Rebecca Digne - Tracer le vide

From November 18th to December 23rd, 2017

Opening on Saturday, November 18th / Curated by Alessandro Gallicchio

Rebecca Digne’s first solo exhibition at the Escougnou Cetraro Gallery presents a set of sculptures and videos inspired by an abstract territory, the mother tongue, a relationship-driven language which, through mimetism and assimilation strategies, enables an initial dialogue free from any kind of social or geopolitical classification. This is a sensitive approach to the world, defined as unconscious, which shows the psychological aspect of identity building.The artist chooses to focus her camera on the universe of a human being’s founding sensations, and to call on a gesture – stated as a verb – consisting of trying to trace the trajectories that define psychic spaces. When deprived of a linguistic frame of reference, humans are forced to confide in their mental body so as to lay the foundations of their future self and so as to bond, literally, with the territory they collide with. Rebecca Digne understands these archetypal exchanges as tensions supporting a self-construction she rightly interprets as ongoing.In contrast with an exclusively evolutionist perspective, the artist aims to explore the cyclic nature of such actions, which manifest themselves in a need to build, at every step, a precarious structure one can hang on to, knowing it will inevitably be lost through want or need. The lifelong oscillations between construction and loss thus confront themselves to an abstract space, the void, which remains central to this approach. Rebecca Digne points her lens towards and around this concept, with a rendering that nuances the subject’s apparent illusiveness.

In her works, through various forms, a stratified exploration enables her to rekindle her own biographic experience, from the Italian coasts to the French coasts. The two countries, in which the artist grew up, represent a necessary personal geography, some sort of platform indispensable for her psychological investigation of life experience and for her timeless experiment with the void. The pieces composing this exhibition contribute, on the whole, to depicting the dissemination of these tensions, made explicit by the sculptural analysis of a vacuum linked to movement and by the filmic surveying of her childhood’s landscapes. Makeshift architectures suggested by ropes anchor themselves on these landscapes; a visual metaphor that ties straight into temporary attachment and that coherently responds to the disturbing vacuum the sculptures form.

A perdere forms a constellation of abstract architectural designs addressing the issue of a shifting identity. The sculpture is therefore perceived as a trace, as a residue to be collected for its documentary value, as a tangible proof of the passing phenomenon that is the loss of one’s landmarks. These mummified objects use an ancient moulding technique, lost-wax casting. In this process, a wax-coated model lined with a refractory material is extracted by heat, and replaced by metal. To Rebecca Digne, the loss of this original form is a necessity, and its material transcription in the moulding shows how much an individual’s transformation takes place between the inside and the outside, in the hollow gap that separates them. This intimate archive of mental architectures also echoes the imagery of the castings of Pompeii, a city the artist knows well, and resonates with archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli’s iconic undertaking, as he too was driven by a vital desire to preserve the decomposing bodies within the gangue of volcanic deposits1.

This work on the present time and on the mummified displaying of the emotional body’s mutations ties up with one of Rebecca Digne’s main topics: craftsmanship. Conceived as frozen frames, the sculptures introduce an approach in which the film is perceived as an experience, starting with Funérailles. Shot in a Super 8 format, this video shows the gestures used for lost-wax casting and reveals the different states preceding the matter’s final solidification. The object at its embryonic stage is here handled in a liquid substance that defines its shape and then reveals its image. This imprint’s apparition, analysed with extreme precision, enables the artist to make a comparison with the photographic emulsion technique used for films. Expanding the sculpture’s possibilities as a basic relation between gesture and material, Rebecca Digne constructively articulates sculptural gesture with filmic temporality, referring among other things to Richard Serra’s movie Hands Scraping (1968)2.

Tracer le vide, which gave the exhibition its title, is a video with both colour images (16mm film) and black and white images (Super 8) in which the artist films people with ropes roaming the coasts that bring together France and Italy, in an inexhaustible search for attachments. The cyclical nature of these gestures is expressed through the resurgence of images one could describe as mental, and through their technical contrast, clouding the issue of a linear narration. The ropes, anchored to the rocks with vibrant strength, draw lines that depict propositions, statements on the overriding need to create bonds between people and territory. Through their architectural structure, they build the temporary foundations Rebecca Digne considers as trajectories occupying and transforming space. The tensioned rope’s febrile aspect henceforth contrasts with knots, as places where the psychic tensions tightly tie themselves together. Tim Ingold, in his anthropological analysis on the action of drawing in space, suggests that, even when there are knots, the line continues its journey and moves forward into the tangles of the next knots, some kind of life metaphor, portrayed as a bloom of comet tails3. These statements resonate with the artist’s work, in the way it repeatedly highlights the oscillation between bond and loss, a dynamic she accepts and passes through, with a simple gesture: tracing.

The plurality of forms offered in this exhibition respects the abstract and tangible nature of the artist’s project. Video and sculpture hereby activate a dialogue based on a continuous exchange, without stripping off the autonomy of each piece. The immersion in these poetic images referring to the notions of loss and attachment, of the experiencing of anchoring and of the void, and of the exploration of both mental and physical spaces shows how much Rebecca Digne persistently watches and analyses the visible and invisible dimensions of the self-construction process.

Alessandro Gallicchio

1 Giuseppe Fiorelli, leading the Superintendence of the Pompeii excavations from 1863 to 1875, radically changed the archaeological site’s management by promoting the moulding of the volcanic eruption’s victims. See Giuseppe Fiorelli, Pompeianarum Antiquitatum Historia, Naples, 1860-1864, http://pompei.sns.it/prado_front_end/index.php?page=VB&id=23&book_id=7039

2 See Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Richard Serra Early Work: Sculpture between Labor and Spectacle, Kynaston McShine, Lynne Cooke (dir.), Richard Serra. Sculpture: Forty Years, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 57.

3 See Tim Ingold, Faire anthropologie, archéologie, art et architecture, Bellevaux, Editions Dehors, 2017, p. 280.