Safety Curtain 2002/2003

Theatre as Frame

Giulio Paolini has designed a curtain based on the of the curtain as a real and, at the same time, metaphorical partition between the audience and the stage. The function of the curtain for the theatre corresponds to the picture frame in fine art which divides the space of representation from surrounding reality. The theatre, and probably art as a whole, is a result of this duality. The efforts of the avant gardists of the Twentieth Century to deny this division were pointless as they insisted on the circular unit of art and life to the complete deletion of any discrepancy. We become witnesses of a rupture in reality where a work is realized. Life on stage is repeated and duplicated just as it is in a picture. This reflection, however, does not correlate to existence, as art does not assimilate itself in any of its forms in lived reality. On the contrary, it excels as a privileged modus of transgression. Thus, a small gap opens between art and life, an irremovable ontological difference. The curtain is an excellent indicator.

In a further processing of his considerations on the central concepts of the theatrical, the artist went in search of a picture which, as a icon, could function as a prototype. Whilst searching through his personal picture archive he came across an old reproduction of a curtain made of crimson velvet: A movable curtain with a heavy golden border. An equilateral trapezium shape was cut out of this picture which tapers towards the border. Four examples of this cut out form were produced and put together which resulted in creating a closed figure. This was then scaled and enlarged and printed on material to be stretched over the safety curtain.

What can be seen now is a huge golden square surrounded on all four sides by the crimson curtain which immediately transforms it into a frame around the closed world from which all kinds of fiction will soon unfold. The simplest elements of the stage set are locked into this frame: ladders, diverse objects, fragments of a stage set which can be perceived in a moment of peace, as if they have been startled before they could be cleared from the audience's view. These small phantoms are silhouetted against a starry sky, as though they are foreign bodies passing before us. You think of the cosmos, the night from which the day rises, of the eternal possible universes, made imaginable by the power of imitation. The artist points the audience to all the necessary requirements for the opera performance, to where it is to take place and the instruments it needs to do so.

This picture adapts itself coherently in the process of Paolini's artistic development. It can be related to his first work Disegno geometrico (1960), which showed nothing but the square of a white space. The white surface is the stage on which the performance is expected. The pencil drawn figure and the pencil itself are elements through which such appearance can gain form. The author is only a servant himself, whose mission is to create the necessary prerequisites even if they are not sufficient or forceful enough to bring this mimesis to being.

In the process of his reflections about the being of the art work and about its radical difference to reality, Paolini has always intentionally used elements, which typically recur in the history of representation: the square on the drawing paper and also the frame, stucco statues, stage sets drawn from a central perspective, and the starry sky, understood as the first picture which aroused the desire to observe in people, also understood, however, as a space of freedom in which truth appears present and yet at the same time dubious.

This curtain which is a frame and a sky, shows the way which leads to the unknown and to the creation of unpredictable hypothesis. Only the artist knows it and Paolino actually asks himself, quoting Chirico, "Et quod amabo nis quod aenigma est?"