Rodrigo Alonso

Although anecdotes on criticism and resistance are more popular, the truth is that artists always adopt and experiment with the means and technologies supplied by their day and age. Contemporaneity somehow implies assuming this challenge. It is a mistake, however, to believe that this adoption necessarily leads to an acritical or a celebratory attitude. The narratives explored in underground film, video art, and (to name but a few disciplines) reveal that the use of certain techniques by engaged artists does not only pave the way for alternative uses, but also that, in the same process, it enables them to reflect on the ways in which these influence everyday life, social forms, and the means of power.

These technologies bring a certain friction to established artistic media, to the point that they call their own essence into question. In one of his most famous essays, published in 1936, Walter Benjamin sustained that the question should not be whether photography was an art, but “whether the very invention of photography had not transformed the entire nature of art.” And yet, without taking the issue to extremes, this friction may open up fields of research and spaces of dialogue and confrontation that could result in questions of true aesthetic productivity.

The work of Fabian Marcaccio moves in this exploratory area. His unique integration of pictorial constructions, sculptural prostheses, architectural structures, narrative tensions, photographic resonances, and digital manipulation addresses the complexity of today’s world through a framework of referential and plastic information that entails the spectator’s intellectual and physical participation.

In this sense, Paintant Stories (2000) is a paradigmatic work. Its monumental scale encourages beholders to move, inviting them to unravel its levels of meaning as they approach and draw back from its vast mass, evoking the cinematic movements of a film camera (travelling shots, zooms back and forth), but, contrary to what happens in cinemas, here it is the audience that actively embodies space.

This incitement to activity also differs from our usual experience of computers, which we use to manipulate images, bringing them close up and moving them away to incredible extremes, but always from a static position. Approach and distance are now effects, simulations of a stationary voyage feigned by an algorithm, pure representation. On the contrary, Paintant Stories reveals an attractive and eloquent materiality after which information is only obtained with effort; its reading requires a certain procurement, a will, the exercise of a subjective and subjectivizing approach.

The computer universe is the sphere of the hybrid par excellence, but it is also the place where everything is homogenized, flattened, and loses depth. Strangely enough, this property grants it a plastic potentiality: in its interior, images are malleable, they can be easily altered and influenced, they can shed their aesthetic values (color, brilliance, saturation) and oscillate between figuration and abstraction, and yet unlike their pictorial works, their uniform productions have no thickness. They lack texture, surface effects, that physical quality that makes one want to touch a painting, feel its scope, experience the ambiguity of being at once a window onto another world and an artefact of our own.

In Paintant Stories, Marcaccio intensifies this tactile component of the plastic image in order to enlarge the contrasts with the digital impressions he uses as background. The conflict highlights the perceptive metamorphoses of the past few years as the result of a double visual and material endeavor, to which he adds the temporal component of the journey, that draws the images out of their stillness and projects them as imaginary-flow-in-motion in the mind of the spectator. The concept of depiction, of painting in activity, refers precisely to this: not so much to the artist’s action on the support as to the necessary performativeness of the beholder.

The conflict, however, draws attention to another subject, for although we speak of the digital universe, binary images, and numerical compositions, human beings can only perceive their results in the analogical world of the senses. Our sensory organs do not detect noughts and ones, but continuous properties, nuances, variations, and areas of aesthetic intensity. In any case, the digital has renewed these nuances and intensities thanks to the way in which it appears, the characteristic color range of our era of omnipresent monitors, the huge scales that affect our gaze with their dynamism and speed.

All this is brought into play in each paintant as a reflection on the present, yet also as a meditation on the future of painting, for Marcaccio believes that the digital is here to afford it friction, but not to make it disappear. Indeed, it acts as root, antecedent and productive matrix in the term paint-ant. After all, we are only able to interpret an image because we have learned to see and to analyze, and painting occupies a still unrenounceable place among our visual and analytical referents, a place that is not determined by its position in the art circuit, but by its historical, social, and cultural presence. These factors lie at the heart of Paintant Stories, forming its collective and epochal essence and providing the keys to its narrative.

Translated by Josephine Watson

11-5 I think that the future of painting, or the painting’s future is already here

I think that the future of painting is already here. The good thing about painting is that it never ends. A game can finish, like the formal or conceptual game, but there are new games to be played like the re-definition of materiality in a digital age, space-time transformation, multiple-sites or what “site” means today, micro-representation, media-integration, image saturation and its crisis…

Fabian Marcaccio

Fabian Marcaccio. Paintant Stories, Kerber Verlag, 2001

10-10 Fabian Marcaccio never viewed painting as a forum for subjective inspiration

Fabian Marcaccio never viewed painting as a forum for subjective inspiration. Hence—regarding techniques—his use of print processes which, by definition, already create a certain distance to the picture. No less important a factor in this is Marcaccio’s long-term, highly intelligent engagement with the history of painting and its paradigms. He takes the status quo as a given and, against this background, unfurls a wealth of puzzles and provocations—not simply for the sake of provoking, but in order to constantly re-set the boundaries of painting, thereby preserving its potential and its standards.

Martin Hentschel

Fabian Marcaccio. Paintant Stories, Kerber Verlag, 2001

8-8 Paintant Stories is a body in transformation

The work is a body in transformation, a political posture, a foreign language, a production machine oozing from all sides, a ritornello and a war song, a map filled with interlinks, a series of strata, fractures, vanishing points and segmented shapes, a stream of variable intensities.

Jean-Charles Vergne

Fabian Marcaccio. Paintant Archeology, FRAC Auvergne, 2005

6-6 The idea is a pictorial analysis

The idea is a pictorial analysis of the current state of affairs. I am interested in the dual relationship between “inform” and “give something form.” Painting is developed as a form, and at the same time “in-forms.” That means that all individual areas of the work are like islands of information, like “inner formations” of the painting and at the same time of current themes, like the idea of the body, biogenetics, the problems of violence and human relationships.

Fabian Marcaccio

Universes in Universe, 2002

5-9 I call this kind of painting “complex” or “network” composition

I call this kind of painting “complex” or “network” composition; it interweaves abstraction and representation, the digital and the analog. All my paintings work against the unitary, using multiple parts or details that never create a strong whole. I want to ask: How can we bring complexity to a painting? How can we compose a painting of hybrid materials in time and space, as opposed to reducing it to “pure” painting or history painting?

Fabian Marcaccio

Artforum, 2003

4-6 For me, the relationship between digital and literal

For me, the relationship between digital and literal or “real” painting, so to speak, is very important. I combine the traditional part of painting with the composition possibilities offered by computers and different software.

Many of the images I use are taken from the Internet. In one sense, it’s as though one were to capture material that flows through the Internet, and to “petrify” it at a certain moment in relation to a space and architecture. This painting is meant to create a passage between the real architectural and virtual worlds. I am interested in the concept of that which we call “site,” especially in the sense of place. “Surfing” in the case of this painting can be taken literally, in that one views the work while strolling by.

Fabian Marcaccio

Universes in Universe, 2002

3-9 Marcaccio fetishizes the brushstroke as both erotic and sensual

Marcaccio fetishizes the brushstroke as both erotic and sensual. His graffiti-like digitized brushstrokes bring to mind paintings of Roy Lichtenstein in their playful intent and bracketing of painting’s processes and myths as a subject in itself. He employs a collage technique to let something new emerge from visual chaos that still has an identifiable fidelity to the tradition of painting. This process parallels the innovations made in contemporary digital dance music with its breaks, cuts, samples, sonic textures, and complex new synthetic rhythms. His works embody the culture of sampling that is at the center of our new visual and aural world.

Simon Wallis

Hybrids. International Contemporary Painting, Tate Gallery Publishing, 2001

1-7 Marcaccio associates his neologism

Marcaccio associates his neologism Paintant with words such as “actant,” “replicant,” or “mutant”—terms that apply just as equally to a visual structure that simulates a biomorphic process as to the active role assumed by the viewer.

Martin Hentschel

Fabian Marcaccio and Paintant Stories, 2014