The Ghosts of Matter

Notes on Guido Casaretto’s personal exhibition at MOCAK, Poland.

Istanbul-based artist Guido Casaretto’s studies on matter and its’ forms can be recalled from the artist’s work at OMM’s first exhibition, “The Union”: the sculpture Do Unpleasant People Share Similar Features III, an edition of which is currently on view at the artist’s personal exhibition at MOCAK, Poland, is based on hundreds of photographs taken of a model, David, in order to form a computer animation of him. The uncanny, resin-free sculpture occupies so much space that it becomes impossible to doubt the figure’s material existence. The transformation of the digital into the physical, tangible reality experienced in Unpleasant People is ever-present in the artist’s personal exhibition “Ghosts of Matter”, alongside other themes the artist has been exploring in his work for the past ten years. (The exhibition is supported by SAHA.)

In the introduction to the exhibition book, curator Agnieszka Sachar writes: “Guido Casaretto is interested in matter per se - the sea, mountains, the universe, but also stone and wood”. When we interviewed him about the exhibit, Casaretto expanded upon this statement, citing a division between four main types of matter referenced in “Ghosts of Matter”: Natural matter, manipulated matter, digital matter, and cultural matter. Agrilla, one of the most impressive works in the show, forms a 61 meter-long “flowing” river throughout the museum, formed by epoxied hexagonal terra-cottas housing dried sediment from Istanbul’s Göksu River. Casaretto explains “There was a period people would use river mud to source materials for buildings. I used the same arrangement and architectural structure to divide the exhibition space in half.”

One could ask if the river that Casaretto created in the exhibition is the same river from which he sourced his materials. This is the question expressed by academic and artis Kerem Ozan Bayraktar in his text penned for the exhibition book, “Different speculations on transporting a poem.” Bayraktar harkens back to “The Ship of Theseus”, one of the most discussed problems of Ancient Greek philosophy. To celebrate the safe arrival of Theseus from Crete, the Athenians kept this ship at port for a thousand years and recreated his journey once a year. However as the ship ages, its broken and worn parts are replaced. The question remains, when the ship no longer includes any part of its original form, is it still the ship of Theseus?

Bayraktar points to Heraclitus’s famed principle, that one can never step in the same river twice. He writes, “We have all witnessed the movement of man-made buildings. If we fill a ship with water from a flowing river, we can only speak of transporting the water, not the river itself. Moving the material is not the same thing as moving the system. The relational forms and connections must also be transported. Furthermore, a river can never be independent from its geographical roots.”

Another series in the exhibition, 6 Black Hole Variations, offers another suggested answer regarding artisanal collection and the redirection of this collection: Casaretto took the works of artisans--Levantines like himself--from the 1930s and 40s, ranging from cupboards, dressers, and windows, pulverizing glass, metal and wood into a powdered state and remoulding the resultant mixture. Of course, given the varying proportions of glass in the furniture, the texture and colors of the new mixture are also subject to change. The artist says of this process, “The cupboards become blind. The furniture becomes useless despite the fact that it retains its original form. For example, the vitrine cabinet includes a lot of glass, so the materials fuse together.” As viewers, we can understand whether the object we are looking at is a vitrine or a wardrobe. But we can also understand that the object is functionally useless. The Levantine tradition is ruptured, and a new thought forms, prioritizing concept over craft.

Guido Casaretto’s personal exhibition “The Ghosts of Matter” takes into account the nexus of his works, formed transportation of information gathered from various geographies. The exhibition, after an obligatory pause during the outbreak of the pandemic, is on view at MOCAK until August 30, 2020, after which several of Casaretto’s works from the museum’s permanent collection will remain in Krakow. While leaving our screens after looking at the works, another sentence by Sachar regarding the “Ghosts of Matter” echoes in our ears: “Casaretto analyses different forms of the matter of the Universe, and subsequently - using a variety of media - produces their replicas. The implication is that our future is a perfect simulacrum.”

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