The Gentle Radicality of Adrien Vescovi

d'Lëtzebuerger Land du 09.12.2022

For a relatively brief moment in 2020, we all slowed down. Time, once a rare commodity, became available in terrifying abundance. Our days were no longer framed by performative productivity, but filled with obtuse, unquantifiable plains of time. Without clear guidelines on the duration of this period, we went inward, navigating the liminal void into a structured, domestic experiment of slowing down and creating from within. With limited resources, we revisited the domiciliary practices long abandoned in favor of efficiencies, ease, and heightened productivity. Fermenting, crocheting, planting, growing: we reworked the materials and the resources in the home, to give them multiple lives, to stretch them as far as they’d go, understanding that our resources are indeed finite, and that that is a reason to pause. Eventually, the slowness became agonizing. We yearned for the distractions of the external world, the ease of busy-ness. There was a pause, but it didn’t last: our systems aren’t engineered for slowness and the vulnerability it presents, its threat to our economic systems — those that we believe are essential to our own material, bodily reification.

In Jours de lenteur, Adrien Vescovi sustains the global pause we collectively experienced, weaving, quite literally, into his work this ethos of slowness as both the way, and the objective. Time, Vescovi shows us, is the single incommodifiable force that makes anything worthwhile, that imbues the work with a value proposition far beyond any economic promise capitalism can make: there is nothing new to be quantified and commodified, nothing unique to leverage in a for-profit system, when materials are reduced, reused, recycled.

Standing outside the Casino Luxembourg, an austere, 19th century Mediterranean Baroque-influenced edifice, Adrien’s works envelop the entire facade on Rue Notre Dame. The weighted works, somewhere between a quilt and a collage, are framed by thick ropes, robust, maritime twine criss-crossing the sheaths, containing it. Geometric shapes, suggesting suns, moons, skies are sewn together in vast sheets of collaged textile, warming the optics of an otherwise stone space. Framed but flowing, the works are heavy in body but light in tone. The stitching and seams visible to the naked eye, Vescovi’s work is vulnerable, without pretense. It very clearly communicates: someone made me, and it took time.

His works, sometimes painting and other times sculpture, are composed of collaged fabrics in hand-dyed, earthy hues. Hung, the pieces engulf the viewer in their presence, their sheer volume a force – albeit gentle –proposing, indirectly, an opportunity to stop in wonder at the magnitude of the thing. The thing being this multidimensional painting, this blanket of security, this quilt that tells stories, repurposed table linens and bedsheets; this thing that breathes, feels, is alive, is decaying.

Outside, Vescovi’s works move with the wind, get wet with the rain, and fray along the bottom, where seams meet the street. Molding due to the humid atmosphere, the works succumb to the temporality with which Adrien plays, thematically, across the entire exhibition.

Inside, on the first floor of the Casino, Jours de lenteur continues. Within the exhibition space, occupying the entire floor, are the remnants: the fabric remains from which the pieces hung on the facade have been cut. Centered within the main exhibition space, these works are not framed as forgotten discards, but rather, in keeping with the ethos of Vescovi’s work, they’re the finite resources from which he creates, again and again, neatly preserved, waiting for their chance to reemerge.

More visible inside, the monograms adorning the antique linens emerge, surrounded by jars of colored water, leftover from the dye process. Some of the jars grow mold; their utility in some ways, for now, is over, but the materials live on, adopting new roles and gaining new life: capturing yeast in the air, hosting bacteria colonies, offering recycled sustenance. The bright, hand stitched monograms in the corners of the linens serve as subtle reminders of those who came before – who used these textiles for their pragmatic purposes: to sleep, to eat. PM, CB, TR, MG, AG BC. In this, there is a living history within the work, a corporeality, and a memory in the pieces. The ghosts of the lives in the monograms, those who used these textiles before us, a reminder that we all die, that we all expire, that eventually, certain things end.

Vescovi’s work harks back to an era we ever so briefly revitalized during the great pause of 2020. Both ancestral and artisanal, Vescovi uses found objects in nature to create his dyes, and allows his works to develop in plein air, subject to change as the forces of nature do their work.

In his opus, Vescovi makes it clear: these works are not optimizing. They’re being. In communion with nature, Jours de lenteur, is an ecological use case for how to live humbly, softly, in a sustainable way: nature is a force that cannot be tamed or reckoned with, its affective mutations ultimately the boss we can’t quit. We’re not in control. You might as well make something beautiful with what we’ve already got.

The radical proposal of this work that optimization isn’t the goal, and that existing on hyper-drive isn’t sustainable. In his slow processes—from finding the natural materials to concoct the dyes, to sourcing the linens to cut, dye, dry, place, sew, stitch, hang—Vescovi both dazzles the viewer, the scale of his work a thing of awe, proof of the utter limitlessness a deindustrialized approach can yield, while also gently mining up difficult truths about how mechanized and depleted we’ve left our surroundings.

In Jours de lenteur, Vescovi offers more: a revisionist proposition that we can’t commodify everything. That we can reuse what we have. That we have enough, that we are enough. That slowing down will not break us, or fail us. But that these systems of optimization on full-force will. And that this gesture, this reminder, this invitation to sit, and to feel the past, and be here in the present, despite the mildew, and the tears, is the fabric of our existence: an abstract, preservationist practice of slowness.

As this work lives, breathes, molds, decays, fades, and dies, Vescovi shares his alchemic magic with us: impressionism in its truest, fleeting form. With this, the artist gently reminds us that nothing lasts forever, which, depending on how you see it, is both a blessing and a curse.

Jours de lenteur, curated by Stilbé Schroeder, is on view at Casino - Forum d’art contemporain through January 29th

Casey Detrow
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