I selected Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, for Fifteen People Present Their Favorite Book curated and re-staged by Jo Melvin. Written in 1975, it combines storytelling and philosophical speculation. The following lines about Mattia Pajè’s exhibition Do You Come Here Often? are freely inspired by Pirsig’s approach.
I first met Mattia Pajè around three years ago. From the beginning, Mattia was a welcoming, kind, and very interesting person. In July 2017, I had the opportunity to invite him to create a work inside the Ponte Sanguinario in Spoleto. Built around 27 B.C., the Roman Bridge is now twenty feet below the ground of Spoleto. It is reached by a flight of steps sited in a busy traffic intersection. With two of its arches exposed in an excavated cavern, it is an archaeological site almost forgotten by the Spoletino citizens.
Mattia joined me for the first site visit. Upon seeing the space, he became convinced that he wanted to explore the idea of the mind. The arches reminded him of the two cerebral hemispheres. Pajè thought of bringing thirty recurring thoughts that would move and scratch inside what he saw as an underground brain. The form that he wanted to give to these obsessions were thirty parrots, set free within the space.
“Mattia, what are you talking about?” I said.
When he told me, I burst into laughter, then—enticed by the madness of the concept—I made myself available to support him in every way. I, too, was interested in bringing birds to an underground space. This action links directly to the way images populating social networks are produced. Surfing the internet, we frequently encounter photomontages in which subjects—often animals—have been “pasted” into totally alien environments. I relished the idea of physically overturning this. Like Giovanni Carandente, in the 1962 exhibition Sculture nella città, combining contemporary sculpture with the Medieval and Roman aesthetic of the city, we managed to juxtapose an archaeological site with an almost digital looking environment.
Alongside the parrots, Pajè installed a numerical series derived from his research on Russian pseudoscience. These numbers, according to this pseudoscience, act as cures for mental illness. Starting from the axiom that all reality is made up of data, the idea is to act on reality itself through the use of numerical data. In his work, Pajè wants to present the possibility of generating a positive psycho-physical effect on the visitor, whether conscious or not. As a curator, I am intrigued by this dynamic possibility.
Do You Come Here Often? Thirty parakeets, steel numbers, UV and blue lights, dimensions variable. Do You Come Here Often? was part of XI Viaggiatori Sulla Flaminia and was supported by Mahler & LeWitt Studios.
GIOVANNI RENDINA is an independent curator based in Italy, currently working with Rob Chavasse on his solo show opening in Bologna in February.