«Post Tenebras Spero Lucem»[1]

Or on the uselessness of the sacrifice and audacity

As the legend says, Martin Luther had the habit to fight against the devil, who often appears him, throwing the inkwells that he used in his inspired script. To testify the story, many are the stains of ink left on the wall of the places where he used to live. This way of fight generated an unexpected repercussion even for him, a man as bright as irascible.

We pose as a title of our script a sentence that could be interpreted in many ways, because the contemporary age can accept similar “funambulism”. It is not a modern invention the possibility of multiple interpretations of a text, both script and spatiality, as in the case of architecture. Dante Alighieri, for example, suggests four different interpretations of his initiation tread, common practice in all the scripts from the tradition. All those are licit interpretation, but the Modernity, proudly points out the necessity of a crisis, welcome also the illicit, that in the specific case it’s concertize in the possibility of an infinitive series of reading, in the same number of the brain, capricious or wise, which approach the text. In the Modernity the crisis is accepted and even become normal. Rather, this crisis spoils the tragic of the existence, a dance of shadow and unsolved conflict which is frightful but necessary to sail.

On the crashing then, on the revel in the storming sea, on the existential tragedy that the Expressionism elevate to an esthetic, on all of these, we have done a kind of praxis maybe not normal but at least necessary for the artistic creation. Like to say: who do not suffer is not a good artist. Rather, the art has to be the result of a fracture, an internal laceration that it’s necessary to express to sedate it, does not matter how ugly or disgusting could be. The art – and in our specific case the architecture – cannot exist without destruction, crack, that are the expression of an inner tragedy never resolved and that, obviously, never will be placated.

We notice that the modern art – in the widest sense – constantly refers to a similar conflict. The deafening scream has endured at least for four hundred years. Examples? We will not pull out to mention it, but everyone could be easy have this experience dividing on a blackboard the good to the puckish. The second will be maybe not the most numerous, but at least the most appreciate and, maybe, even the most linkable.

But, finally, why? Why the art have to be suffering? We forget the reason and, even worse, we forget to ask ourselves the question.

Why Borromini have to suicide? Why we love so much the craziness of Van Gogh, Munch and many others? Why so much fatigue? Certainly their torment let them appear us more vividly, but we need to remember that the art, traditionally, is something completely different.

Try to clean the mirror of the memory.

«Post Tenebras Spero Lucem» is the Vulgate version of a Calvinist sentence: «Post Tenebras Lux», that means, after a time of tribulation and obscurity, the renovate return of the lightness in the spiritual existence of the afflicts. Luther had his energic method to liberate himself from the grip of the Evil One, but what the evidence show that, always and anywhere, after the darkness necessarily follow the lightness. Every traditional story demonstrates it clearly. The nature of the art has similar task: art is only an explanation of a doctrine that, through the sensible form, expresses the clearness of metaphysical principles. Or: art maintain the order to the universe. The Aesthetics is definitely out of consideration. The pure form, empty of meaning, is another absurd things which we are use to believe.

«Post Tenebras Spero Lucem» is also a sentence from one of the most complex character in the history of literature: Don Quixote. The masterpiece of Cervantes has (again) a multiple of interpretations, some licit and other (the most one) illicit, but permitted. One of the characteristic of the Quixote is the endless overturning of the narrative layers. If the work is only a parody of a tale of chivalry, then it is only a play of irony, but this not happen because the text transcends the typical antinomy of the Baroque to arrive at a higher narrative layer. The parameter of the thinking cannot be categorized. It doesn’t exist a good or a bad principle; it’s impossible to consider the character and, especially, the concept as part of dialectic discussion. Everything and everybody, at the same time, are good and bad, mad and sage. And, brilliantly, the ensemble is well sewed in a coherent way. Instead generate contradiction, the oppositions is resolved in a harmonious philosophical system. The same character of Don Quixote could appear ridiculous on the surface, tragic in deep, but his final consequence is shifty and it cannot be classified because cannot be defined. It has many clues that can testify what we are saying: the episodic composition of the tale, the continue changing of the narrative layers, the fragmentation of the personality of all the characters that apparently do not respect any coherency. But at the end the coherence is evident and we can dare to say that the main idea of the novel is the wished absence of definition. Using a well-know definition, we are in front of an open work, where it’s impossible to determinate a univocal message. Using a traditional word, we can say that the work has an indefinite connotation.

We don’t want to continue in the analysis of the text of Cervantes; we would like only to emphasize that this work, in various aspects, show the impossibility of any “formal logic” or, for extension, of any form or reason. The only real knowledge is, precisely, the conjugation of the oppositions and the intellectual comprehension of metaphysical principle. Could be enough to demonstrate the episode of the Montesinos’ Grotto in the chapter 22°, Second Volume. In addition, if we consider the close relationship between the classic Spanish culture and the Arabian philosophy in particular Sufi, we can find a notable connection between the annulment of the meaning used in Cervantes and the idea of fanā (in Arabian فناء) – translated in «extinction» – and especially fanā al-fanā, or the «extinction of the extinction», that entails not only the extinction of the being – that in metaphysical point of view could be still considered something –, but the extinction of the idea of extinction.

A central question: what is the link between the stains of ink by Luther, the hope of the lightness after the darkness, the Montesinos’ Grotto and the extinction of the Sufi, with the architecture of the Italian architect Marcello Guido?

We could easily write a paper related to the work of Guido. We could illustrate his dissolution of the form, the frayness of the composition with the layers, the destruction of the box, the deconstruction, etc. But in fact, in this way, we do not explain anything, except an empty exercise of critic of architecture, considering only the figurative style of Marcello Guido, perhaps quote a series of trendy ideas, and repeating what others have already written without add anything really significant.

For this reason we decide to consider the work of Guido inside a larger scenario, trying to understand why the composition of space and architectonic forms has the necessity to be destroyed in such a violent way.

Why take a form and explode it? Why crush the space and force the people to use the space that show tension and lacerations. We say this in the full admiration and respect of Guido’s work. We are personally fascinated and very close the compositive work of this architect. What we are writing should not take as an argument or a demolition of his work. And we are not even suggesting being back to the order, because a similar solution it’s impossible.

It exists, in fact, a dissolution even more deep of what we can imagine. The losses of the unity of thinking on the contemporary philosophy is not expressed by the Avant-garde tendency. The work of Marcello Guido, and many others, do not testify themselves the losses of the unity of thinking and the manifestation of the breaking.

What really let the crisis be evident is the coexistence of different tendency (architectonic, poetical, artistic, philosophical, and so on) in the same place and in the same time. The crisis it is not illustrate formally by the Deconstruction, but by the concurrent presence of Deconstruction, vernacular, Rationalism Spanish Style (or other by your choice) that go arm in arm in every city around the world.

This losses of coherency let the decomposition be evident because testify a fragmentation of the thinking is much more violent of any aggression on the form that Marcello Guido has ever done.

We notice a great formal connection between the ink blot on a surface (on the wall of the room where Luther meditate, in specific) and the architecture of Guido. In both of the case, it occurs an inner fighting between incompatible position, or in other words, the losses of harmony that in the tradition always drive the artistic action. The Montesinos’ Grotto and the extinction of the Sufi should let us to think about every work in art, include architecture, should not adhere on a philosophical unerring principle – Deconstruction or Rationalism or Spanish Style or vernacular is the same –, but it should be the expression of knowledge. Every battle, especially the ideological one, have always very high costs and we are auditing for a very long time to a dispute between “Avant-garde and traditionalism” that, frankly talking, have the only result to deafen, showing only a obstinate persistence that have no result at all.

In the motto «Post Tenebras Spero Lucem», it is implicit a hope against the evidence the necessity of illumination even in front of an evident disaster. But also it has a metaphysics meaning: the illumination of the knowledge.

We are perfectly conscious of the maturity of the composition, of the philosophy and professional skill of Marcello Guido, and sincerely we admire his work. We wish at the same time give him a question that, hopefully, could lead him in the following phases of his evolution: which is the educative goal? his work which knowledge and which example could give to the people who inside his architecture live the spaces?

Aśvaghosa at the end of Saundaramanda suggests an answer, saying that the poem was «made, not to give delight, but do give peace».


[1]1 This paper has the intention to be simple. For this reason we avoid to insert erudite quote and reference to the traditional study. It’s is better to notice this because some note could be questionable. But similar choice is lied by the necessity to concentrate the discussion on the essential elements of the critical discussion. To delve into the issue of the difference in between the concept of traditional art and the modern one, we invite to consult the fundamental book: Ananda K. Coomarawamy, Selected Papers. Traditional Art and Symbolism, Princeton University Press, 1986.