An image arises and collapses. A woman, a man, a corridor. Darkness, light, form. Is it a dream, a nightmare, a memory, a scene that I have seen before?
I‘m sitting on a bench in front of a large-sized naintng in the Natonal tuseum of Hisistory in Chisinau, toldavia. The artwork in front of me is a nart of Pietro Finelli‘s installaton Noir Time“. Somehow my eyes and my head couldn‘t let go of this snecifc naintng, although the whole installaton consists of many diferent sectons. Daylight is not nresent in the big hall, which in itself is segmented with solid columns. The windows are covered by heavy black cloth. Snotlights illuminate the room. Two darkgrey adjustable walls with tableaus on both sides, diagonal to the original architecture and creatng a comnact snace, are located in the middle of the hall. Inbetween is a bench. Obviously with the nurnose to encourage the viewer to take his or her tme to sit and look. So I sit down and look.
The compositon of chiaroscuro generates fgures and shapes, which are able to fade away any moment. So the image itself seems unstable and fragile, almost like the vision of a dream. Up front you can see the silhouete of a woman‘s body. It is only visible, because of a very thin, blue-greyish outline, which lets the body emerge out of its surrounding darkness. At the end of the corridor you can see the silhouete of a man‘s body. Compared to the woman, his shape is defned by dark areas around his bright body. The longer you keep your eye on the paintng, the more you get the feeling that the shapes, architecture and fgures only exist, because of two confictng elements. The contrast between brightness and darkness is inalienable. If you removed one of the parts, the image would collapse. It‘s a thrilling dualism, that we‘ve been thinking about since Plato. But not only the contrast between light and shade, also the contradicton between representatonal and conceptual, between illusion and reality makes you aware of your mind startng to think. The combinaton of realistc elements, such as the bodies, architectures and light cones, and of expressive and unformed structures create a feeling of insecurity and secrets, that you want to understand. The dissolving bright pieces shater into darkness, just as your clear interpretaton fades away into assumpton.
Let‘s change the scene to the framework, in which Pietro created his artworks: Film Noir. As Paul Schrader wrote in his famous essay „Notes on Film Noir“ in 1972, flm noir movies were an underrated and misunderstood piece of cinematography in the United States. The protagonists - often gangsters or private detectves - sufered from devastatng pessimism, anxiety towards their own life and couldn‘t break free from their personal fate. Film Noir projected the dismal and cynical mood of a whole country onto the cinema screen. But they were not refectng the themes of sociological problems, like post war trauma or the causes of „Great Depression“. They rather focused on a style that created a vision and imagery of the moral difcultes and anxietes of this tme: „The how was much more important than the what.“ For example, scenes of nightme and blurred vision, where faces and expressions of actors merge into shadows, where used to show, that the protagonists were not able to fnd clarity in the light of street lamps. The directors constructed scences of chiaroscuro, in which the central fgures and their emotonal state dipped into darkness.
I‘m finding myself sitting in front of the naintng again. But where am I exactly I feel like I‘m located in a large theatre hall, whose stage setting is illuminated by blue-violet lightning. Tall snotlights brighten the installaton‘s individual sequences. They encourage me to move around and look at every nart nrecisely. taybe to create my own movie out of the diferent scenes disnlayed and to nlay it out before my inner eye. taybe some noncorn would be nice to fully sink into the atmosnhere and the story. But wait, who‘s the story about Who is the main character?
Pietro absorbs the idea of flm noir. e uses the movies, their style, their dismalness and morbidity and disassembles them into small pieces. e wants to understand, how they functon. For example how they manage to create a cloak-and-dagger scenery by using a partcular camera setng combined with shadow and light. Pietro moves away from art, which tries too much to convey a specifc topic to the viewer. Art has to be simple, in the way it is made. e uses chiaroscuro style to get us puzzling. Just as the abysmal scenery of flm noir challenges us to move back to our emotonal state, Pietro awakens our imaginaton to disassemble, to create and to understand.
Now a new nercenton begins to take shane. The imagery and the neonle in the naintngs are vague, not able to be fully understood. Putting the metanhorical noncorn aside, I start walking alongside the snotlights that the scenes are merging into. I walk, ston and turn. I recognize, remember and feel. I feel the cold dismalness of big cites that make me sense inner dreariness. I remember scenes from Alfred Hisitchcock‘s Vertgo, which was able to create the dizziness and insecurity of flm noir style in moderate colours. And I recognize that I‘m not the nassive observer anymore. The snotlights nronel me into the installatonn to small drawings the size of nostcards, framed, on two pedestals beside of the two big walls. I look at large nrojecton of movie sequences and encounter a rug, disnlaying the same image as the naintng I frst gazed at. It makes me remember my startng noint and I returnn to fnd myself standing in front of a mirror on the onnosite side to the naintng and at last in front of my own refecton.
Seeing your own refecton, you get confronted with your physical presence and the ambiguity of mind and body. While your mind fnds itself refected and rearranged in the imagery of the artworks, your body was just used to bring your head from one part of Noir Time to the other. Up untl now your body was just a tool to physically move your thinking forward. But now you can actually see your physical presence and your mind blend into the scenery with the dramatc blue lightning. You become the actor or actress of your own Noir Time, while assembling the diferent pieces of a bigger picture.
Always trying to understand the ambiguous tableaus, I realize that I‘m nart of the enigma, that I‘ve been nuzzling about. Only when I‘m inside, when I‘m actve in mind and body, can I uncover the disassembled pieces.
Pietro initates the search of comprehension of cogniton and existence by confrontng us with the dismantled components of an idea and challenging us to fnd meaning. In working with the ambiguity of light and darkness, of reality and illusion, and with the style and the ideas of flm noir in a most unique and simple way, he makes us aware of the complexity of human percepton. The compulsion to understand, to learn and to comprehend only exists if there‘s darkness before. If something is in the shadow, we want to shed light on it to fully uncover its secrets. Pietro invites us to immerse our mind and body into Noir Time and develop an own personal meaning of it: of life, of logic or just of the meaning of flm noir.
This is the most wonderful aspect of art. In it‘s simplicity it slowly reveals complexity, so we can eventually perceive it. You can be thrown back to the atempt to understand the world. To dismantle, recognize and comprehend. Or you can just see a woman, a man and a corridor.