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The Graft

THE GRAFT - Shomèr ma mi làyla1? The rhizomatic concept of thought versus the arborescent concept2
by Gaia Serena Simionati

What’s the most resilient parasite? An idea.
A single idea from the human mind can build cities.
An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules.
Which is why I have to steal it.


From the film Inception


[…] To die, to sleep.
To sleep, perchance to dream; aye, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause.  […]


William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III, Sc. 1


When, on a plane going to New York in 2010, I saw Inception for the first of seven times, I was shocked. The screenplay, written by Christopher Nolan in a number of layers, like the dreams to be penetrated by the team of extractors, apparently took him over 10 years. Directed and produced through his intuition, the film is complicated and almost entirely unintelligible.

Nevertheless, watching it made me reflect on the possibility of extrapolating ideas from others, or of modifying and grafting thoughts, feelings or external archetypes within each of us, as Shakespeare had already intuited four hundred years earlier.

Dom Cobb is an expert at extraction, at penetrating the minds and subconscious of the sleepers to steal their secrets. The film ponders reality and projection, in a limbo between the conscious and the subconscious, a territory like that of the quantum field in which there are eleven or more dimensions coiled upon themselves. All scalable or unreachable.

Subsequently, and serendipitously, I met the powerful artist Aqua Aura. He is a person who has focused his thought on these same investigations, nourished by the study of particle physics and astronomy, biogenetics, philosophy and perception psychology.

I gradually discovered that Aqua Aura is himself a graft. On the one hand he is a cross between Darwin and Mendel: the former a naturalist devoted to the species and the latter a mathematician and an Augustinian friar. Like Mendel, the precursor of modern genetics in his observations of hereditary traits and the first forms of eugenic grafts, Aqua Aura too changes life into art. Or vice versa.

However, at the same time Aqua Aura is also a Calderon de la Barca. He too is a man of god and of the theatre, a metaphysicist transcending the real in narrations that generate a pyrotechnical performance in the staged scission from perception to vision, or from mythology to actuality. Aqua Aura applies it not to the theatre but to the visual arts: more specifically, to photographic sculpture. What all three have in common is the spirit.

Aqua Aura’s work encompasses the entelecheia, that is, the philosophical concept of a reality that has inscribed within it the final goal to which it tends to evolve, the potential for development. And then it veers towards metaphysics.

It was the specular nature of our reciprocal explorations and love of thought – transmuted by the artist into shots that graze on the three-dimensional to assume a sculptural, plastic significance, almost a cerebral-emotional CAT scan – which gave rise to the exhibition: the Graft.

The various works produced for this theme have a leitmotif: the one and the all. Death and life. To the point that they are called Monemes, the ultimate, indivisible elements of reality in which an “absolute elsewhere” is delineated. Indeed they seek the sense of the sublime. Or, more simply, the boundary between what is visible and what is not.

These are Monads: elementary units, atoms, essences even spiritual or corporeal. In the series Monema, species of still lifes come together. On the one hand, lipids, fossils, cells, viruses, larvae and bacteria are mistaken for planets, for incomprehensible lunar derivations, where the careful study of light and its opposite generates conflicting emotions: those of death and life. Muscari, hibiscus, delphiniums, hyacinths and poppies with human materials as their genetic pistils: red blood cells, the unsuspected results of biological or genetic modifications, even tumours. Created using an electronic microscope, the works explore precisely the aspect of the infinitely small, in relation to mechanical vision and to perception. We penetrate the invisible, narrating it like a human probe. The many inclusions, which the artist creates in different stages, thus create a stratified work, in relief.

Aqua Aura’s sophisticated reflection is also spawned by the topical, in which cases of genetic engineering, of cell duplication, the use and modification of DNA and artificial insemination generate aseptic monsters that open up moral ethical and philosophical questions of ponderous import regarding who or what the human being now is. It is precisely this territory that the artist wishes to lead us into, a metaworld accessed through art.

Instead, in The Net#1#2#3 gigantic, lysergic flowers such as magnolias, orchids and dandelions emerge from neurons and human synapses, coiling around them. The Net #1, and Rami di mandorlo fiorito – the branch of flowering almond which is a citation from Van Gogh who gave it to his brother Theo to mark the birth of his nephew – are flooded with harmonious beauty: the work is drained of science and filled with other references, mostly vital.

The grafting of buds like natural implants in science and eugenics appears almost like a wish to return to man’s natural power and his relation with the surrounding environment. Or the interpretation is transcendent. Man in his arrogance, through his red blood cells and other cells, takes possession of flowers, petals, trees, things that he has no right to, albeit borrowing them. Attention and respect for nature is another profound line of thought, not to be neglected.

Monema III, speaks precisely of negative colonisation. Captivating tropical orchids with long stems, coloured like purplish gelatine, conceal between their bundled petals transparent spheres – grafts of ‘flu virus – so that the work becomes almost an infective schema, at once attractive and repellent.

However it is also true that The Net#2 can be read as a synecdoche: the part for the whole. The neural network is indeed the symbolic epitome of the human being, and these men – or their neurons – are dissolved, disintegrated even, within a landscape of flowers. Like losing oneself in nature, or even being devoured by it.

Concealed here too is a most subtle message of warning not to lose our intelligence towards/against GAIA, the planet. The work thus becomes a sort of contemporary Mondrian, a stylised and marvellously blown-up landscape, the symbol of which – the part for the whole – makes it an abstract contrast. A warning!

Therefore, look out for the GRAFTS! Since man and nature exist only in a balance of power: the era of communion is over.

Thus The Net is the neural network in the foreground. Currently also of great importance is that sort of invisible network, external to our brains – the web: a species of external splice which acts as a dislocator of ideas, information and knowledge. Implants and grafts of mutants. Molecular biology and IT.

Soon we’ll be implanted with a chip that will connect us with everyone and everything. And we will become FLOWERS.


1  Quotation from the Bible (Isaiah 21:11), which signifies “Watchman, what of the night?”

2  Carl Gustav Jung employed the term rhizome in relation to the invisible nature of life, which mostly develops underneath the earth, whereas what appears lasts only for a season. The metaphor of the rhizome was later adopted by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari to denote a type of philosophical research which proceeds by multiples.

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