(texts by Fabio Carnaghi, Rossella Moratto, Gianni Romano, Lorella Scacco, Alessandra Galletta, Luca Beatrice, Danilo Eccher)
In her paintings Firmamento, Debora Hirsch tries to reach a harmonic and balanced coexistence for seemingly disconnected worlds. Her aim is to draw attention to hidden realities and subtle interconnections and similarities.
In trying to restore the complexity of the real, she draws on multiple references after a research on apparently unrelated worlds. This results in images that find their meaning at the end of an engineered construction, unfolding in a selection of decontextualized evocative architectural details, decoded artifacts hidden inside the digital language, the apparent ‘natural condition' of symbolic decorative elements, scientific representations, traces from handmade automatic patterns unwillingly quoting the microscopic life and, above all, historic colonialist imagery of the Americas that she relates to the digital colonialism we experience today.
Progressing by hints and deductions, is her favored method in the production of works that link histories, from the past, present and hypothetical future. In her research, elements have suspended significances, meanings are elusive and migrating, and intuition is the act of validation and creation of forms, that emerges by rejecting the temptations of the intellect to understand the new in terms of language, processes and concepts from the past.
She has also been investigating the limits of representation by painting fragments, sceneries and composing video installations. In order to resend the perception towards the network in which we are all interconnected and depending on. Her works are correspondingly related to anthropology, through elaborated snapshots of an ongoing inquiry that includes theories, conjectures, re-interpreting signs and experimenting.
Metaphysical Approaches (text by Fabio Carnaghi)
"Firmament" is a constellation, a nebula, a conjunction of ethereal bodies finding its intrinsic character through permanent suspension. We seem to be in front of a hologramatic vision that translates into a kind of rebus, an enigma of unexpected meaning for the viewer to be solved. From form to content, from three to two-dimensional, from concrete to ideal, the installation by Debora Hirsch explores the territories of knowledge, the outlines of subliminal mechanisms, the pathways of communication.
Debora Hirsch’s research has always reflected on the perceptive dynamic of the contact between the surface and the substance of the real, there where the mind exceeds its boundaries. In this heterotopia, often translating into a gnoseological investigation on communication in a post-digital culture, the limit between physical data and intelligibility is the spectrum on which the most acute and in-depth attention finds the identification of an internodal area between sensitive knowledge and scientific one, in other words, between relative and absolute knowledge.
In this site-specific installation developed for MARS, a new point of view and exploration field take place, where even the lighting becomes a perceptive and abstract stimulus: Hirsch builds a space suggesting sometimes a cosmological representation, or in any case a symbolic-philosophical palimpsest that evokes a maieutic force. A monolithic solid modifies the space giving shape to the vacuum that stretches out above it, of which it is a missing part. Finally, a painting depicts a hyperuranic atmosphere in which an architectural structure is dematerialized in organic branches.
Enhancing the void in an unknown space that will host imaginative migrations, through organic shapes and innate automatisms imprinted as brain projections in the material weave of painting the artist exposes a poetic medium that assumes every possible shape, without ontological mediations. The mineral stone gray is the primordial and magmatic lapis in which the invisibility of mental processes takes shape.
"Firmament" is therefore an experiment in which the vacillating boundaries between intuitive instant knowledge and scientific mediated one are exposed, while matter becomes energy in the painting’s elusive immediate presence. Hirsch's intervention – a pure and simple appearance through minimal elements but complex in its theoretical-structural apparatus – reveals a vacuum made matter existing despite appearance and unveiling an invisible world that lies beyond the senses and in which everything is related. This installation thus builds a context of distant correlations and entanglement, demonstrating the indeterminacy of science in favor of an intuition that captures the phantasmatic boundary between physical and metaphysical being.
Debora Hirsch, Firmament (text by Rossella Moratto)
In the context of My Room On Mars - a special projects series curated by Fabio Carnaghi at MARS - this third installment is particularly worthy of attention: Debora Hirsch's work titled Firmament, launches a new direction in the research of the Milan based Brazilian artist.
Hirsch redefines the space of the gallery through a site-specific intervention that brings the emptiness to a center stage by shifting the focus to the edges, breaking the symmetry of the environment. A low black rectangular prism on the floor that matches in size, volume and color the overhead closed ceiling skylight, is the fulcrum of the space.
Both objects mirror each other, creating an invisible axis that counterbalances the presence of a decentralized painted canvas, depicting some random abstract forms on an indefinite space, suggested by a deep centripetal geometric structure.
The elements and decorative patterns, devoid of any concrete reference, are the signs of an automatic visual alphabet that the artist draws from her youth, recovered here as mnemonic reminiscences or fragments from lost origins. It’s an undefined cosmos that evokes the infinitely big or suggests the infinitely small: a suspended and absolute dimension.
Hirsch's painting exposes the dynamics of mass media communication and the influence they have on our way of interacting with the real, as shown in the project donotclickthru made for her solo exhibition at Galleria Pack last year. Starting from those reflections and deepening the implications, the artist abandoned the figurative interface to go back to the limits of representation.
In these works, the seduction of painting gives room to abstract elements with vaguely organic references, while the soft chromatic oil shades are replaced by flat plain acrylic. The process of formal and color synthesis is now functional to the fragmentation of information flow, made up of decontextualized heterogeneous elements bearers of new meanings.
New decentered and seemingly inscrutable territories are defined, when the consistency of representation and unequivocal definitions are purposely abandoned and the value of experience prevails. Firmament deals with the fragmental knowledge that characterizes our lack of contemporary big narratives, irrevocably devoted to non-linearity and the reduction to pluralism, asserting its inevitable partial truth.
Stories (text by Lorella Scacco)
The Stories work is about some contemporary public figures such as Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy, Carla Bruni, Pope Benedict XVI, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Vladimir Putin, Silvio Berlusconi and Hillary Clinton. Among the artists, we can find Andy Warhol, Yves Klein, Piero Manzoni, Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp. The portrait and 3D video of Marilyn Monroe completes the exhibition.
The work enlarges the dimension of the portrait. Debora Hirsch adds a personal text right beside the portraits, which becomes part of the portrait itself and help us to understand it deeply.
The celebrities are all big icons of the History of XX century and, all of them are rendered human by the artist through their personal thoughts and everyday life experiences, real and fictional.
Based on both true or imaginary facts, all these stories are almost true: untold secrets, unsaid thoughts, parallel plausible universes. So, we can read about a discussion between Carla Bruni and Sarkozy, an external voice which tells Yves Klein what to do, a shameful but pleasant act by Barack Obama, a personal point of view regarding the USA by Michelle Obama, some secret thoughts by Pope Benedict XVI about God and religion, Berlusconi’s ambition of bringing all his properties in the afterlife, Ahmadinejad’s fears against humanity, Andy Warhol’s phobia for reflected images.
The short stories have been written by Debora Hirsch based on some tales of different authors and periods from Baudelaire to Sartre, from Kabawa to Updike, Borges and Chekhov.
Each story has been cut, enriched, modified and arranged. But the main action was the rearrangement of the original text on the personality of each character as the artist felt it.
On the painting dedicated to Marilyn Monroe, the artist wrote down a text inspired by a Pirandello’s tale in which the soul’s condition, just after death, is described as a research for eternal life.
This human links with the characters cause empathy in the observer despite the consciousness of an artificially made fiction. The portrait is interactive because the artist wants the observer to recreate the history, to be in possession of all the living icons with their nowadays contradictions.
The coordination of images, lives, personalities, texts and writing styles seems to be the result of an effort made under the artist’s will. This approach follows the principles of the media in modern society we live in, where true and false coexist leaving the observer the duty of coding these messages.
So What (text by Danilo Eccher)
Of all the various languages that have left their mark on mass culture over the past few decades, there is one that, even though it spread far and wide, never managed to free itself from a certain superficial slovenliness. Sometimes a means of expression of assured social impact and great involvement fails to capture the attention, or at least the curiosity, of an educated eye, remaining relegated to a limbo of “low culture” that affords no form of hope. This has nothing in common with the redeeming path traced by photography, which was soon drawn into the most exciting of artistic languages, and it has nothing of the narrative exuberance of video, or with the stunning creativity of advertising, but not even of the essential and schematic simplicity of comic strips. In their very name, “photonovels” tend to express a profound sense of embarrassment, of cultural unease and of manifest uncertainty in their handling of a tool of expression that is rough, brazenly exhibited, ill-mannered and awkwardly uncultured. And yet they are extraordinarily popular, cutting more easily across generations gaps than comics, more engrossing than advertisements. Photonovels form a linguistic linkage of unique expressive prominence. They lie at the junction between photographic reality and comic-strip narrative, between cinematographic layout and agonising literature. Despite all this, theirs is a linguistic code that is rarely investigated in its submissive symbolic meaning, in its limping shots, and in its overloaded sequences. Among those who have at least tried to disassemble and analyse the linguistic mechanisms of photonovels, we find the artistic studies of Debora Hirsch, even though they only touch on them incidentally. It is immediately clear that their origins are different, their point of arrival far removed, and their backgrounds distinct, and yet in her process, more than elsewhere, one can find atmospheres and flavours that lead to acute and stimulating reflections, with flashes of meaning that bring together formal results that are only apparently incommunicable. The “ITEM” series of works, for example, does not conceal the stylistic, and to an even greater extent, the conceptual influences of Pop Art: this can be seen in the photographic origin of a painting that enters the picture and, as in the case of Andy Warhol’s prints, obtains the double effect of lowering the excessive realism of the personality while also accentuating the symbolic, abstract level of the figures. In other words, the deception of a painting that does not take part in the composition of the image – which is entrusted to the photographic instrument or to processing on a computer – but linguistically disassembles the expressive elements and produces a sort of perceptive squint somewhere between visual appearance and symbolic synthesis. At this point, all narrative becomes superfluous and the recognisability of the image insignificant: the characters are interchangeable, for it is not their presence that matters but their function – their role in the complex mechanism of communication. The true subject of this iconography is not the personality portrayed but his or her symbolic spirit, not the actual individual but their heroic presence in the chain of popular success. Certainly, the teachings of Andy Warhol are plain to see in Debora Hirsch’s use of communication strategies, though it might be equally constructive to recognise the scenic similarities with the early works of Juliao Sarmento or with David Salle’s papers. In all these works, the essence of the creative process focuses on the rules of achievement and the mechanisms of success, and on the systems for building up consent that have precise grammatical rules in terms of representation and precise formal codes. The haircut, the colour of the skin, the smiles or grimaces, and the eyes – everything in visual language helps reveal the attainment of a certain position, and even the most repulsive forms of behaviour are sometimes metabolised by the great social organism. So here we have the masthead of one of the most famous magazines in the world, showing the achievement of a shared success, and the faces of celebrated personalities who have fed the imagination of the public. It is a semantic short-circuit in which collective identification, the fascination of the unattainable, contemporary mythology and everyday public fantasies overlap and intersect. The absolute exclusiveness of a public image is confused with the horizontal nature of popular tastes, which have an insatiable desire for nourishment.
Debora Hirsch shows that she is well aware of the linguistic processes of the mass-communication system and she appears not to be perturbed even when she extends these mechanisms not only to popular images, but also to the highly cultured and noble images of the history of art. So here we find pictures of the “Duke of Montefeltro” or of “Van Gogh” alongside those of Dick Tracy. High culture and low are intermingled also on the narrative level, leaving language the task of organising the actual staging of the art. The iconography is reduced to the stylistic elements of comics, and a continuous strip, as in Osvaldo Cavandoli’s Linea, traces the familiar outlines of popular heroes and then extends them to the elegant profile of Piero della Francesca. In this case, the power of the mass image is entrusted not just to the conceptual sphere, for now it is language itself that appears in first person, dictating the ways and moments in which the figure comes to the fore. The artist was able to adopt a certain formal reserve and thus an acceleration in intellectual terms in the “ITEM” series, which had recourse to images with a clear significance on the popular level. On the other hand, in works like Wonder Woman and Sibilla or Pope Innocent X and Silver Surfer, in the So What series, Debora Hirsch needs to apply maximum effort on both the theoretical and formal levels. It is not only the recognisability of the figure that induces perplexity in one’s perception, for it is also a stylistic decision for the depiction of this figure. It is recourse to the flat, framed and somewhat childish background of the comic strip that emphasises the significance of an art that has chosen obliqueness in order to take on the most up-to-date codes of expression. Furthermore, in this case perception trips up on the intersection between a known but not popular figure and another, less noble but much more recognisable one. A complex interweaving of language and narrative, story and current affairs, erudite memory and brazen exhibition. On the face of it, it is an unequal conflict, with a predictable outcome that leaves no margin of surprise, it is a comparison without hope, not even that of a provocative or irreverent jarring. Just a compositional quirk. And yet, as in all of Debora Hirsch’s works, this apparent superficiality conceals a more complex conceptual mechanism that engages the clutch of oxymoron, exasperating grammatical exactitude and taking apart all semantic order. In this way, the image is brought to life beyond its own linguistic outcome, beyond its formal semblance, and it opens up to the influence of the plot, in the dynamics of narrative technique. The linguistic level thus gradually loosens its grip on the image, blanching in its games of perception, showing almost a sort of weakness in exhausting the entire expressive power of the work. As the formal surface becomes increasingly transparent and fragile, more complex specifications of meaning emerge, opening up new visions and new interpretations. So here we find that the discrete, silent beginnings of photography, and its successive processing on the computer, reveal a far more complex and sophisticated role than simply that of a technical instrument for defining images. Certainly, as in all stages of comic-strip design, photography plays an important background role in the creation of the composition but, in this case, it seems that its role does not end on the linguistic level, but rather points to possible influences and contaminations in narrative terms. Reading into these works, quite apart from their exuberant “popular” presence, we can find the faint signs of a sedimented conceptual depth that is impressed on the formal surface and appears to suggest the various steps in the plot. Even the static quality of the figures seems to come to life, suggesting possible sequences of images that, in a certain sense, bend the sculpturesque, hieratic nature of the iconic symbolism into a more natural development of the plot. Seen like this, it is therefore not on the linguistic-formal level but on a more abstractly conceptual plane that one can trace the distant echoes of popular literariness that, as in the case of photonovels, takes the form of clearly defined photographic stills. It may be a forced interpretation and it is certainly an impression, a secret thought that is concealed between the folds of an art flooded in the light of the reflector lamps, an art apparently too true to have maintained any area of doubt, and too beautiful for us to suspect the presence of any creases or ripples. In actual fact, Deborah Hirsch’s artistic career has followed up the significance of Time and Truth, of their transience, and of the metamorphosis of a time without memory and of a truth without certitude. The story of memory is always and only individual, intimate, and not even the most famous and universal of images can dash the dreams of a unique vision that is unlike any other.
Metagenoma (text by Luca Beatrice)
The Turn of the Millennium has broken one of the last remaining taboos in contemporary art and has “rehabilitated” hyperrealism, finally reinterpreting it as an important stage in the painting and culture of the twentieth century. Hyperrealism emerged in the early Seventies, in the period of greatest crisis of iconic representation. It is normally associated with the final affirmation of America in the field of the visual arts; it inherited the legacy of pop art. The inexorable entry of mass communication, of the new media, of the modern way of life, into the world of art: these were the salient features of the first wave of hyperrealism, which spread from the States and penetrated a large part of the Western world. Italo Mussa, the greatest critical interpreter in Italy of this new sensibility in art, pointed out some of its key characteristics, such as its extreme ‘technicalism’ deriving from its technique of trompe l’oeil, its realist matrix alien to avant-garde art, its belonging to the culture of remake, its psychological and optical independence, its sense of immobility and neoclassical frigidity. Musso coined for this genre of painting the apt expression “more real than the real”. In fact the real-more-real-than-the-real does not possess formal contents, born from the structure of the form itself. All it possesses is dazzling technical virtuosity with the purpose of capturing all the observer’s attention. What was found so absorbing in reality by such painters as Chuck Close, Richard Estes, Ralph Goings, John Salt, Bruce Everett, Duane Hanson, the sculptor John De Andrea, the Italians Domenico Gnoli and the early Carlo Maria Mariani, was so totally impregnated with reality as to seem deliberately false. The contribution of photography was, in this sense, crucial, so much so that the term photorealism is being ever more frequently superimposed over hyperrealism. Those visions of the metropolitan, urban or even rural life of the society of the early Seventies were based on the intention to deceive, on the slight and imperceptible gap between painting and photography. “I normally use photography, it’s too difficult to paint from the object,” explained John Salt: ranches, airports, gas stations, buses, objects, automobile interiors or the shining chrome tanks of motorbikes. In doing so he followed what is par excellence an American visual approach and drew on the native tradition, from Weegee to Edward Hopper.
Now, some thirty years later, a new photorealist mode of painting has emerged. In the second half of the 1990s, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world, various painters came to the fore who rehabilitated this technique, while at the same time radically changing its motivations and context. In New York, Damien Loeb used “sample” images as if he were a DJ or a composer of electronic music, filching them from advertising, from newspapers, or even (without the least embarrassment) from other works of art (e.g. from the photos of Araki or Lorca di Corcia). They are all things we have already seen, perhaps in moments of distraction, but their arrangement, their amalgamation makes the end-product entirely original. In Los Angeles, Richard Philips realises large portraits of women reminiscent of the fashion shots of the 1960s, the society of the economic boom in rapid evolution. Perhaps, too, they are a homage to the hyperrealist sensibility that was at once the breeding ground and privileged witness of that climate. Also in California, Kurt Kauper paints the former stars of showbusiness or of American genre movies with obsessive admiration for a world that no longer exists and whose mouthpiece his deliberately démodé painting is intended to be: an art in which Kauper assumes the attitude of a fan intent on following his own cult. In London, Jason Brooks, explicitly deriving inspiration from the style of Chuck Close, is engaged in producing a series of large black and white portraits of his friends, who are also the protagonists of the new post-Sensation British scene. For all these “new hyperrealists” the starting point in photography is just as important as it was back in the Seventies, especially because this medium has taken upon itself the role of narrative and fiction that painting, by contrast, so conditioned by its relation with conceptual art, has deliberately neglected.
The cultural context of this hyperrealism is that of the reuse, redundancy and replication present in all the artistic expressions at the turn of the millennium and testifying to the end of the concept of originality. As Pietro Piemontese writes, more particularly with regard to the cinema: “Today too the new products of mass culture claim to be different. But they continue to transmit the same content, to tell the same story,” and “The object of study of the new aesthetics is a standardized product, typical of the industrial system, for which repetition may also arise from the assemblage of various parts of pre-existing products.” This is the context into which the work of Debora Hirsch can also be placed. A Brazilian artist, educated in the sciences, and former communications manager, she has lived in Milan for several years now. Hirsch, whose works are now being shown in what is her first solo show in Italy, takes a further step forward in the quest for motivations that support the hyperrealist option. Having perceived that painting has left behind it the conceptual adventure, she empties it of extraneous meanings, with the aim of obtaining a product that does not have – and does not want to have – any other significance than what we see. It is neither reportage nor news story. Neither narrative nor sociology. It is an image, and nothing but an image. The only subjects in her paintings are the faces of women, a gallery of disembodied portraits silhouetted against the background, antidescriptive and devoid of details, caught in exaggeratedly close-up detail which occupies the whole surface of the painting. These women are beautiful, fascinating, magnetic, until we discover that there is something not quite right in their faces, something distorted, something either too big or too small that borders on abnormality, but that we fail to notice at first sight. They are perfect, even more real than the real, consequently false. They are hybrids made in the laboratory through a form of genetic engineering that replaces the inherited features. They are the negation of nature and culture. They are produced in the test tube and not in the womb. Devoid of expression, they are frigid and say absolutely nothing other that what you see.
The painting of Debora Hirsch can be approached from two angles: in terms of beauty and in terms of the future. These paintings are in fact a study of contemporary beauty and take as their point of departure a particular presupposition: the artist “knows” how to construct an image, she knows what to use and is perfectly aware of the need to eliminate any superfluous detail. They are the exceptional confirmation of a thesis close to my heart for some time: whereas the conceptual has been transformed into narrative event, where the project is the means to the end and the key to the meaning of the work of art in relation to the external world, painting can, on the contrary, be pure art, completely detached from the rest, an image per se, and hence an absolute form. For Hirsch the female face is a linguistic code – and not by chance did she superimpose the bar codes of commercial products over the faces of her women in her early paintings– and the fact that they are so beautiful responds especially to an aesthetic conception. Female beauty, in this sense, is the most suitable means for an analysis of the typical canons of contemporary seduction: large and languid eyes, fleshy mouths, ghost-like pallor on a very transparent skin, perfection of make-up. These women are chrysalides destined not to become butterflies. They belong to a line of genetic perfection that starts out from the cinema of Leni Riefensthal, that passes through the themes of the Post Human, and that is epitomized with narrative obsession in the thrillers of Jean-Christophe Granget: a line of bloodshed and assassination that traverses Europe in the mad attempt to achieve a chosen race that may combine exceptional culture and intelligence with an equally exceptionally physique and appearance. This, after all, is the implicit sense, the unstated premise, of a large part of the aesthetic models of our age.
We come to the future. The hyperrealist visions of Debora Hirsch outline the scenario – a no less sombre one – of a post-world, deliberately founded on the absence of memory. An attitude which we can also identify, as we have said, in contemporary electronic music which samples and assembles sound and noise traces in a repetitive and obsessive way. To this is added the analysis of film images, which are for Hirsch the mnemonic fixative of her paintings. But Hirsch never quotes, she not extract images from a recognizable source as does for instance Cristiano Pintaldi (the paintings he derived from The Village of the Damned are famous). Hers is a journey through the cultural and historic metamorphosis of the science-fiction cinema, perfect mirror of the real mutations of civilization. With the advent of 2001, the epic and epoch of anthropocentrism has ended, in spite of the forecasts of Stanley Kubrick, though these had already been thrown into doubt by the cyborg of Blade Runner. Ridley Scott’s celebrated film, one of the first to draw inspiration from Philip K. Dick, the greatest writer of SF, describes the progressive and inexorable elimination of the human being and his substitution by a perfect replica of himself. Since Blade Runner, the perception of the future has radically changed, because the danger for our human race is no longer perceived as coming from outside, from aliens, from sub-species or from Soviets, but from inside ourselves, in a kind of pitiless self-analysis, basically a mirror of our own failure. The female beauties of Debora Hirsch derive from this climate, perfecting – as also does her painting technique which I must say is of exceptional quality – the temptation to be more real than the real, in an age in which the copy, the replica, the remake, has more value than the original. Faced by these works, we may think of the new post-tech science-fiction, which succeeds even in freeing itself from the excess of memory and wiping out its own traces in the senses. Andrew Niccol’s Gataca (1997) is in this sense a manifesto film that seems particularly appropriate for my conclusion. In a society of the future Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke), an aspiring space pilot with an inadequate DNA (he was conceived by love and not in a laboratory), escapes from the electronic controls of Gattaca, the training centre for the elite, by passing himself off as Jerome (Jude Law), a superman who has been left paralyzed, and who sells him the skin tissue and the organic liquids necessary to pass the test. And he will also find the love of a girl participant in the training course (Uma Thurman). This science-fiction thriller, reflecting the genetic anxiety of the end of the millennium, does not place the emphasis on monstrosity, and hence on diversity, but on the racist totalitarianism of beauty, hence on the process of standardization, where even the real man must appear, if not actually be, more real than the real. Gattaca, whose title derives from the initial letters of the four substances – guanine, adenine, thymidine, cytosine – which, in various combinations, compose the DNA of each person, is a film on the relation between beauty and future, perfectly embodied by the three young actors. But, by an untoward quirk of fate, Hawke and Thurman fell in love on the set. Amor vincit omnia.
Metagenoma (text by Alessandra Galletta)
If only the frame were widened a bit, we would discover the dress with its tulle bra and silver seed-pearls, the tie-die cashmere cardigan and john galliano sandals, the ibex fishnet tights. Or the radzmire dress with flaring skirt, salvatore ferragamo; tse new york underskirt, tom robbins necklace, pierre mantoux fishnet stockings; prada shoes. If the camera were to pan down slowly, it would follow the slender arm down to a wrist supported slackly on a hip, nervous knees, delicate ankles and the strap of a sandal, stiletto heel sunk in the mud. Or no camera movement, only a zoom-in: young lips redrawn by a ritual rouge, eyelids powdered teint idole. A second zoom-in, as close to the face as you can get: sensitive, acned, asphytic, relaxed, tonic... the skin would show its pores, its thirst, that innumerable pages of advertisements promise to slake with the complicity of grapes or vitamin c.
But it is Debora Hirsch who decides the framing, and she wants it exactly as it is: she wants it to discover only beautiful faces, blown up but without details. A beauty without distractions such as accessories, neon-lit studio background, redrawn eyebrows or puffed up, coiffeured hair. Her work selects only the face, excluding and rendering vain the long hours spent on the set by make-up artists, hairdressers, set-designers, wardrobe assistants and stylists: all of them professions devoted frenetically to preparing a scene destined to last only for so long as it takes to snap a photo, the time it takes to turn the page of a magazine or press the key on the pad of a television remote control: sat. The time of them all is censored, cancelled out: from the time of the models to that of the artist herself, years spent as director of USA Networks, the famous US cable TV channel, a media giant with 72 million TV viewers worldwide, 144 million eyeballs which she daily had to glut with images but which are now just the part of the face that, in her portraits, she prefers to subtract from our gaze. A will to eliminate, or at least curtail the gaze emitted by the painting itself: on such beautiful faces it is the gaze of the public that must rest. Women purged of everything save a beauty without reserve, without blemish, gelid. Paintings in which the eye can rest on the whole, hence the utter absence of details. Everything must appear as if nothing had ever changed, or could ever change again, because, as the title of these landscape portraits, science fiction portraits, longlife portraits asserts, there is nothing new – as if not even a generative process had ever given rise to the image: “It is not that I never existed”. We have always had a need for a body traversed but never consumed by time, as in the splendid video made by Debora Hirsch, where, without being born or dying, the face of a baby girl is transformed into a women, before returning to an eternally possible beginning. “We perhaps live in a world in which concepts such as life, birth, death, memory, time, are changing. The definition of normality itself could be re-established on the basis of models transmitted by the mass media, with the support of the genetic industry, which in fact generates, but does not create.” Generating without creating is a hypothesis at once fascinating and horrific, and, come to think of it, television, like science, is specialized in just this. By a strange linguistic coincidence, by a parthenogenesis of nomenclature, the most sophisticated telecameras and the first cloned sheep have the same name, Dolly. “Television is fast, whereas painting is so slow...,” points out the artist, seeking to give a logical sense to a choice as difficult as it is true and unpostponable. Basically painting is just this: the freedom to spend all the time in the world in the desire, and in the presumption, that time may not pass, that it may never consume us.