Fridges are not frigid

Fridges are not frigid, exhibition views, Archivio Conz, Berlin, DE, 2019 ©Jacopo Belloni
Group show (cur. Niels Trannois), w. Jacopo Belloni, Johana Blanc, Constance Brosse, Vicente Lesser, Henrique Loja, Sara Ravelli, Niels Trannois, Paulo Wirz

“Fridges are Not Frigid” is a variation on the title of an artwork by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (Bronxville, New York, 1919, “This Fridge Leaves me Frigid”), part of the Francesco Conz collection, which was assembled in Conz’s lifetime (Cittadella, 1935 – Verona, 2010) and now exists as the Archivio Conz. Developed with students of the HEAD’s Visual Arts Masters (workMaster) in Geneva, the project based on this collection is itself a variation of, if not a digression from, the dialogue students develop with art history.

During a year of research between Geneva and Berlin I worked with a group of eight students to experimentally set up the components of a transgenerational discussion ruled by the principles of equality and empathy favourable to the handling of both historical and contemporary artworks. Here, it isn’t about standing on the shoulders of a giant*, namely the Conz collection, but rather playing and speculating freely on this historical material. Consequently, we were able to take the artworks out of the archive, making them visible in an installation in which they mingle with our own works, produced for the occasion.

By taking artworks out of an archive, be it for them to be studied or exhibited, our idea was to reveal the idea of returning these artworks (or the thinking underpinning them) to the present, to reactivate their contemporaneity in the light of a time which is no longer that of their creation. While loaded with their own history, as well as that of their time, artworks nonetheless remain sensitive. An archive is a living material open to historical narratives: “Fridges are Not Frigid.” Consequently, despite being kept and archived, artworks from a segment of history (specifically Fluxus and the complex web around it) are not frigid to the time of their reactivation; they are infused, expanding as a result of the time that has passed since they were created. Behind this thinking appears an erotic of the archive, driven by the interpenetration of time; a non-linear vision of history where – rather than simply following on from one another – layers and events interlock.

The CNRS researcher Olivier Costa de Beauregard said of quantum mechanics that it allowed for “a considerable weakening of the concept of a physical reality existing independently from the observers**,” leading to the fact that a thing which is observed is irreversibly affected by the observation.

Thus, making visible one or several artworks from an archive and positioning them with contemporary artworks is also a way to activate their metamorphosis. In fact, we are resolutely siding with a quantum appreciation of the archive. At the risk of being iconoclastic, we preferred to favour the spirit and the irreverent nature of the Fluxus rather than follow strict museographical rules when it comes to showing historical pieces.

The modes of reading an archived artwork which has been activated in the present are therefore intensified. This principle is one of the angles from which we approached the Francesco Conz archive: Frances- co Conz assembled his collection organically through the sense of kinship he maintained with his artist friends, and so we also wanted to address his legacy (as a collector) this way. Investigating the works of artists from the archive, we put ourselves in the position of researchers looking into the catalogue to find points of agreement between thoughts from which art history and our respective practices have stemmed. We are searching for connections.

These connections were made possible by the expertise of the Archivio Conz’s administrators, who took on the role of transgenerational go-betweens. Each member of our group was assigned one or several artists which Francesco Conz collected. Through the connections that were made and the discussions that ensued, we let ourselves be penetrated by practises 60 years older than us, as a way to better rethink our present. Quite naturally, our artistic thinking became influenced by the poetical concepts, the humour and devious spirit of the artists whose work we studied. In return, it seemed essential that these considerations not be unilateral, and for the influence to be mutual. It fell to us to formally create the ground for this mutuality, and so the research presentation is a display of this.

The choice of location for the display is far from inconsequential. The space in question is where Francesco Conz’s collection is stored and being archived: the installation is set up where pieces are photographed to catalogue the archive. Our intervention marks a pause in what is usually a workspace, offering a temporary shift in the appreciation of a subject as well as evoking a parallel action. Archived artworks, or artworks in the process of being archived, are no longer historical objects. For the duration of the exhibition, as the accomplices of the digression we authored, they write their history again.

Niels Trannois

*The metaphor is attributed to Bernard de Chartres, the 12th-century philosopher. It is used to show the importance for anyone with intellectual ambitions to rely on the works of great thinkers from times past (the “giants”).
** Costa de Beauregard, Le Temps déployé, passé, futur, ailleurs, Monaco: Éditions du Rocher, 1988