What does art need to be contemporary? Is it a matter of cutting-edge means and languages? Is the perception of art as an elitist guise, which has now become a common belief, destined to be confirmed or contradicted?
One could attempt to answer these questions by quoting Giulio Carlo Argan: “Contemporary art isn’t such only because it is the art of our time, but because it wants to belong to its own time: it is contemporary and participating, in a positive and negative sense, in the current situation, not only political, but also cultural”. Therefore, the key point is to understand what the cultural situation we live in is like; by cultural situation, we intend not only the circumstances where the various artistic forms and languages develop, but especially the difficult art of coexisting.
In the last few years I have been struck by sociologist Zygmunt Bauman’s ideas and vision on modern living, and I have been especially captured by the concept of Liquid Life. As the prominent sociologist writes: “‘Liquid Life’ and ‘Liquid Modernity’ are tightly intertwined. ‘Liquid’ is the kind of life that tends to be lived in a modern liquid society. A society can be defined a ‘modern liquid’ one when the situations in which men act modify before their ways of acting stabilize into habits and methods. The liquid characters of life and society nourish each other and mutually grow stronger. Liquid Life, as liquid modern society alike, is not able to retain its shape and keep the set course for long”.
Bauman maintains that Modernity has shifted from a solid state based on the producer, where power was still linked to the State and its institutions, to a liquid one, founded on the consumer, where power is now delegated to the market and extra-territorial entities. The consumer’s identity has now to be necessarily liquid, ready to adapt to the market’s needs and its constant turnover of consumer goods, all guaranteed to have an expiration date. Besides, the weakness of an individual’s identity is nourished by the dismantling of all the powers that in times of solid modernity were relegated to the society. The individual has been left alone to answer for his own failures, because the community is not there to take responsibility. As a consequence, the individual is in a constant condition of uncertainty, which causes a state of anxiety and fear, and inserts every social relationship in a vicious cycle that feeds on itself.
Using Bauman’s vision as the inspiration for my work, I have replaced the idea of ‘liquid’ with that of ‘shadow’. The shadow-characters in the paintings move around urban landscapes, the ideal scenario for the liquid modern life. The shadow, as a concept, hints at inconsistency and non-shape, as liquidity alike. There is a crucial difference, though: to be existent, a shadow needs a body to cast it. The shadow is used as a way to express the idea that inside the life of an individual, there can be a more profound vision of the self and of one’s own awareness: this can represent the foundation for the conception of a new society, from where a new humanism can be born.