Luxembourg & Dayan to Restage Jannis Kounellis’ Performing Tableau at Art Basel 2016

Words by Carla Ingrasciotta
May 11, 2016

Luxembourg & Dayan announces its partipation in the Art Basel 2016 Feature section with a restaging of Jannis Kounellis’ historic work Da inventare sul posto (To Invent on the Spot), 1972. A hybrid of painting and performance, this work, which debuted at Documenta 5 (1972), consists of an abstract painting of pink loose brushstrokes featuring bars of music – a passage of Igor Stravinsky’s score for La Pulcinella (1920) – along with a violinist and a ballerina. The violinist, standing to one side of the painting, plays the short musical sequence as the ballerina improvises a dance in front of the work. Both violinist and ballerina then repeat the score and the impromptu choreography over and over again in a loop.

Stravinsky’s score, comprising a wild compilation of fragments of music by other composers, was originally commissioned for Sergei Diagehilev’s production of the Ballets Russes at the Paris Opera. With Da inventare sul posto, Kounellis references and subverts this history. Like Stravinsky sampling materials that were not his own, Kounellis here removes himself as the sole author of the work of art and opens it up to collaboration. Departing from predetermined choreography, the work engages the realm of chance, invention, and improvisation. Kounellis extends his composition into the space occupied by his viewer, unmooring it from knowability: Each of the work’s iterations is different, so that it can never be perceived in the same way twice.

Kounellis’ wide-ranging body of work found a common thread with the artistic movement that came to be known as Arte Povera. It grew out of, and responded directly to, a new material culture that emerged in postwar Italy. Da inventare sul posto reveals the major preoccupations of Kounellis’ entire acclaimed practice: a wish to explore anew the possibilities of traditional mediums by re-entering them with the faculties of the body, and a deep desire to synthesize history and contemporary life. Following its premiere at Documenta 5, Da inventare sul posto was presented as part of Kounellis’ first solo exhibition in the United States, which took place at Sonnabend Gallery in New York City in 1972. The work has also been presented in several museum exhibitions devoted to Kournellis’ career.

This will be the first time that Da inventare sul posto will be shown in Switzerland.

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