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Giuseppe Penone

Respirare l’ombra 2000


Breathing shade. Shade beneath laurel trees.Hot sun of the Mediterranean. Your lungs fill with the scent as you inhale deeply. The air you breathe penetrates to the shadow areas of the body.Bright air reaches the darkness of the body’s interior.

Mounted on one of the inner walls of the synagogue of Stommeln are 28 wire cages out of chicken wire, filled with laurel leaves. Different methods of stacking the leaves have resulted in a dynamic structure in richly varied hues of green. A pungent scent of laurel fills the air. Level with the potential physiological position of the lungs of a human being is a sculpture made of bronze, a lung-like form consisting of bronze leaves.

The lung with its bronchi and millions of alveoli forms the notched and folded membrane toward the body’s interior, whose total surface area equals roughly the size of two football fields.The overall surface of the laurel leaves in this work by Penone is likely to be larger yet. The pillows, for instance, seem a little like the microscopic enlargements of parts of the lung.Starting in the oral cavity, the respiratory apparatus initially branches into the bronchi, and the ever more delicate ramifications of bronchioles end eventually into the individual chambers of the alveoli.If you invert this structure by 180 degrees, you will quickly see an analogy to the structure of plants and trees. Departing from the trunk, a tree will branch into ever finer limbs down to the individual leave which converts light and carbon dioxide into starch. As plants breathe carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, growing and providing shade as they do, the creatures generally grouped together as fauna breathe oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. The structural principles underlying this dichotomy of life resemble each other and operate in sync as the vast machine of ecological circulation systems. From the days of antiquity, analogies such as these have given rise to manifold speculation and particularly to the search for relations between us humans and the life forms around us.

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Diashow (3 Pictures)

Synagogue Stommeln, Giuseppe Penone, Installation View

Installation View

Synagogue Stommeln, Giuseppe Penone, Installation View, Detail

Installation View, Detail