The Inaccessible Poem is an exhibition conceived by Turner-Prize winner British artist Simon Starling. It is Starling’s first initiative in Italy, taking place at Fondazione Merz in Turin, a 1930s industrial building housing the collection of works by one of Arte Povera’s major figures, Mario Merz. The institution regularly stages exhibitions based on the research and dialog between Merz and other artists. For The Inaccessible Poem, Simon Starling takes on the role of the curator and space designer, provoking an unexpectedly poetic encounter between the two artists, distinct from one another in both generation and practice, next to which are presented selected works by Argentinean artists Faivovich & Goldberg, and Scottish amateur astronomers James Nasmyth and James Carpenter.
The starting-point of the exhibition is a series of spurious photographic illustrations of the moon, taken by two amateur astronomers, James Nasmyth and James Carpenter, and published in their book The Moon Considered as a Planet, a World and a Satellite (1874). Lacking access to the appropriate equipment to photograph the lunar surface, they observed it through a telescope and produced speculative drawings and models, which they later photographed. What Starling himself describes as a “third-hand moon,” a representation of an imaginary representation, conveys a practice that he has often developed in his own work, transforming an object or substance into another. The installation also appears as a critique of technology, and an echo to Mario Merz’s 1987 statement: “If we leave technology to its own devices, the world will have problems which are wholly technological. Art is critical of technology, and that’s very important, in fact it’s one of the problems facing art today.”
Echoing this lunar series, two imposing igloos by Mario Merz are installed in the middle of the exhibition space, explicitly untitled Spostamenti della terra e della luna su un asse (Movements of the earth and the moon on an axis). One, terrestrial, is made of clay, the other, lunar, is fixed in glass and neon beams. Above the igloos, Simon Starling’s large cubes of Carrara marble are suspended by a yellow rope are floating in the air, as another challenge to gravity.
The tension between fact and fiction is central to the exhibition, notably in the piece by Argentinean artist duo Guillermo Faivovich and Nicolás Goldberg, who spent the past five years researching their project A Guide to Campo del Cielo, named after the meteor shower that hit Northern Argentinean about four thousands years ago. The chapter Mesón de Fierro relates to a supposedly missing meteorite and to the speculation relative to its appearance and disappearance. Visual manipulation appears as the main concern in Simon Starling’s latest film, Project for a Masquerade, in which he documents the process of making masks through filming the Noh mask maker, Yasuo Miichi. Some of the masks depict international renowned characters, others fictional figures, all related to the construction of a monument in Chicago commemorating the Atom Bomb project.
The Inaccessible Poem finds its balance and pace as it confronts art and science, technology and illusion, and alters time and space. Ultimately, the exhibition evinces a very thoughtful relationship to the poetics of Mario Merz, who once wrote: “The home is a relationship between space and time. Time is the creator and destroyer of space. Space is not independent and static. Space is controlled by time.”