The Considerations on the Holy Stigmata—since the most ancient codex, are to be found as an addendum to the Little Flowers of St. Francis; of an unknown authorship, drafted partly from chapters of the Actus beati Francisci et sociorum eius—depict how Francis’ conformity to Christ, already suggested by the Saint’s acts, comes to a head in the experience of the “afflictions and sufferings of the Passion:” during reclusion on Mount Alverna, a seraph appeared to Francis, and “after long and secret conference together… (left) on his flesh a wonderful trace and image of the Passion of Christ.” Hence the Saint’s hands and feet “appeared pierced through the midst by the nails,” and on his chest “appeared the image of an unhealed wound, as if made by a lance, and still red and bleeding;” so that his companions “finding traces of blood upon his tunic… understood of a certainty that he bore in his hands and feet and side the image and similitude of our Lord Jesus Christ crucified.”
Conceived as a journey across fourteen contributions—fourteen are the stations of the Way of the Cross, or Way of Sorrows—to which a fifteenth work has been added, to be interpreted as a comprehensive moment, the exhibition “Trust (Vita vel regula)” questions the conformity between the artist’s life and work and the correlation between creative gesture and discursive production. The formula vita vel regula occurs within Franciscan literature to suggest a correlation between the monastic rule and the monk’s way of life. The rule is a codex of a nature different to ethical-juridical works, sociological treatises, or exempla: it originates from the life as the life originates from the rule. “Or, maybe, one should affirm that… in the incessant tension toward the realization of a threshold of indifference, the rule is made life to the same extend that life is made rule.”
The exhibition employs the framework of faith in order to stimulate the visitor to religiously approach the works. In particular, the cultural value to be celebrated here is that of art as the index of human experience. This experience goes beyond the practice that takes place in the studio—site for the refinement of the technique and the test around medium specificity—and materializes into shapes that are indissolubly tied to life. Far from affirming scenarios of aestheticization of life, the exhibition suggests that the artist understands life as a constant practice, hence as an art. In the curator’s words: “I have the feeling that the artist’s life, in its destitution and banality, is kind of loathed; yet still everyday we meet for a studio visit, which is considered a relational moment, but of false sharing since it cannot overflow into the everyday… All the art industry’s renewed enthusiasm for the artist’s studio seems to me nothing but the comforting knowledge of the existence of many others small industries, whose
production flows into and feeds the network, conforming to distribution strategies which treat artworks just like commodities. I myself benefited from those apparatuses of distribution… I haven’t even met in the flesh some of the artists who I invited to exhibit here, trusting instead in the autonomy of their works … I was thinking about the everyday intimacy between Francis and his companions, imagining that the curator should care about the art and the artist’s life…”
The artworks that the exhibition includes should be intended as indexes, fossils, precipitates of human experiences—”all that’s left is ashes and scars and solitude.” The gesture soaking the canvas or shaping the material is itself empirical data; it owns value by virtue of its own narrative bundle, that here includes inevitably the art-historical narratives of informal art or gestural abstraction or other equally codified formal traditions, as well as the narrative of the artist’s (constant) practice. In this sense, it is possible to affirm the correlation between creation and discursive production, and the realization of that threshold of indifference towards which both the artist’s life and the theorization of their art tend—a threshold that might exist not in the scenario of the studio, but in that of the exhibition.