Paolo Caffoni, Paolo Caffoni: On Sticky Stage (Editor’s note) (2019)

I did not see the performance. What did I see then? The editor’s note is a short piece of writing that is sewn onto a book.When I arrive at the DFS studio, the photographic documentation is displayed on a long wall. Printed on horizontal A4 sheets “in such an order that it could be a montage”, a linear narrative that wishes to mimic the passing of time within the folds of turning pages. “We can try to play with different Lee color gels across the book as you did with the videos during your performance”, I suggest. That first consideration at the beginning of our conversation probably demonstrated a lack of inspiration from my side, as much as some of my own preoccupations.


As an editor I operate between what we call the “contemporary art world”– that is, at the same time, a fragile theoretical category and a powerful economic circuit – and the publishing field. I mostly work on projects whose subject points to something other than the publication itself, to a different space and time: an exhibition, a film or a performance. This referentiality to the ‘other’ of the book very often implies that the publication does not acquire the status of ‘work’ per se, but it needs time to be understood in relation to something that is missing, and not in front of the readers. It is in order to better understand the set of questions that arise out of the attempt to translate heterogenous practices in the form of a publication, that I arrive to problematize the relation between the performance and its documentation.


How can we think of performing a book, this book, in a way that prolongs the movement of the performance– “The book as an evidence and a script” DFS says – without necessarily referring to an essentialist view of performance. What sort of movement is the translation in the first place?


By emphasizing the disparity between the place and time of the book, and the place and time of the performance, the translation is an instance of continuity in discontinuity. The aspect of discontinuity inherent in translation would be completely repressed if we were to define translation as just a form of documentation. It isn’t possible to think of the passage from the performance to the book in a linear way with a beginning and a conclusion. Like directions and road signs in Pasolini’s Uccellacci e uccellini(a surrealist toponymy towards an ideological and social geography), instead of edging towards a promised goal, we might be made erratic by the sight of many different directions. We might begin to lose ourselves at the sight of our destination and the desire to arrive at the destination is displaced by many different desires, for many different relations.


Change of register: A Vast Territory, Berlin (Madrid, Rome, New York, Athens). If the performance is the displacement of all these territories, the book is a way of “speaking visually about their connections”. Like in Michele Mancini and Giuseppe Perrella’s Pier Paolo Pasolini Corpi e Luoghi (1981), the simultaneous viewing of the different sets is designed directly onto the page in a way that was never possible in the darkness of the projection room. Here, topographical places – that are never simply subordinated to the set – emerge with their own evocative capacity. But how to account for all these places where we haven’t been? What sort of relation to establish? Speaking of Berlin (Madrid, Rome, New York, Athens)a line runs through the names drawing their connection and at the same time marking their absence (I should maybe use the word ‘entanglement’ but I prefer not to, I prefer ‘solidarity’ or ‘invocation’ instead).

Speaking of absence and the untranslatable. The voice, as separate from language, cannot be translated in the book. It is the ‘other’, that is not represented. What remains after the voice is missing? From Many and Less, to Few and No words, “a little pre-lingual magician” appears as an obstacle to the transparency of communication in which the body is supposed to disappear completely. Now finally I understand the spectrum of the Lee colour gels, as a tentative attempt to trace the presence of the other in the place of their bodies’ absence. It is precisely because of this phantasmatic presence that the book discloses an in-between. All these bodies and all these places of an imagined community, for subjects in transit, a community that cannot be contained in or by a nation.