Chilean artist Iván Navarro is exhibiting his work in Brussels for the first time, with Nacht und Nebel, an installation of trompe-l’œil light sculptures that explore memories of the Second World War.
Presented for the first time at La Fondazione Volume! in Rome in 2012, and curated by Antonio Arevalo, the installation recalls the atmosphere of Italy under Nazi occupation and the bombing campaigns of 1943-1944. It comprises six geometric light wells - circle, triangle and rectangle - constructed of brick and cement. Each sculpture spells out a word in neon, with mirrors used to project the word infinitely: Odio, Occhio, Ex, Becco, Eccidio, etc. Plunged into darkness, the gallery thus seems to open onto endless light-filled passages, metaphors for both escape and disappearance.
Navarro seeks to trigger a different attitude to history, exploring the ambiguities of memory. Every illuminated word possesses both real substance and illusory density. Language becomes an illuminated manifestation of conscience, referencing double meanings and the painful chasms that separate appearance from truth. The title of this latest exhibition refers to Adolph Hitler’s 1941 decree that ordered the Third Reich’s opponents to be spirited away in “the night and the fog” (nacht und nebel) - a death sentence. The decree’s initials, NN, are the same as those used in Latin American for the disappeared, those No Names Iván Navarro’s works so often invoke.
For the Project Room, Iván Navarro created two new pieces that play on the theme of ambivalence, whether formal or linguistic. Two purified wells invite the visitors to look at the words Above all and All of the Above, phrases normally self-contained in their meaning, but with new significance in the context of these works. Set in relation with an older piece, Defect - an ambiguous word because of its double meaning as an noun or verb - these works form a set that manages to subtly transform structure into an act of communication.