Twelve artists reflect on the symbolic meaning of gold, linking it to the current aesthetic debate. The result is an investigation through their artistic work of the relationship between ethics and aesthetics; this draws its inspiration from Georges Didi-Huberman’s book entitled Come le lucciole (Like Fireflies; original French title Survivance des lucioles).
Every living being emits streams of photons. There are, however, some very small ones — fireflies, to be precise — for which light, produced by a chemical substance called luciferin, is a wedding parade or a dance of love. Golden butterflies: the Italian word for gold, oro, derives from the Latin aurum, the early form of which, ausum, is associated with the Sabine ausom and perhaps the Indo-European root aus, indicating something that shines. Gold, like the dawn (aurora in Italian), is first of all light! The ancient Greeks said khrūsos, from which the word chrysalis — of a butterfly, for instance — derives. Butterflies of light. Gold is, therefore, evoked in its dual sense of the symbolic ‘light’ of mysticism and an alchemic metal produced by a process of precious knowledge. Gold is also intended in the sense of a precious yet not essential material, as well as wealth and relationships with others: these are, after all, profound values that could flourish again with art.
Since antiquity, something of the ancient and troubled dream still survived in recent centuries, when the legend became that of the gold prospectors who went to California or Colorado to patiently sift the water of rivers with their wooden pans, or else extract nuggets from mountains. Moreover, the search for gold in rivers is the perfect metaphor for the quest for knowledge. The Italian name (lucciola) of this coleopteran of the Lampyridae family, with its glowing abdomen, originates from the diminutive of the vulgar Latin lucja, a feminine noun from luceus, itself an adjective deriving from lux (light), or, according to others, from the archaic lucciare, related to lucere (to shine). With their ephemeral light, fireflies send out gentle signals into the dusk. And fireflies are the theme of Georges Didi-Huberman’s recent book: they become, metaphorically, images of ‘survivals, nomadic resistances of thought’. According to Didi-Huberman, it is precisely in the darkest periods that images can be fireflies, their intermittent glowing offering a sudden, almost unexpected opportunity, a hope in the space of a flash.
The artists invited to participate in this group exhibition have interpreted its title in a range of different ways that, however, always reflect the nature of their practice. Some of them have concentrated on the concept of the firefly, investigating its morphological complexity, while others have preferred to examine its recurrent meanings in contemporary culture, reminding us that Didi-Huberman was referring to Pier Paolo Pasolini when he observed that fireflies are also an expression of ‘innocent identities’.
Artists: Mario Airò, Tony Brown, Claude Collins-Stracensky, Paolo Gonzato, Franco Guerzoni, Eva Marisaldi, Katja Mater, Liliana Moro, Nathaniel Rackowe, Davide Tranchina, Mark Aerial Waller, Silvio Wolf.
Curated by Marco Tagliafierro
Images courtesy of Nicoletta Rusconi, Milan