2 October—9 November 2008
‘The idea has to be built’. Solemn and hurried as any statement should be, the inner discrepancy between the ideal and the factual introduced by this assertion is what struck us at first. It is not clear why this is such a surprise though, as the generic ideological essence of the phrase is perfectly in line with the concept of esprit-nouveau and usually comes with it. Together, the two notions define a cultural mood that is now long gone, but which, when summoned, generates a sense of nostalgic discovery.
And what if we ask for a nouveau-esprit-nouveau, a double contradiction and unexpected shock for our melancholic situation? What if we do pick up old ideologies and past references to create a meditative and yet practical theory, to regenerate a space for thoughts and discussions that are personal and yet communal?
E.N. quasi-bridge, the new installation specifically conceived for FormContent by Swiss artist Davide Cascio, is a well orchestrated and subjectively connected stratification of contemporary positivistic thoughts. References to architecture, literature, design and everyday life create a monolithic and yet light, crafted and yet rough proposal for a nouveau-esprit-nouveau. A structure, an idea and a space for thinking: Cascio’s installation doesn’t deny the failure of past ideals, but uses those as trampolines to reach for new conclusions, like the champions of the ‘moderns’ did, when talking of climbing on the shoulders of the ‘ancients’.
The sense of ‘utopia’ doesn’t really apply here. On the contrary, everything seems concrete: the starting point of the project is a reference to the 1925 Esprit Nouveau Pavilion presented by Le Corbusier in Paris. In relation to Le Corbusier’s work, Cascio interestingly identifies his ‘original architecture’ in the Cabanon (1951), which he believes to be the point of arrival of an idea of esprit nouveau introduced by the pavilion and exemplified by a highly idealistic notion of production. Once again, ‘The idea has to be built’. For Cascio, the necessity of creating new essential ideals – in architecture as well as in life – and the need to make them visible is at the core of a research that is still urgent today.
With E.N. quasi-bridge Cascio employs a diverse approach to the deconstruction of cultural phenomena, searching for their original forms by relating them to parallel experiences – in the case of this installation, Thoreau’s Walden Life and William Morris’ News from Nowhere.
Cascio includes other, less predictable literary references, working with their plots, their encounters and idiosyncrasies, to create a personal tribute to the idea of a creative transformation in both art and life.
E.N. quasi-bridge is based on a structure that is physically and conceptually modular. Formally based on the succession and repetition of a simple shape, the work is conceptually a collage of different cultural references. The result has an awkward balance between functionality – with references to civil engineering and industrial design – and aesthetic – with an eye to minimalist constructions. Cascio pushes forward the idea of a nouveau-esprit-nouveau as the exaltation of the dualism between freedom of creativity and its dependency on the past. The installation is structurally reminiscent of a construction in between a bridge, a minimal sculpture, a more figurative idea of scaffolding or an architectural model, while its raw wood alludes indirectly to a more rural environment, connection with the texts of Thoreau and Morris.
The installation is completed by a second element in the space: two collages – a larger one pasted directly on the wall of the gallery and a smaller one framed – that reinterpret wallpapers motifs designed by Morris himself.
The project has been conceived with FormContent’s space in mind, reflecting structurally, as it does, the peculiarity of its being in a brick railway arch in the East End of London.
The show is kindly supported by the Swiss Arts Council Pro-Helvetia and the Swiss Cultural Fund in Britain.