Pascal Dombis’s Gott ist Tot, by GianCarlo Pagliasso

There was much hype last autumn around Pascal Dombis’ 252-meter long, 130-cm wide polymer carpet covering the illustrious pavement of the Palais Royal in Paris, spreading all around the Galerie de Valois hundreds of printed texts by different authors evoking various aspects and moments of the historical past of this famous Parisian hotspot. The process involved is based on an excessive proliferation of sentences reproduced and printed on this ‘carpet’ at different scales.
Dombis is actually working with images and words as strata merging and resulting from fractal algorithms operated by computers. Everything generated by the Web is here combined and printed on lenticular sheets, and turn into some strange holograms conveying a sense of restlessness and perspective vertigo to the syntactical or pictorial constructions born out of the atopical dimension of the virtual. As he moves around, the viewer finds himself in a multi-space where suddenly, abruptly, forcefully, appear and disappear unprecedented aggregations of signifiers, soon to be replaced by the syntagmatic causality that the digital ‘’imprint’’ is apt to produce. For his solo exhibition at the Claudio Bottello Contemporary gallery in Torino, the artist found inspiration in Nietzsche’s stay in the piemontese capital. The famous sentence taken from The Gay Science, prophecizing the death of God, is fundamental in the installation which occupies, like a leitmotiv, the whole space of the gallery.
One should make it clear from the start that the artist’s point of view, from which he decided to tackle the complex issue of the title, has little to do with the active or passive nihilistic implications as regards the final nature of such a statement, preferring instead to inscribe itself already in the seminal consequences that such a declaration leads to for ‘the symbolic’. In a way, the discursive and iconic variations that Dombis is offering to us are potential evidence that we can free ourselves from and even be freed by, the symbolic, so much at work in the contemporary world, where the fable narrated by the Röcken-based thinker finally finds a stable ontological value in this age marked by the supremacy of images. His research, including his own peculiar epistemological approach, is anything but ingenuous. It can indeed be linked to instances of hermeneutic enlightening concerning certain forms of knowledge in which the aesthetic and scientific components tend to fuse on the ground of their common references to images (1). Actually, the lenticular artworks of the first room await you judiciously with explosions, caution warning signs, atomic hazards and four big paintings with the sentence ‘God is Dead’ written in 4 different languages: Italian, English, German and French. In the second room, a large mural installation displays the same sentence, compressed and superimposed in numberless layers, synthetically printed a thousand times in four languages on PVC material.
As a conclusion, in the last space devoted to the exhibition, two screens facing each other display thousands of web images shown at different speeds. The key words chosen to download the images from the Internet are : Black, Red and White, three colours quintessential in the constitution of symbolical representational systems in the West and in Asia. If you consider these as the sources of two continents facing each other, their uninterrupted fluxes become an opportunity for a confrontation of perspectives which appear far less diverse that they might first appear to be.


Giancarlo Pagliasso
April 2011
Translation : Didier Girard


(1) It is remarkable that in a book recently published and devoted thoroughly to this issue from a purely theoretical point of view, one may read: ‘We would like to revisit this question from the nihilistic point of view that we have unveiled in the pages above […] The thesis we wish to introduce is that the ‘death of God’, announced by Nietzsche in The Gay Science, namely the disappearance of the Supreme Being, as true achievement of the conceptual, visual and discursive order, represents the expression and the recognition of new symbolical structures with their fruitful as well as woeful excrescences.‘ (Olaf Breidbach & Federico Vercellone, Pensare per immagini. Tra arte e scienza, Milano, Bruno Mondadori, 2010, p. 31).