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Charlotte Mandell


from "The Studio of Alberto Giacometti" in Fragments of the Artwork by Jean Genet

Every man has probably experienced that sort of grief, if not terror, at seeing how the world and its history seem caught in an ineluctable movement, which keeps gaining momentum and which seems able to change, toward ever coarser ends, nothing but the visible manifestations of the world.  This visible world is what it is, and our action on it cannot make it otherwise.  So we think nostalgically about a universe in which man, instead of acting so furiously on visible appearances, would be employed in ridding himself of them, not just by refusing to act upon them, but by stripping himself enough to discover that secret place in ourselves from which an entirely different human adventure might possibly begin.  More precisely, a moral one, no doubt.  But, after all, it is perhaps to that inhuman condition, to that ineluctable arrangement, that we owe our nostalgia for a civilization that would try to venture somewhere beyond the measurable.  It is Giacometti's body of work that makes our universe even more unbearable to me, so much does it seem that this artist knew how to remove whatever impeded his gaze so he could discover what remains of man when the pretence is removed.  But perhaps Giacometti also needed the inhuman condition that is imposed on us so that his nostalgia could become so great that it would give him the strength to succeed in his search.  Whatever the case may be, his entire oeuvre seems to me to be this search and has to do not only with man, but also with anything at all, with the most banal of objects.  And when he succeeded in ridding the chosen object or being from its utilitarian pretence, the image he gives us of it is magnificent.  Well-deserved if foreseeable reward.

Beauty has no other origin than a wound, unique, different for each person, hidden or visible, that everyone keeps in himself, that he preserves and to which he withdraws when he wants to leave the world for a temporary, but profound solitude.  There's a big difference between this art and what we call "sordid realism."  Giacometti's art seems to me to want to discover that secret wound of every being, and even of every object, so that it can illumine them.

Translation copyright Charlotte Mandell