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© Pompeii Commitment. Archaeological Matters, a project by the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, 2020. Project Partner: MiC.
All archival images and photographs taken at the Archaeological Park of Pompeii are used with permission from MiC-Ministry of Culture-Archaeological Park of Pompeii. Any copies or reproductions are strictly forbidden.

Adrián Villar Rojas. From the series The End of Imagination

Commitments 48    28•07•2022

1-2. Images:

Adrián Villar Rojas
From the series The End of Imagination, 2022
digital photographies of the photocopies of the printed photographies taken from Antonio Varone, TITULORUM GRAPHIO EXARATORUM QUI IN C.I.L. VOL. IV COLLECTI SUNT IMAGINES, Studies of the Archaeological Superintendence of Pompeii, L’Erma di Bretschneider, Roma, 2012
Production and editing: Malena Cocca
Production assistant: Laura Mariano
Courtesy the Artist © Adrián Villar Rojas

On the occasion of the exhibition Pompei@Madre. Materia archeologica (19.11.2017-30.04.2018) Adrián Villar Rojas presented four elements of a previous environmental installation, Rinascimento (2015), which he reconfigured in the form of a possible archaeological find, depicting the interaction of animal, mineral, plant and fossil traces of the Anthropocene world. These elements were integrated with the other elements in the room – tools used in the daily work of Pompeian archaeologists (baskets, lanterns, brushes, picks, sieves), examples of Pompeian excavation diaries from the 18th and 19th centuries and other archiving and research equipment – and yet they seemed to be out of focus, suggesting a sort of a “glitch”: evoking an unknown civilisation, close to the contemporary one, and yet already apparently extinct – they seemed to come not from the past, but from the present or, perhaps, the future.
Villar Rojas’ contribution to the definition of the multi-authorial and progressive episteme of Pompeii Commitment. Archeological Matters now consists of the activation of a further process and interweaving, corresponding to the ongoing series The End of Imagination (2022). The process/interweaving activated by the artist and initiated through his interest in the two volumes of Antonio Varone TITULORUM GRAPHIO EXARATORUM QUI IN C.I.L. VOL. IV COLLECTI SUNT IMAGINES (Studies of the Archaeological Superintendence of Pompeii, L’Erma di Bretschneider, Roma, 2012), involves four steps, which imply a lot of intricacy and layering:

– Walking around archaeological sites in Pompeii, while photographing digitally the two volumes in their entirety;
– Printing of the resulting files;
– Photocopying of the prints;
– Photographing digitally of the photocopies.

Starting from initial analogue images published in the books, proceeding to digitally photographing them during extensive walks in the same archaeological site where the objects published in the books have been originally photographed, printing the photographs and depriving them of any possible colouring, photocopying the prints and then digitally photographing them again, Villar Rojas arrives at the substance of a final image that is analogue and yet, at the same time, it is not, that it is digital and yet, at the same time, it is not. Having been degraded, or rather modified, in the previous steps, the final image does not correspond to the criteria of high resolution, virtual correspondence and immersive illusion of the digital episteme, with its screen enthusiasm, its programmed illusion that physical and historical realities can convey to their digital reproduction and transmission. On the contrary, Villar Rojas’s digital image is the embodiment of what we might call digital archaeology or digital palaeontology, or, to use a neologism, a “digitalogy”: that is to say, a piece of debris, a fragment, a remnant, a find, a ruin of the digital episteme, despite this still being in the process of formation, almost an archaeological NFT that seems to be the residual 2D evidence of a 3D hypothetical multiverse.
Even in the identification of the volumes photographed, Villar Rojas emphasises the intrinsic sedimentation, poly-dimensionality and multi-temporality of his images. The two photocopied volumes present a review of the graffiti inscriptions still existing in Pompeii: electoral slogans, shop signs and advertising messages, witty exchanges, but first and foremost names of characters now unknown but who populated the streets and enlivened the everyday activities and the collective imagination of Pompeii. The two volumes record the patient cataloguing of this ancient graffiti, an editorial activity which involved surveying and photographing the grooves on the walls on which they were inscribed, and the application of certain specific techniques for their documentation and reproduction, such as frottis or the creation of an apograph. In particular, the latter technique involves making a faithful copy of an inscription by tracing it with a felt-tip pen on acetate foil, first placed on the wall and then transferred onto glossy paper at a desk or by means of frottage with a pencil. In a way, it is as though the subject of the book identified was, for Villar Rojas, the very first “copy” (the master-copy) of a possible original, as well as the intuitive implementation of future photocopies.
As Villar Rojas himself states: “The idea of buying an original book was never, and is not now, on the economic horizon of an art student in Rosario; nobody studies from the original books. From the beginning of the 1990s until the middle of the first decade of 2000 (when the situation changed radically with the progressive consolidation of the Internet), all Argentine students of humanistic, social, artistic pursuits studied from blurred photocopies of photocopies. Contact with the original book could – and still may – never occur. In the case of the School of Fine Arts in Rosario, where I studied, these photocopied books, or cuadernillos, have the peculiarity of reproducing not only words but also images as an essential part of the books from which they are compiled. In the case of books entirely composed of writing, loss of clarity of letters caused by generating a photocopy from another photocopy causes havoc on readability, generally turning the cuadernillos into a sort of hieroglyphic table that students must decipher. But in the case of the visual arts, the effects of the loss of information when making a copy from another one already has an ontological character, that is, it modifies the “subject matter”. The photocopy from which a new generation of photocopies starts may already be a hyper-degraded residue, a distant echo of something lost and unattainable: the first photocopy taken directly from the page of the book where the photographic reproduction of, for example, Goya’s paintings is by no means a proxy for the original painting in a museum. The epistemological effect of these unplanned mutations of the “original copy” (which occur, say, like a virus as it replicates) on a generation of art students throughout the period of technological hegemony of photocopying as a study tool, is almost a pedagogical-conceptual operation, only it lacks the requisite intentionality. Rather, it has the same empirical matrix as the way Western Europe absorbed “ancient Greek and Roman art” and enshrined (particularly with Renaissance and Neoclassicism) the random and contingent effects that the passing of time and history have on the remnants of Greece that arrived through the Roman Empire, which also had become a remnant itself when it reached the hands of Modernism: a residue (Rome) of a residue (Greece)”.
Envisioned at the height of the period of the pandemic (defined by some as the “Coronacene”), the artist, his co-workers and the team of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii itself seem to have shared the need, working together on this project, to resume the obsolete practice of photocopying, or fast photography, in order to transmit information perceived to be relevant but endangered. As it often happens within his projects, Villar Rojas worked collectively, multiplying not only the steps but also the image-producing subject, the creation of which also involved several sites, from the library and storerooms of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii to the artist’s studio in Rosario, Argentina. By folding objects and subjects in on themselves, as by entangling different spaces and times, Villar Rojas defines the fundamentals of a cognitive experience that cannot be defined, or cannot be defined unambiguously, and that also escapes the oppositional and binary logic of the digital world (based on the relationship 0 and 1), thereby short-circuiting in this case also the expectations of a digital publication such as the portal of Pompeii Commitment. Archeological Matters.
Neither original nor copies, neither organic nor inorganic, Villar Rojas’s projects and works are at the same time, as Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev writes, “remakes” and “reboots”, retrospective and perspective stratifications. Like the Pompeian artefacts, they consist as much in what they preserve as in what they have lost, they are catalysts of the future imbued with the past, containing ancestral and futuristic, post-apocalyptic and sci-fi traces, both real and possible, whose monumentality is cross-fertilised in the remembering, or in the omen, of their transformation into something else.
Like every earlier and subsequent work by the artist, Villar Rojas’s contribution to the portal of Pompeii Commitment. Archeological Matters thus appears as a continuum that not only takes on the contours of a memorial, but also calls up a palimpsest of possibilities to come. As a reworking of the ephemeral activity of each residue, of its sensitive and epistemological vibration and of its constant reprocessing as a material and intellectual “remnant”, also the cuadernillos to which Villar Rojas refers in this project narrate – as expressed by the archaeologist Salvatore Settis on this same portal – the irrepressible Pathosformel, the endless imagination of every image, irrespective of which period of the past, present or future it may belong. This is how Pompeii and archaeology in general become, for Villar Rojas, an imaginative memory, the testimony of something that may have already happened, or may not yet have happened, but which is in reality already happening… between Greece and Rome, or between one photocopy and another, with bated breath before a “glitch”. AV

Thanks to: Malena Cocca, Adrián Villar Rojas Studio; Antonio Varone, former Director of Pompeii excavations; Anna Maria Sodo, Director of the Boscoreale site

Home Page Image: Adrián Villas Rojas, From the series The End of Imagination, 2022. © Adrián Villar Rojas. Courtesy the Artist

Adrián Villar Rojas (b. 1980, Rosario. Lives and works nomadically) conceives long term projects, collectively and collaboratively produced, that take the shape of large-scale and site-specific installations, both massive and fragile. Their dreamlike and fantastical, hypothetical and ephemeral feautures suggest the contours of natures and cultures already vanished or that do not yet exist, embodying the very possibility of the multiverse. Within his research, which mixes sculpture, drawing, video, literature and performative traces, the artist explores the conditions of a humanity at risk, on the verge of extinction or already extinct, in which he traces the multi-species boundaries of a post-anthropocene time folded on itself, in which past, present and future converge. After his Fine Arts studies at the University of Rosario, Villar Rojas started activating his “theater company”, as he defines the group of his close collaborators: artists, craftsmen and technicians who, under the supervision of the artist, collaborate with him for extended periods of time on his in situ projects. Recent solo exhibitions have been presented at Oude Kerk, Amsterdam and Tank Shanghai (2019), Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2018), The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, Los Angeles, NEON Foundation at Athens National Observatory, Athens, Kunsthaus Bregenz and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2017), Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Torino and Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2015), Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London, MoMA PS1, New York and Museum Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich (2013), Musée de Louvre, Paris (2011). Participation in international group exhibitions include the 13th and 12th Gwangju Biennale (2020, 2018), 2nd Lahore Biennial and the Dhaka Art Summit (2020), 14th and 12th Istanbul Biennial (2015, 2012)12th Bienal de La Habana and 12th Sharjah Biennial (2015), dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel and Kabul and The New Museum Triennial, New York (2012), 54th Venice Biennale, Argentina’s National Pavilion (2011).Villar Rojas has been awarded the Sharjah Biennial Prize (2015), the Zurich Art Prize, Museum Haus Konstruktiv (2013), the 9th Benesse Prize, at the 54th Venice Biennale (2011), the Nuevo Banco de Santa Fe Scholarship for Young Artists (2006)and the First Prize in the National Art Biennial of Bahía Blanca, Argentina (2005). In 2020 he was nominated for the Hugo Boss PrizeHis 2013 film Lo que el fuego me trajo (What the fire brought me), screened at the Locarno International Film Festival (2013) and his 2017 film trilogy The Theater of Disappearance screened at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival (2017).



“Digitalogy”: Between Digital Archaeology and Digital Palaeontology

  28 • 07 • 2022

Retrospective and perspective stratifications, for the decay and the endless interpretation of the image


The Sator Square from the Palestra Grande


Stratigraphy of the Eruption

Pompeii Commitment

Adrián Villar Rojas. From the series The End of Imagination

Commitments 48 28•07•2022