Are We to Suppose... Francesco Pedraglio
Are We to Suppose... Francesco Pedraglio

Are We to Suppose... Francesco Pedraglio

Are We to Suppose that They Refer to Vulgar Gold and Silver?

A fictional reading of allsopp&weir;’s video Grass, Breath, Spit, Trumpet with Paracelsus as the ‘old man’.

‘When the alchemists speak of gold and silver, from which they extract their matter, are we to suppose that they refer to the vulgar gold and silver?
By no means; vulgar silver and gold are dead, while those of the alchemists are full of life’
Paracelsus lays down on the field, knees on the grass and mouth wide open. In front of him, carefully stuck on the ground, the ‘device’ is set up and ready to be used. The arrangement and the positioning are fundamental: one metal tube, a brass trumpet, a few metres apart from one another and enough space left around him to perform all the required steps.
Certainly this is not a proper position for a man of his age and rank, but being completely absorbed by research is a strong antidote to any sort of distraction or discretion, if we don’t consider the pain of his numbing bones that from time to time obliges him to take a break.
For the moment all he needs to know is that these series of actions he is going to perform with the ‘device’ could easily symbolise an evolution from an imperfect, diseased, corruptible and ephemeral state towards a perfect, healthy, incorruptible and everlasting condition. And he knows also that the mechanical repentance of these moves is the key to make this evolution possible.
Applied to his persona, these clumsy efforts represent his evolution from
ignorance to enlightenment, and the constant dedication to these actions represents some hidden truth or power that would lead to that goal.
He always maintained that alchemy is a practice that implies a process of transmuting common objects or situations, usually of little value, into a something of great worth.
Now there he is: the grass, a metal tube, a trumpet and his breath. Every single step, no matter how simple and repetitive, has to be amplified with attention and dedication to obtain another level of significance. It is no more about the tube or the trumpet; it is about a completely new set of rules that drives a third reality consisting of the peculiar encounter between these two objects and their laws of operating.
“So are we to suppose that he refers to vulgar gold and silver?” people used to ask him. Now he is too concentrated on the ‘device’ and on every single movement of his body to formulate any answer. But he definitely knows that it is not a problem of gold or silver; it is a matter of translating raw actions into occult rhythm and transmuting simple objects into powerful tools to rewrite reality around him. Any of these looped actions, once processed through the ‘device’, alter the linear perception of our system to judge objects and their relations. Another Copernican epiphany is about to come, a new idiom could be created.
He is now talking a secret language. Lie on the ground, mouth wide open, a bite to the grass, then up on his knees and
down again on the ground to spit it out. The action is perpetuated continuously so that every single movement becomes a self-standing frame existing ‘per se’, photographed again and put back together next to the others to give more important ingredients to the recipe: time creates a new alphabet.
Down on the ground, bite, up, down again and spit. Grass, Breath, Spit, Trumpet.
Nothing has to be accidental, nothing is fortuitous: it is true that this is the first time he is using the new ‘device’ outdoors, but he obviously tested it out before compromising the possible results of his research as well as the precious machinery with unexpected interferences. You never know. Too many unpredictable variants out there, and the ‘device’ is too precious, too delicate to be exposed to any risk.
The first indoor experiment was what a scientist would call a failure and what an alchemist would call a step towards the truth, a deep step indeed. But now the conditions are favourable: a tube, a trumpet, a few metres distance and some space to operate.
Paracelsus maintains a strict interest in the changes of matter, and for him the ‘device’ is an application of the fundamental science to investigate nature.
And yet, if he is used to repeatedly speak of experience and observation as the true keys to nature, he is also maintaining a fervent belief in a universe unified through the relationship of the useful with the pointless. It is not simply about taking the single action into account; instead it is about connecting all the frames as they
were letters of an unknown alphabet to compose new meaningful sentences. He is drawing a map of new traceable values.
Now he has been performing for a while; he is getting tired. He stops for a few minutes just to feel his knees again. How can people not understand? Everything is so simple and straightforward.
It is a matter of mechanical composition and analogical translation: vulgar objects, experienced through a not-yet-codified composition of movements, lose their linear significance to become hints of a secret reality. At the same time it is a pure concept of resonance: break up the action into simple particles to then recompose it, after being processed step by step – frame by frame – in the exact same sequence to obtain a new and secret reverberation.
Here is Paracelsus’ epiphany: move after move, the banal composition of elements and objects transmute into an unexpected rhythm. The ‘device’ seems to have worked.
Now we can hear the trumpet, stumbling, but we can hear it.
Paracelsus takes another little break, then down on the ground again. Grass, Breath, Spit, Trumpet.

Francesco Pedraglio
(text for exhibition publication, An Approximate Call, allsopp&weir;, Permanent Gallery Brighton, 2007)