Grotesqueries: The Promises of Monsters [The Drawings of A. Chiodo; introduction by C. Salzani]

Introduction by Carlo Salzani from the catalogue “Grotesqueries: The Promises of Monsters” on the drawings by Alessandro Chiodo

Grotesqueries: The Promises of Monsters
Carlo Salzani (Philosopher)

  1. The human form, and especially the human face, is the main topic of Alessandro Chiodo’s art, variously inflected in a number of different styles, techniques and media. Often figurative but never merely realistic, his art assigns to the face a task, that of expressing the myriad shades of a metamorphic self. What the drawings here collected assert is, however, the crisis of this form and of this self, the crisis of identity and classification, the crisis of canonical forms and
    bodies and faces are distorted, crooked; excrescences twist and deform them; other bodies and objects invade and transform them; the villosity spreads over all surfaces, changes the pigmentation, and at times even seems to morph into foliage, or instead disappears unveiling a precarious nudity. The body, the face, are in ruins.
  1. This crisis is probably as old as representation itself, and its modern cantors count, among many others, such giants as Goya, Grandville, Picasso or Grosz. As different as they are, they all interrogated the human form through excess, subversion, transgression – which is perhaps the only true form of interrogation. And this because the human form has always defined itself against its other: the deformed, the monster, the animal. What the freakish, the grotesque, the monstrous
    us, in fact, is what we are, and they do it by playing with our desires, our anxieties, our fears. Therefore, they elicit simultaneously angst and fascination, disgust and laughter: they are at once the Same (they are us) and the Other – what normalcy has repressed and now returns with a vengeance. That is also why, ultimately, we love them.
  2. The distortion of the human form is a transgression of the law – the law of nature, when distortion produces human-animal (or -plant) hybrids, and the law of society, of taste, of conventions, when it subverts cultural, canonical, established values and standards. It is therefore also a protest and an attack against power, since normalization – the decision about the “normal” – is always simultaneously descriptive and prescriptive, it is an instance of control and coercion, and
    thus an instrument to produce docile bodies. That is why the freak, the grotesque, the monster carry such a subversive potential: by transgressing the law, they confound and fluidify limits and borders and open up a whole new space for reinvention and liberation. What American philosopher Donna Haraway called “the promises of monsters” is precisely the challenge posed by these distorted figures to our understanding of what is normal, natural, intelligible and ethical, and the new space of action and transformation
    they thereby create.
  3. Chiodo’s caprichos stage a liquid ontology, they use, and play with, a metamorphic line that challenges canonical values and rules and makes us simultaneously shudder and laugh. Ugly, bizarre, frightening, but also funny, preposterous, sometimes even dainty, Chiodo’s subversive figures tells us ultimately that change and transformation are vital, they are life itself.

Alessandro Chiodo © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn