Violating Matter: Works by Arcangelo Sassolino



“Creating, I ask myself: why not try and strain the materials to the limit of their resistance? Why not force to the limit the characteristics of the matter, causing the unexpected to emerge from it as form and as sound?” Arcangelo Sassolino


A few years ago we enjoyed “Afasia 1″ a powerful installation by Italian artist Arcangelo Sassolino at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, in which a large metal cage hosted a nitrogen-powered sculpture, a device shooting empty beer bottles against a wall at 600 km/h. The shooting occurred randomly every few minutes and the sound of the smashed glass resonated all over the rooms, marking the presence of the installation in every corner of the large exhibition centre. To wait for the explosion to happen, with curiosity and a slight sense of anxiety, resulted in one of the most remarkable impressions an art-piece has provoked in us in a long time.




Photo by We-Make-Money-Not-Art




Realizing just recently that we haven’t came across any new Sassolino work lately, we wanted to fill this gap presenting a small selection of the artworks produced by this artist.
(Videos are linked whenever possible since the photos fail to describe the power of these kynetic works)


“Untitled 2012″ was shown in an exbition held last year in La Strozzina, Firenze entitled “Francis Bacon and the Existential Condition in Contemporary Art”.



Photo courtesy Strozzina – Photo by Pamela Randon




Description from the Strozzina site:

A heavy industrial piston is linked to an oil hydraulic system and set up following the longitudinaldirection of the room. Another component of the work is a thick rope, a naval dockyard hawser, which traverses the entire length of the room at the height of the visitors’ eyes. The rope passes through the piston and its ends are tied around two thick wooden beams anchored between the stone doorposts of the two entrances at opposite ends of the room.

Without warning and at irregular intervals the hydraulic system is activated and starts up the action of the piston that gradually pulls the rope taut. The traction is increased slowly until breaking point is reached, but just before the irreparable happens the piston eases the tension causing the entire system to return to a state of precarious calm. The image evoked is that of a violent clamp, a vice that begins to squeeze slowly and then, without warning, releases its grip. The strain increases to the point of becoming almost unbearable, the tension heightens to a spasm, to the maximum resistance of the materials of the various components.

This play of balanced forces applies also in the relationship between the entire system and the architectural structure housing it, but above all in the relationship between the object and thespectator, who is put in a state of psychological tension and direct confrontation with the risks of the work. Everything takes place in an agonizing silence: only the faint hissing sound of the
hydraulic system working the piston and the acoustic effects produced by the friction, impact or yielding of the materials are perceived.

Stressing the limits of the materials’ resistance and contemplating the risk of their collapse are two major subjects in Sassolino’s research which merges art with physics. The tension and the expectation that come with the awareness of this risk play a huge role in the viewers experience.



A selection of other works:


“Time Tomb”, 2010
Exhibited in the Z33 space in Hasselt, Belgium, it’s a huge metronome made by two metal I beams each 7 metres long  which swing back and forth thanks to a pneumatic mechanism. Two tombstones from the church ruin close to the exhibition centre are attached at each end of the beams and create balance.







“Untitled” (Spaccalegno), 2008

A piston exerts pressure on a wood block until this one breaks up.







“Rimozione”, 2004

20 square metres of the floor of a art gallery in Verona, including the whole concrete structure and cladding, are cut and removed and then suspended over their original position. Underneath, the bare soil is exposed.






“Elisa”, 2012

It’s a hybrid machine made up by four mechanical digger parts hydraulically animated by a random generator. Set in a open area, while moving, the machine scratches the asphalt producing menacing sounds.




Photo courtesy Galerie Nicola von Senger Photo Stefania Facco







Read/see more:

Arcangelo Sassolino on WMMNA

Arcangelo Sassolino on the Strozzina site

Tre opere di Arcangelo Sassolino / Three works by Arcangelo Sassolino in video


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  1. says

    I was happy to find this post, I saw Sassolino’s “Untitled” (Spaccalegno) at Art Basel years ago but never took note of the artist’s name. The Chris Burden / Survival Research Laboratories references / comparisons are obvious (tho not problematic), I must say I enjoy Sassolino’s choice of minimalist aesthetics when creating such engines of destruction.

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