The least of the world

Invitation to retrenchment, to slipping away: these are the intentions that preside over the choices under this heading. But can art dispense with form to the point of becoming invisible? To what extent can art be imperceptible? The term “infrathin” invented by Marcel Duchamp crystallizes these questions and their related artistic applications. The works chosen for this exhibition exemplify the artistic movement towards imperceptibility.

How can an artwork be there without insisting on its own presence? How can disappearance become another word for manifestation, or appearance? These are questions about the possibilities and modalities of constructing intensities through subtraction.

If one had to find a source of this paradigm shift, from the all-visible to the all-invisible in art, one could name the fading of the religious sentiment (in Western societies) as one of them. According to Marcel Gauchet,1 the emphasis is on feelings, personal experiences, and beliefs capable of conferring meaning on individual existence. Thus, a whole “religiosity unaware of itself” manifests in the diversity of profane experiences: from drug use to ascetic sportsmanship, passing through aesthetic emotion.

The aesthetic experience offered by the artists working on or at the boundaries of the visible, expressible, and audible, is then but a way of transposing this quest for meaning, inherent in thinking beings, from the religious sphere to art.

1 Marcel Gauchet, The Disenchantment of the World: A Political History of Religion, trans. Oscar Burge, Princeton University Press, 1999.

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