Pierre Restany

“Well, after those beautiful words that we have heard from Gary, I don’t know what kind of testimony I can deliver to you. Maybe, he has been highly practical, I can be maybe sentimental, I don’t know exactly, but that could be my contribution, because l know, of course, Nicola for so long a time that now I am just connected with 2 recollections of her: must be in the mid-sixties, I think, I wrote a preface for one of her shows in Brussels, I think, and she was already doing those Pénétrables, and I called, I remember the title of my text was “A long journey towards the bottom of the skin, of the end of the skin”, or something like that. Well, the idea of the skin is always present in her work, and what is quite interesting, and you’re going to see it of course and experience it a few minutes, is this central idea of the skin because the skin, you know, in a way, implies the memories of the rest of the body, but also it has a kind of osmotic dimension towards nature. And in that sense, I think Gary was absolutely right when he said that this film is a poem about the connections of human beings with nature. You’re going to see how strong the structural building of the image is, as a matter of fact, I think that the film could be mute; it has the density and the quality of the mute films, in spite of the beauty of the music, the sound and the commentary and this beauty of the mute film, it’s due to the concreteness of the objects presented there. We are used, anyhow the people who know Nicola’s work, to consider the Penetrable as something like a supplementary skin and the motivation to supplementary action too; when you are involved with the Penetrable you know your behavior changes and you act like somebody who has a double skin. It is a kind of dichotomy. In the film, the skin behaves like an autonomist thing, and this autonomy is really a kind of conceptual one. You’re going to see the skin through the water, without anybody in it, floating like a kind of medusa, and you going to see it also with people in it and acting like a kind of lifesaver’s boat. It’s very interesting to consider the skin as an autonomous object and that reminds me something which was for me very important, I don’t know if you remember one of the most committed critics in the mid-sixties and maybe the best analyst of the Pop art movement when it was just developing, Jean Swanson; Jean Swanson said once about the Accumulations of the French sculptor Arman that objects could be feeling after all, could be feelings; and you know this kind of metaphor is absolutely at the heart, at the centerpoint of this film. If I could pay a compliment to Nicola, it is that she realized something which is very, very rare especially when it is about a visual metaphor: she can give feelings to an object. And all this film is about that: everything can be feeling, if you are committed with nature and if you have something like love about nature and this dimension of love means generosity, means openness and means also the willing to give something of yourself to the others. This film, for me, is a poem of love, too, and of this kind of mysterious appeal of love which can make objects having a feeling or feelings becoming objects. “

Introduction to the screening of “Sand, Sea, Sky” by Pierre Restany
New York, November 22nd, 1994