Komnaty (Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage then Garage Center for Contemporary Culture then Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center), 2018
Watercolor with dust and soap on wall
Courtesy of the artist, Galerie Nagel Draxler, Berlin/Cologne; Galleria Pinksummer, Genoa; Galerie Michel Rein, Paris/Brussels
Luca Vitone began his artistic career in the late 1980s and is among his generation's most consistent continuators of the conceptual tradition of the 1960s and 1970s. It is precisely in this way – conceptually and analytically – that he understood the task of participating in an exhibition dedicated to place. Instead of displaying a piece of work here that focuses on the problem of place, he preferred to make the object of his research the place itself – the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre. His work "Rooms (Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre)" may be distilled down to the application of water to the walls of the exhibition space, which interferes with the dust collected in this space. As such, it is that which belongs to this place that is being exhibited in the place of the exhibition. We are faced with a classical example of a favourite device of the conceptualists – tautology.

From conceptualism, taken in its widest sense, Vitone has also inherited an interest in a certain initial level of phenomena, in certain primary principles of being. Vitone is looking for "primary structures", as the minimalists put it, and his art is arte povera ("poor art"), as the Italian artists of the sixties defined their creative practice. And indeed, dust is elementary, substantial matter. In covering surfaces, it takes the form of the objects, on which it lies, i.e. it is devoid of any form of its own that would make it into something distinct or a thing-in-itself. Gaston Bachelard said that mud is "the dust of water" and that this material "is an unconscious form." He likewise referred to ash as "the dust of fire," and claimed that the whole triad – mud, dust and smoke – are images that, in a modified and vague form, hint at the matter from which they arise, being the sediment of the four elements.

At the same time, we constantly expel dust from our daily life. Living with dust is not accepted, and it is customary to sweep dust away. And yet it inevitably returns to be erased once more. To return dust to its place and make it visible – which is exactly what Vitone does in the Jewish Museum – is to return to this place one of its components that is not normally taken into account. A place, the artist means to say, is what is in it, as well as what has come out of it. Being = being + non-being.

This dialectic of dust leads us to another property of this peculiar material, and one clearly involved in Vitone's work. Dust is an obvious indication of the passage of time. "Every surface craves dust, for dust is the flesh of time, as a poet said, time's very flesh and blood," wrote Joseph Brodsky in The Embankment of the Incurables. That is why Vitone's work would not be fitting at this exhibition if its place was not a place, if it were lacking in any interesting or even legendary history. Time is, after all, that which makes a place a place. Incidentally, Brodsky repeated this phrase about dust word for word in his Nature Morte, which opens with the words of another poet, Vitone's compatriot Cesare Pavese: "Death will come and she will have your eyes." As a dialectic of being and non-being, dust belongs not only to the existent, but also to death. "Dust," as Bachelard pointed out, "serves as an expression of an end which is simultaneously a beginning." Dust confirms the important mission of a place – to couple the present with the past and to ensure it a future that overcomes death. A place becomes a place once it has been covered with dust.

Viktor Misiano
artistic director of the project: Viktor Misiano
National Center for Contemporary Arts
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center
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