Luca De Leva – www.thyself.agency
Opening: April 1st, 2023, h 6 – 9 pm
Pinksummer: Thyself Agency, on which your first solo show at Pinksummer is centered, is an agency through which people exchange for a determined time, as if it were a sort of journey, what we would call ordinary life, with its immense theoretical potential to the exposure of the body, of the subject, to the world. The work, for us, moves from the concepts of identity and extraneousness, intrusion and extrusion, understood as dialectical poles within which existence slips, and the body as the place where existence happens beyond any metaphysical implication. We thought of Jean-Luc Nancy when in The Intruder he states that to survive one must become a stranger to himself, in that case the philosopher recounted the trauma of his heart transplant by focusing on the fact that a body, his body, himself, to accept a new heart, had to resort to immunodepressants to sedate the immune system. Do you intend to turn Thyself Agency into a method for learning how to consciously become a stranger to himself, to fight the depersonalisation and derealisation that habit induces? Is Thyself Agency a kind of immunodepressant to what is called ego?
Luca De Leva: Thyself Agency is an instrument, an artwork made of life, and right at the bottom of my life I found an abyss of peace. Yes, I need a medicine to become myself again, a medicine made of life. I seek the meaning of this through the experiences of those who have participated in the exercise, those who have exchanged their lives with someone else, they tell me my idea and together we create the method, an applicable method, generated in sharing. Looking for my ideas in the words of others, I also came across this in Nancy’s words: “As always, the lesson is simple, but the task is arduous. We must do nothing less, ‘the rest of us’, than understand and practice the sharing of meaning – and the meaning of the world. This does not mean dialogue and communication, which now drag on like saturated meanings and buzzwords of general agreement, but it does mean – or does not mean – something else, for which the solitary and proud word is just as valid as the common conversation: that the truth of sense is nothing other than its sharing, that is, its passage between us (between us always other than ourselves) and simultaneously its internal and sovereign dehiscence, by which its law entitles its exception, by which sense exempts itself from itself in order to be what it is, and by which its enjoyment is not its sensible result, but the exercise of its own sense, its sensibility, its sensuality and its feeling. It is Barthes again who speaks of the ‘love of language’: this love is worth, it must be said, that of one’s neighbor, if it does not even possess its full value or sense. Here is – dare I say it – morality for our time – and something more than morality.” This was written in 2005 in The Disclosure, I can relate to it, at the end of the page I had drawn a heart with Good written inside.
PS: Thyself Agency seems to us to intend to free the subject from the subject, or rather from the subjection to the self and its limits, in order to expose us to the other than self, not an other than self, but the otherness that is in me: you in me, the colors in me, the animal in me, the air in me, the cosmos in me… Thyself Agency tends to organize, with simplicity and surplus, a journey that takes existences out of themselves by detaching them from their needs, to lead them into a space where in fact one could even really begin to write a future of co-existence? Does the idea of co-existence not refer to a form of ecology?
LDL: I live in a cosmos in which I have been immersed since birth and which for me, at least as an individual, is an immutable abode in which to live. Freedom and Liberation elude me when I think I understand them, how can I imagine their deeper meaning with such myopic eyes? Yet, I perceive something else, something bubbling at the root of that cosmos and vibrating my intuition. Something I can only pursue by abandoning myself to it, no longer rational or even irrational, only in the a-rationality do I find the courage to truly rejoice in the air that fills my lungs and brings reality inside my hope. Then infinite joy unrolls the corners of my smile and I understand that I do not exist, things do not exist, and reality is one. What does art have to do with this? I really wonder what art has to do with that cosmos I mentioned at the beginning, that system of thought so hegemonic that I believe it is the only possible way. I don’t think we can start writing a future of co-existence and ecology, because it would be based on a misunderstanding. Co-existence is a fact, it cannot begin, it already is. Then it is I who must develop the awareness of living in unity, of being unity. Thyself Agency, the Agency, helps me in this. I, you, ego, our, day, night, life, death are concepts and words perceived to be so real and incontrovertible precisely to help us overcome them. I do not want to live in a lie and yet I live in it. I do not know the smell of things, only what my brain translates. This suggests to me that it is on another plane that reality vibrates, and we can understand it, we are nature recognizing itself. I want to recognize what I am, not begin to be. I am the shadow of light; perception is only a challenger. The drop becomes the ocean.
PS: Yes, in fact to exist is to co-exist. Yes, alone we cannot know the scent of things per se, or rather objectively, but together perhaps, as Protagoras said, we can try to emerge from subjectivity, from singularity, through language, through confrontation, and perhaps we can even approach the inseity of the scent of things. Art perhaps has something to do with the gratuitousness of enacting an action, a gesture. Art above all must deal with the restitution, the formalization, of that action, that consummated gesture: a work, an exhibition. This is where language comes into play, the language that opens to the in-common, that language that sometimes vibrates and makes thought turn to intuition, to the a-rational glimmer even if only for an instant when it happens, but you get attached to it. Can one do without language?
LDL: I wouldn’t know how to do that. This is the meaning of ‘Thou shalt have no God but me’, the Islamic say it even more clearly ‘La Ilaha Illa Allah’ (there is no God but God), or even more profoundly ‘La Huwa illa Huwa’ (there is no Him but Him). Or I think of Wittgenstein ‘The limits of my language mean the limits of my world’. So many know this. Reality is one and there is no reality outside reality. Now liberation becomes more familiar to me, unmasking subjectivity and accepting its secret role, its challenge. It takes courage and faith, art is an act of faith, towards the human and from the human towards language. What truth can one seek if not the truth itself? Agency helps in all of this, listening to the stories of those who carry out the exercises we observe our sensitivities intertwining as we return from the unknown, we face the cold giving birth to ideas that do not exist, but inside we know that we are talking backwards and those ideas have always been there, it was us who were distracted.
PS: Thyself Agency made us think of the ornamental hermit in Painshill Park, Theodor Cerić mentions it in his book Gardens in Wartime. Tom Page answered the advertisement that Hamilton the owner of Painshill Park had placed in The Times on 10 April 1740. Tom Page had an ordinary life: he lived in London, was 31 years old, had a wife, lived in a nice flat to buy which he had incurred a debt, had a servant, and had lost his job. Hamilton offered seven hundred pounds a year salary which, at the time, was no small sum. The conditions of the contract were to live in a hut in the middle of the park, not to speak to anyone, to grow a beard and nails, to walk around with an hourglass in his hand, to dress in an old chamelot’s breeches, to eat soup, bread and cheese that would be brought to him every night. Tom Page knew nothing of the countryside, but decided to accept because he was being hounded by creditors. Hamilton, as soon as he met Tom Page, wrote to his friend Lady Beauclerk, that perhaps the young hermit was not suitable: he had too fine features and very polite manners and wrote that even a child would have understood that he had never encountered fasting and deprivation. Tom Page stayed ten months at Painshill Park, but already after the first few days he began to change his behavior, he bathed almost naked in the park’s lake, he seemed to become more and more familiar with the woods and frugal meals, he seemed to have taken a liking to solitude and stopped writing to his wife. Hamilton wrote to his friend: ‘At first, I could hardly recognize him. I had not seen him for weeks. His beard had reached a considerable length… Nevertheless, I noticed something new in the way he walked: he seemed to have forgotten how civilized men move, or, even more singularly, it seemed not to concern him. As I got closer (he was sitting on a boulder and looking at an invisible point above the trees, beyond the lake), I noticed that he was smiling. It seemed to me the smile of an idiot. Had he gone mad? He was holding the hourglass in his hands like a precious treasure, but in a horizontal position and perfectly balanced, so that the sand was no longer flowing to one side or the other’. The old misanthrope Hamilton wondered on that autumn afternoon whether Tom Page, his hermit, would find his way back to the world. What if someone through Thyself Agency wanted to stay in someone else’s life?
LDL: Imagine the person who is reading these lines now, if they decided to contact us because they were curious to try the experience, we would find them the right candidate with whom they could exchange their life and give up their own, the exchange would begin in all its intensity and joyfulness, and if this person at the end of the week no longer wanted to come back to themselves, I would say that we had given them a good gift. Happy New Life, Person!
I remember when you told me the story of the ornamental hermit, it was the first time we saw each other, I also remember another phrase ‘we choose artists, not projects’. Both you, and I, and the ornamental hermit, come across things. We are lucky, let’s keep our sensibilities appropriate to this movement. I want to imagine it as dripping into reality: I am now a puddle, the bulk of the flood is already reabsorbed, a force drains me deep, the journey contaminates me to the source.
Thyself Agency is an artist I came across, which is why I wanted to bring it to you, and for the same reason I imagined an exhibition within an exhibition, a meaning within a meaning, a casket within a casket. I am referring to what lies beyond the curtain of trousers, to the portraits of my sister Fiammetta, another fact that I came across as a child and that continues to blow me away. I was little, something I understood something confused me, something I remembered something I invented, something yes something no, nothing is true everything is allowed. She mutated genetically while her twin developed normality, once she was born she was affected by a syndrome that among other things causes her cognitive retardation without her knowledge, Fiammetta the child forever, the household oracle, I always had the impression that she did not perceive time, surely past and present are identical and she does not conceive the future, she reminds me of the horizontal hourglass of the ornamental hermit. Its mutation teaches me that: another world is possible.
PS: Yes, behind the curtain of trousers, secluded, your little flame, transfigured and independent of any narrative.