TRA Edge of Becoming
Passages, Pilgrimages & Perspectives The Journey of Tra Axel Vervoordt “When you don’t know where you’re going, go by a way you don’t know.” Chinese proverb
Venice is a monument of human history and a city without compare that belongs to the world. Built upon water and its power of trans formation, the canals are like a labyrinth of our civilization. Venice is a historic port, an open meeting place and harbor for art, culture, trade, ideas and energy. It’s a gateway for experiences shared between di∏erent worlds. For many years, I’ve had an enormous passion for the philosophy and ideas exchanged between two very di∏erent worlds: the East and the West. Scientists and artists ask the fundamental questions about our existence and the creation of the cosmos and I’ve found that the clues o≥en lie in the exchange of information between the East and the West. While we work together on this journey to ﬁnd those elusive answers, there is a great deal we can teach each other through our di∏erent ways of thinking and creating. TRA: Edge of Becoming was born through this sharing of ideas and knowledge.
While Venice is itself uniquely Italian, it’s also a symbolic doorway be tween cultures which makes it a city that is the most TRA. The word TRA is a doorway for dialogue, a word that represents the open ex change of language and meaning. Most simply, TRA is the word “ART” in reverse. It’s a way of seeing di∏erently; of reversing and revising the way we understand creativity. TRA may also be read as the “tra” of travel, transport and traverse; the “tra” of transformation, training and translation. “Tra” in Italian means between, among, amidst. Together, I think all of this relates to the idea of crossing the border, of change and puriﬁcation, of going beyond and going ahead, of uncovering meaning and getting inside experiences to uncover truth. As our team developed the ideas for this exhibition, we started to see the concept of TRA in many uses around the world. Very familiar as the beginning and ending to Sanskrit words—such as mantra, tantra, yantra and sutra—TRA is a strong and symbolic word that helps us un derstand knowledge and liberation. For example, linguists tell us the word “mantra” is made of two parts: “man” which is “to think” and “tra” which is a tool or instrument. Mantra is in fact “an instrument of thought”, which is exactly how we understand mantra in common use—as a repetition of words that help channel the power capable to reach transformation. Tantra is the sys tem of knowledge that connects sexual and cosmic energy. Yantras are signs and drawings that act like doorways for healing energy. Su tra is, simply said, “the thread” that connects knowledge. It’s all a key reminder that there is a path to reach enlightenment, a way that takes an ordinary man on the way to an extraordinary place. I’m interested in exploring these threads within TRA. I see these con nections the same way that I see the piercing of a Fontana canvas as the thread that connects the experience of art to the third dimension. Lucio Fontana—who is for me one of the most important artists of the twentieth century—symbolizes many aspects of TRA. Through a simple gesture, he opens his canvases to create an endless world out of which everything can be reborn.
TRA is ART. TRA is transformation. TRA is a gateway between worlds.
Rich in meaning, the word TRA also shows us, through symbols and metaphors, how traveling through an open door and crossing a thres hold is a passageway to new experiences. In this context, TRA is an archway through which we can explore the connection between “inside” and “outside”, a bridge to a vast space be yond. It’s like a light shining through an open doorway (la porte); col umns marking the border between worlds (the torii gates in Japan); a threshold separating the divine world; relationships bridging the past, present and future; an empty space between two objects (the Ma); a void that creates an endless energy and an inﬁnite space of becom ing. TRA examines these connections in the same way that a physician attempts to understand how the body works by studying the inter action between atoms rather than studying what’s happening within an individual atom. The whole is indeed the sum of its parts, truly unique and always connected. We gave TRA the subtitle, Edge of Becoming, to bring us closer to discovering the interconnectedness with a more universal sense of experience. It represents a state of inﬁnite becoming, a moment when you’re standing on the edge of the past and present and looking toward the future. Edge of Becoming also means exploring the pregnant possibility of space and energy and recognizing the potential for transformation in every single moment. As you visit TRA: Edge of Becoming or explore the exhibition through these pages, my hope is that you accept the invitation as an o∏ering for experiences. It’s an opportunity to share the work of over 150 artists in a creative dialogue in the Palazzo Fortuny.
Also on the mezzanine is another work by Giovanni Anselmo, Il panorama introno ﬁn verso oltremare (“The Inﬁnite View Towards Oltremare”) in which he connects the power of the stone with the heavens using a long, blue painting to create a profound connection to the cosmos. The TRA journey continues on the Fortuny ﬂoor. Out of respect for this fantastic palace and the historic ﬁgure of Mariano Fortuny, it’s my hope that TRA may continue his legacy. In a way, creating the exhibition in this space feels like a consultation with a close friend, discussing a shared passion, continuing the collection of a very eclectic spiritual father. An artist, collector, creator and ﬁgure that stood at the gateway of many things, Fortuny was such a universal person, that almost every object and gesture describes a part of his character. It has always been my intention to keep him alive and share the expe riences of every exhibition with him. As he was very adventurous and avant-garde in his tastes during his lifetime, I’m certain that he would appreciate a lot of contemporary art, and that’s what we present in the space that bears his name. Music is also a passion that he and I share. Music plays an important role in transporting the spirit of humanity—in bringing us to new places and opening doors to other worlds. When we speak about music, I’m transported to my personal experi ence of discovering the Archduke Trio of Beethoven (“Piano Trio No. 7”) during a trip to Japan and listening to the profound silences. The magic of the experience was absorbing the in-between spaces in the notes and hearing the full emptiness of the silences that passed between them. I never realized before that I could understand the Japanese concept of Ma through Beethoven. The idea for TRA was born out of Ma, the framed emptiness. Mireille Capelle, who has been a friend for a long time, created an architecture sonore for TRA. It’s not considered music to be listened to from beginning to end. Its artistry is in the presence of sounds—the TRA moments relate to the notes and the silence in her composition; space is substance. Capelle’s sounds create space, magical and mysterious.
My experience in listening to this is that she connects all of the art works through her composition. Wasn’t that an intelligent and eloquent silence? Michel de Montaigne
If silence can magically occupy the empty space in a composition, it’s like there are hidden notes that you train your ear to discover. Simi lar to some of the most profound experiences in TRA, some spaces are more hidden than others. Take for example, the unseen energy in Michaël Borremans work, Red Hand, Green Hand. Or the painting The Immaculate Conception, in which Pieter Claeissins presents a bold display of Maria and all of the secret gardens. The painter shows us magniﬁcent spaces, overgrown and mysterious, dark as well as light. It’s a lesson from Claeissins that humans are the in-between persons for the divine. We are not the masters of the universe, but only seek to discover it. Sometimes the path to discovery is endless. A landscape by HenriJoseph Harpignies, Ravin, Souvenir de la Campagne de Rome (“Ravine, Souvenir of the Roman Campagna”) shows us an endless path in the spirit of becoming. This painting was exhibited at the Salon des Refusés in Paris, famous for its 1863 exhibition, marking an important Edge of Becoming moment in which Harpignies’ suggestive Impressionist style was rejected by Classical academics only to ﬁnd its home elsewhere, among an emerging avant-garde. Sometimes the path to discovery is a story told in reverse, like in the photographs by Domi Mora of the inside of African masks. It’s an opportunity to see the unseen, like an open door to what was once hidden. We’ve installed the photographs with a piece of furniture I created, called Interiorum, in which the backside is used as the front, revealing what was hidden and yet completely transformed by time. Artempo—art made by time.
a labyrinth in the center of the attic. This labyrinth, a connection to Venice and its storied canals, was made of discarded material found in the city. We recaptured bricoli, wooden columns used in the canals and we re-used them for this architectural structure. We’re trying to slow down the evolution by doing a lot with a little. We painted all of the walls using the earth and mud of Venice to create the labyrinth of toko no ma. Toko no Ma—a Japanese expression in architecture—is a symbolic space, a sacred alcove that can be found in the deepest corners of Japanese homes. In translation, “toko” means platform and “Ma” is the framed emptiness. It’s a space of reﬂection and energy, representing the sacred opening between the interior and exterior world. Inside the labyrinth, the exhibit includes art that uses the minimum amount of material to express the maximum amount of spiritual power. It’s a confrontation of the fullness in contrast with the emptiness—the TRA of the in-between. Passing through the labyrinth creates a journey within the larger journey of the exhibition. It’s a place of inner peace and silence that has the potential to inspire creativity and transform feelings of reﬂection and change. There is a humble work on paper by the Japanese artist Sadaharu Horio where he uses a few lines to give body to the emptiness. There is a work by Roman Opalka, the last painting before he started the series of number paintings, which is at the Edge of Becoming of his conceptual art. There is also Ida Barbarigo’s work Promenade Immobile (“Immobile Strolling”). TRA includes one from a set of paintings she made between 1960 and 1962, focusing on the unseen energy between chairs. The installation by Günther Uecker, titled Schwebend Schweben (“Hover ing Hovering”) has a very important place in the top ﬂoor of Fortuny. It’s a ﬂoating piece of art that’s tied with ropes and weighted with stones. A representation of the power of gravity with objects suspended in midair. Within, objects are wrapped, like bandages, and hang in the “in between” space. It’s an artwork that is a mass to behold. Originally
created to commemorate the Kobe earthquake in 1995, Uecker o∏ers this installation for TRA to again commemorate the incomprehensible devastation and loss with this year’s earthquake in Japan and the resulting tsunami and nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima. All of the work in this attic is about hurting and healing. A long scroll that Horio made following the Kobe earthquake in 1995 is also placed here. Horio, a Kobe artist and resident, made this work for the previous disaster and it takes special signiﬁcance again in this setting. With the work of Uecker and Horio together, we discover a type of brotherhood between a European and Japanese artist. Also taking on special connotation in this context, Marina Abramovic’s video, Stromboli captures her lying on a beach in Stromboli, the same island that was destroyed by a tsunami and volcano eruption. I reﬂect on the work of these artists and think of the instability of the Earth and the power of nature to constantly create and transform the world we live in. Like nature, Uecker moves, compiles and shi≥s objects into one assembled mass, interconnected like the earth. Japan is a source of endless inspiration to me and a country where I’ve taken several pilgrimages. Through the horror of this natural catastro phe, this work is even more relevant and pressing. I have such a respect for the Japanese people. As we’ve seen in recent history, the world responds to the way they accept things as they are (the “as-it-is-ness”). I’m so grateful that Günther Uecker shares this in stallation with the hope for positive energy for building a new world and new experiences. It’s a way of making sense of tragedy. From birth, there is life. Break brings evolution. Following devastation, we discover hope. A≥er pain, there is healing. Today, we live at an Edge of Becoming, searching for these TRA moments, constantly evolving and shi≥ing from one moment to the next. As I said in the beginning, TRA is an invitation to experiences. As Günther said to me recently over a long evening in which we shared food and experience, laughter and wine, he said, “The youngest moment in our lives is now.” Go…continue the journey.
Francisco Goya (1746–1828) Album of engravings Los Caprichos (The Fantasies), 1799 Aquatint prints, 34 cm ¬ 24 cm ¬ 38 cm Inv. Bibl. MFyM n° 2106 Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia Collection Museo Fortuny
Gao Xingjian (1940) Illusion, 2007 Chinese ink on canvas, 195 ¬ 130 cm Courtesy Galerie Claude Bernard Photo GCB / Losi
Carl Julius von Leypold (1806–1874) Deep Winter: View of an Ancient Fortress, 1828 Oil on canvas, 23 ¬ 31 cm Courtesy French & Company, New York
Davide Benati (1949) Segrete (Secrecy), 1998 Oil on canvas, 145 ¬ 195 cm Private collection Courtesy Galleria d’Arte Maggiore, Bologna
Ra∏aela Mariniello (1961) Quartieri Spagnoli, tetti di case. Napoli (Roo≥ops of the Spanish Neighborhood, Naples), 2001 Light box, 145 ¬ 145 cm Courtesy of the artist and Studio Trisorio, Naples
Anonymous Head of a man, Yemen, Sabaean Kingdom, 1st century BC – 1st century AD Alabaster, h: 19 cm Courtesy Axel Vervoordt Company
Alighiero Boetti (1940–1994) Alighiero Caterina e Giordano, 1992 Embroidery on cotton, 113 ¬ 105 cm Collection Caterina Boetti, Rome – Courtesy Fondazione Alighiero e Boetti Photo © Giorgio Benni, Roma
Paul Klee (1879–1940) Desert of Stones, 1933 Oil on canvas, 48 ¬ 34,5 cm Courtesy Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Bologna
Anonymous Arabian ﬁgurative stele, Yemen, Sabaean Kingdom, 1st century BC – 1st century AD Marble, 23 ¬ 22 ¬ 13 cm Courtesy Axel Vervoordt Company
Marina Abramovic (1946) Stromboli, 2002 Still from video, one dvd disk, 19’ 33”, edition of 5 Courtesy La Gaia, Busca
Sadaharu Horio (1939) Dougu to hyôgen, hude to ita (Tools and Expression, Brush and Plank), April, 25th 1989 Watercolor on paper, relined on canvas, 137 ¬ 70 cm Courtesy Axel Vervoordt Gallery
Gotthard Graubner (1930) TRA, 2010 Acrylic on canvas on synthetic wool on canvas, 62 ¬ 62 cm Collection of the artist Courtesy Axel Vervoordt Gallery
Anonymous Cuneiform Clay Tablet, Mesopotamia, Third Dynasty of Ur (Neo-Sumerian Empire), c. 2119 – 2004 BC Terracotta, 8,2 ¬ 5 cm Private collection, Belgium Courtesy Axel Vervoordt Company Photo Laziz Hamani
Günther Uecker (1930) Kissen, 1965 Mixed media, 35 ¬ 35 ¬ 19 cm Collection of the artist Courtesy Axel Vervoordt Gallery Photo Laziz Hamani
Anonymous Cuneiform Inscription of King Ashurnasirpal II of Assyria, From the Palace at Kalhu (Nimrud), 878–859 BC Gypsum, 53 ¬ 52 cm Private collection, Belgium Courtesy Axel Vervoordt Company
Anonymous Tjuringa, Aboriginal, Central Desert, Australia, 17th – 19th century Hard ﬁbrous wood with red ochre, 40 ¬ 7 cm Courtesy Axel Vervoordt Company Photo Laziz Hamani
Roman Opalka (1931) Chronome, before 1965 Oil on canvas, 60,5 ¬ 60,5 cm Collection of the artist Courtesy Axel Vervoordt Gallery
Fujiko Shiraga (1928) Untitled, 1955 Traditional Japanese paper (Washi), 211 ¬ 154 cm Collection Vervoordt Foundation
TRA Edge of Becoming Palazzo Fortuny, Venice A passage through an open doorway. A gateway to what lies beyond. The threshold of thought. The expansion of perception. The energy within the void. The power of beginnings. Experience TRA: Edge of Becoming. Marina Abramovic, Carla Accardi, Giovanni Anselmo, Janine Antoni, Adolphe Appia, Bae Bien-U, Ida Barbarigo, Miquel Barcelò, Matthew Barney, Massimo Bartolini, Davide Benati, Gerrit Adriaensz Berckheyde, Bertozzi e Casoni, Alberto Biasi, Ali ghiero Boetti, Otto Boll, Vincenzo Bonomini, Monica Bonvicini, Davide Boriani, Michaël Borremans, Tania Bruguera, Peter Buggenhout, Alberto Burri, Jean-Marie Bytebier, Francesco Candeloro, Fernando Garbellotto, Felice Casorati, Vincenzo Castella, Chen Zhen, Pieter Claeissins, Antoni Clavé, Francesco Clemente, Niccolò Codazzi, Gianni Colombo, Dadamaino, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Pieter De Hooch, Riccardo De Marchi, François de Nomé, Filippo De Pisis, Gabriele De Vecchi, Olivier Dollinger, Désirée Dolron, Maurizio Donzelli, Piero Dorazio, Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Echaurren, Luciano Fabro, Lara Favaretto, León Ferrari, Lucio Fontana, Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo, Mariano Fortuny y Marsal, Franciabigio, Adam Fuss, Cristina Garcia Rodero, Alberto Giacometti, Raimund Girke, Anthony Gormley, Francisco Goya, Gotthard Graubner, Cao Guimarães, Henri-Joseph Harpignies, Gary Hill, Sadaharu Horio, Ilya & Emilia Kabakov, Wassily Kandinsky, Tanyu Kano, Anish Kapoor, Kcho, Paul Klee, Susan Kleinberg, Osamu Kokufu, Jannis Kounellis, Mitsuko Kuebli, Luisa Lambri, Walter Leblanc, Fernand Léger, Osvaldo Licini, Robert Longo, Heinz Mack, Alberto Magnelli, Robert Mallet-Stevens, Man Ray, Piero Manzoni, Enzo Mari, Ra∏aela Mariniello, Alberto Martini, Gordon Matta-Clark, Sebastián Matta, Fausto Melotti, Ana Mendieta, Marisa Merz, Meekyoung Shin, Sabrina Mezzaqui, Domi Mora, Mattia Moreni, Michel Mou∏e, Saburo Murakami, Esther Giles Nampitjinpa, Shirin Neshat, Rivane Neuenschwander, Louise Nevelson, Renato Nicolodi, Mario Nigro, Francesco Nonino, Hans Op de Beeck, Roman Opalka, Giulio Paolini, Lygia Pape, Giuseppe Penone, Otto Piene, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Hugo Pratt, Kichizaemon Rakú, Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Gerhard Richter, Auguste Rodin, Bernardí Roig, Mark Rothko, Doris Salcedo, Remo Salvadori, Alberto Savinio, Jan Schoonhoven, Richard Serra, Conrad Shawcross, Fujiko Shiraga, Kazuo Shiraga, Kimsooja, Jesús Rafael Soto, Ettore Spalletti, Dominique Stroobant, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Antoni Tàpies, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Marco Tirelli, Celestino Turletti, James Turrell, Luc Tuymans, Günther Uecker, Giuseppe Uncini, Camiel Van Breedam, Joos Van Cleef, Alex Van Gelder, Emilio Vedova, Jef Verheyen, Giorgio Vigna, Nanda Vigo, Carl Michael von Hausswol∏, Carl Julius von Leypold, Harmen Willemsz Wieringa, Maaria Wirkkala, Gao Xingjian, Jiro Yoshihara