Silvio Wolf: The Epiphany of Light

Tiziana Conti

in Titolo No. 10, Benucci Editore, Perugia 1992

In his concept of experience, Dewey included the indistinct, all the “qualities” and therefore the risk factors that characterise life, excluding that which is Cartesianly clear and distinct. To know means to entrust oneself to growth to selective adaptation which is based on surprise and capable of grasping the deep structure of reality. If we apply these criteria to the world of art, what emerges is the undefined pervasive quality of experience and a work of art becomes the transmission of a qualitative whole.

In Silvio Wolf, the whole is an experience of virtuality in which various interactive elements take shape. First of all there is photography seen as a medium with the expressive power to filter the explicit rendering of mental space. Wolf in fact aims at representing “thought in a visible way”, so that it becomes a print of mental experience. Secondly there is light, the activating subject of all representations. It creates a dialectic that exalts dichotomous figures: physical and psychic, absolute and relative, concave and convex, light and dark, presence and absence. It manifests in a graduation of guises: transparency, shadow, veiling, allusion and depth, reaching the threshold of words, the consistency of which takes on the fragility and fleetingness of a meteor with the rhythm of a magic vibration. It is visual and perceptual strength.

Two elements play an essential role in Wolf’s experimentation. The spatial which is proposed as a container for dualisms and at the same time as the resolution of them as it manages to give life to a metaphorical meta-reality. It is not by chance that Wolf displays great interest in the physical nature of “neutral” space before taking any action. The architecture of places becomes the object of simulation before “fusing” with the work, creating a relationship of intense references which always relate to an otherness. Space also proposes the dilemma of “transition”; doors, windows and niches therefore take on a precise and determining physiognomy in the design of symmetries and analogies. Time, neither crystallised nor homogeneous, is bonded to the spatial element: the frozen moment causes shifts in meaning and exalts light as a source of emanation and as determining perception in an inexhaustible repertoire of images. The interaction of these elements demonstrates the inanity of attempts to reduce phenomena to an irritating uniformity.

Grande Myhrab (1989), or the “place of virtuality” shows the simultaneous presence of illusory-real duality. By definition the Myhrab is an empty space. Its characteristic feature is that it recalls an elsewhere. Wolf constructed a parallelepiped structure, self-supporting, self-illuminated and double faced. The symmetrical arrangement of the two photographic images in a North South direction demonstrates how concave and convex, clearly complete opposites can virtually appear simultaneously in perception. The uniformity of pattern divides to generate evocations and concatenations, signs of an unstable, temporary equilibrium made of peaks, breaks and re-integrations.

Enclave (1991) is a “space-time fusion” project in which the three dimensional nature of the photographic fragments fuse with the painting, the architectural structure and the installation.

The search for an original code for space takes on the value of a singularity in Light House (1991) which evokes complementary connections. By showing two local referents, fragments of the façade of the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara on the one hand and on the other fragments of the Jewish cemetery, Wolf constructs a design with the underlying idea of the duplicity of writing. The writing attributed to the ethical code that emanates from the tablets of the mosaic law alternates and changes with the natural writing sedimented in time with the tablets themselves. The action of time detaches remains and projects them into a present loaded with memories, creating a metamorphic alphabet by means of the three dimensional nature of the photography. The light identifies traces that become fragments of writing and the capacity to produce new images.

The complex references of Wolf’s work come together in a multimedia framework in the project Condominiums (1992). It is interesting to note that the etymology of con-dominium does not just indicate the simultaneous presence of elements but also the mastery of them.  Wolf uses the autobiographical episode of the journey of Franz Kafka to Brescia recorded in the intense story Die Aeroplane in Brescia to construct a system of interrelationships of identity. In the Vestibolo delle parole (Vestibule of words) he takes fragments of Kafka’s language and transforms them into Erlebnisse of awareness; in the last room of Doppio Volo (Double flight) the duplicity becomes the constituting seal of every aspect of the existing where the flight takes on a profoundly symbolic valence. It is “élan vital” set against what for Kafka was the experience of a den. It is the overcoming of  the limit of the physical, the projection towards the absolute, abandonment of the corporeal and melting into pure image. Wolf’s work goes further: it recreates new identities through the staging of the Stanza Controluce (Backlit room) in which the icon of the last known image by Kafka and his rock-drawings cause perceptual oscillations, the dematerialisation of figures alternating with fluctuations of consciousness between memory and oblivion.

A completely mental path – that which runs through the labyrinth of identity – it becomes physically expressible in the dialectic of black and white, in the relation of words and profiles through  the concreteness of photography, of video and the miniaturisation of space.

The most recent work on the reflection of icon light proposes the explosive dynamic of an icon that fragments into a myriad of images, cyclically generated, destroyed and regenerated. The icons suspended on steel cables interact with a bar code on the walls: a double pyramid perspective located at the centre of the space reaches towards the skylight and images of dervishes squat on its soft surface. The soft and filtering light generates silent periodic rhythms, gives body to the motions and marks out the space by welding the archaic to the contemporary. The light, to which the photographic medium is enslaved, has now become an epiphany of pure states.