrEAA - Comprensione CReativa ed Empatico Ascolto dell'Arte.