The 20th Century extended the legitimization discourse of History, from the written to the iconic. The invention of photography seemed to give an infallible recourse of truth. The aesthetic quality of truth was no longer represented as solid but as transparent. Celluloid substituted stone; solid truth was replaced by the photographic instant. For this reason clinical radiography can be understood as a symbol of a new concept of representation; the possibility of representing the essence of a thing instead of its mere appearance; the common place of the human instead of the distinctive.
Within the new dynamic established by rapid technological innovation the last century saw an overwhelming proliferation of signifiers, which have remained suspended as quotations; a photo, or an object within a museum. The gap between these instants of history, and historical conscience itself, is the space in which the art of Salvatore Puglia is inscribed. His work consists in developing a syntax for a poetics of history, starting from the alienation of the referent –turned into image or text- from his own generic environment. The recognition of history as a consensual representation of reality is the platform that provides the moment of conversion from document to poetry.
Therefore, History of Art itself – the history of a kind of allegorical event- has had a parallel Art of History; this is to say the mental representation – mediated and induced – of reality itself. The inclusion of references to avant-garde art highlights the crisis of representation of these historical models. History when seen as an attempt to engage ethically with reality, has become an aesthetic engagement with representation.
In this sense the artist grants a value of social conservation and circulation, to a certain kind of phenomena –social incidents, scientific discoveries, artistic movements- that are the result of a process of selection from subjective experience itself. The artist becomes the index finger of history.
Perhaps the installation Topography (1997-2001) could be seen as a metaphor for the interrelation between two levels of history, the psychological and the socio-cultural. This piece is illustrative of the language of association established by Puglia for a metaphysic of the historical residue. It establishes an analogical discourse that uses graphic elements as a form of syntax; the red color, vital flow, aged gold, color of the photo studio, dark chamber, the prosthesis of memory where the instances of reality are caught. The document, converted into a groundless sign, becomes a repertory for the poetic; what Puglia himself denominates as an “icono-gramma” of history.
Puglia’s discourse has developed a sort of “encyclopedic trope” in which a variety of layers should be uncovered in order to reach the core, a monadic element, indivisible through his entire work. These layers engage the levels of access to the isolated historical reference; the possibility of recognizing an unlimited series of connections among historical signs of different natures.
These signs can appear in a transparent or masked way. Lights and shadows, revelations and concealments, build a dramatic system that serves as a space for the convergence for History and Art. Puglia’s work is an implicit drama, a staging where the mirror games transform the spectator in the fourth wall. The practice of social research has demonstrated that in certain circumstances, the elliptic power of art (its associative capability and liberty) offers the only possibility of conceptualizing an event, when socio-historical methods of verification, face just limits and nowhere places. As it has been said, art is always a question. In that sense, art would be closer to paradoxes of reality than to an historical narrative that aims to speak in terms of a clear answer.
Puglia’s fabularium is mainly occupied by figures who had a vital presence in the course of history, those who unconsciously attempted to offer a turning point to history. It establishes an intellectual engagement with a particular kind of historical legacy. Those who once had a place in a press photo, a foot-note in a book on national events, a chair and a voice in any one of the events that constitute “the thresholds of an epoch”. Figures that created such a useful and omnipresent object that their own name was eclipsed Puglia’s cabinet archives this internal memory; radiographic, within resin and acetate inscription, urns which perpetuate, the silence, a sequence of endless death, the void. What is otherwise a museum, a glass cemetery.
Rubén de la Nuez