Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone besmear'd with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war's quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
'Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes.
-William Shakespeare, Sonnet 55
Time destroys all; but love will last forever in the words of this poem. Nicola Toffolini focuses on the antagonist in this poem – and through his work explores just how indestructible the forces of nature can be; how it can “wear this world out to the ending doom”.
Nicola Toffolini was the summer 2011 artist in residence in Guilmi, Abruzzo. Nicola works with nature and the idea capturing and taming it. In Nicola’s past work he created the environment for nature, construction miniature hermetically sealed greenhouses (ie. Ciclico ambiente polifonico per piante claustrofobiche, installation 2003) that are displayed as sacred relics. However in Guilmi he had to work within the environment, essentially trying to trap it from the inside – a reversal of his usual work.
Nicola’s usual pieces are very precise. He works with nature; but this does not mean that he only uses natural objects. Nicola had his Anemometer flag (part of one of the installations in Guilmi) made from polyester and the pole made from steel. The production actually posed a problem for him, as he did not have access to specialized craftsmen, but plumbers and woodworkers. He did, however, find a store in the nearby area of San Salvo which specialized in flag making. Other works in this series of installations are less manufactured; they can be likened to Giuseppe Penone’s Tree Series (1968-1978) in which he placed cast steel reproductions of his hand on trees outside.
In the forest you come to a grouping of trees, all attached by bridges; strange branch-mimicking forms. The color is abrasive to the eye; an obviously unnatural blue. There is something very industrial about it; like a color that would be found on scaffolding. The stones below are pure white; no tree could have grown from this hard land. Nicola cleared away all the dead branches that had fallen to the ground, as well as the ones still left on the trees, and all the small rocks in the area. Clean white stones were brought from the nearby river and placed onto the cleared earth. Wood was cut into varied sizes, painted a sapphire blue, and placed between the thin trees. Nicola creates tension between the trees by placing these pieces of wood between them. He creates a disturbance in the equilibrium of nature. He binds the wood tightly to each tree; this binding strangles the trees and keeps them from swaying and growing as they naturally do.
His work is entropic. It is not meant to last. The foreign objects placed in nature are subject to the changes intrinsic to it. They are placed, quite literally, in the middle of nature; between two living forces (each tree), and under the influence of the open forest. Eventually nature will break through this invasion in order to regain its balance. Over a period of time, grass will start to break through each space between the stones and disturb the man made garden, the trees will bend in the wind and grow in different directions; breaking the frail wooden bridges, rain will wash away the blue paint. The deterioration of these man-made objects will become apparent, and these effects are part of the artwork.
Nicola Toffolini is not good to nature. Nature is not good to us. Nicola facilitates an interaction between human intervention and natural forces in order to provoke these forces to revolt against us. This revolt shows us its indestructibility and power.