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La cathedrale engloutie: Music as Specter

Alejandra Aguado, catalogue of the exhibition Music Stand Still at S.M.A.K, Belgium | 2011

Music is an echo of the invisible world.
Giuseppe Mazzini

The power of Jorge Macchi´s work, lies as much in what is said as in what is kept silent. It could be said that his work vacillates between large presences and absences: almost ghost-like, it operates according to what is revealed or vanishes in situations that perplex us. One of the major entities or phenomena that undergoes this manipulation in his work is sound, which comes before us in a wide variety of intensities, from mute evocations to elaborate compositions. Macchi’s particular fascination with Claude Debussy’s work for piano The Sunken Cathedral (1) might allow us to begin to understand the intention that lies behind the changes that the state of sound experiences in his work (and also to evidence a number of its recurring themes). Based on a Breton myth in which a cathedral emerges from the depths of the sea on clear mornings as a reminder of a lost city, Debussy’s piece alludes to the sound of that cathedral’s bells and its organ as it travels from the bottom of the ocean to the surface and then sinks again, moving into the distance. Like Debussy, Macchi discovers something hidden and gives voice to something supposedly mute. He also shares Debussy’s determination to communicate the existence of something as a sort of sensorial experience: things aren´t declared or described, but felt on the surface of the skin. Furthermore, Macchi is inspired by the same movement between sinking and surfacing. In a progression like that of the music of the cathedral, Macchi’s work conveys a sound sometimes hushed, as if the artist had smothered it or it had been swallowed up or infected by the material; timidly brought to the surface from a parallel or underground world; and uncovered or revealed, as if it were part of the very surface of things, coming before us like a revelation.

            The relationship between Macchi’s work and music is not coincidental. From early on, he was captivated by music and decided to study piano at the age of fifteen. But he had to work his way around his difficulty reading music to be able to make progress. According to Macchi, that impediment meant that he would memorize the pieces he wanted to play, which implied an endless and arduous struggle against forgetting:

When I was a teenager I decided to learn piano. I studied intensely for eight years. But I had two serious problems: I had no ear, and it was difficult for me to read sheet music. I’ve always admired people who sit down in front of a score and begin to play. That was something that took me months. And because it was so complicated, by sheer will I made myself learn the music by heart as quickly as possible. But in order to retain the notes in my head, I needed to play all the pieces I knew every day. As soon as I stopped playing them, I’d forget them and I had to return to the torture of the score. During a certain period, I didn’t have a piano. Then, when I finally did have the possibility of getting a piano again, I felt incapable of doing anything with it. I couldn’t remember the pieces I had once known, I couldn’t improvise, and I couldn’t read my old sheet music. (2)

            By the time Macchi gave up the piano, his artistic inclination had begun to veer towards the visual arts. But he was never far from music and the elements that make up its world: these became key to his visual art, which is steeped in the imaginary of music. Though seemingly irrelevant to the analysis of the work of a visual artist, this anecdote about Macchi’s relationship to music contains a number of elements that persist in his work at the level of motif, theme and resource: the loop or a detained, circular and interminable time that, as the anecdote tells us, indicates a need to repeat in order to avoid forgetting; the race against time –the desire that it be put to a halt in order not to lose memory; the awareness and fear that anything can happen at any moment, like forgetting or error; the experience of the nightmare or of insomnia, a sort of torture in which one does not fall asleep to keep from forgetting; frustration; threat; vanishing and emptying out, as with the loss of memory; the act of grasping onto something, usually something fragile or weak, like a memory or a piece of paper; and the pursuit of a task that we cannot avoid. A collection of small dramas that ensues between love and lovelessness, encounter and misencounter and that, in his work as a whole, explore themes like the unfathomable nature of time and fate, the fleetingness and fragility of existence and its ultimately solitary and mysterious quality.

            There are several possible ways to discuss Jorge Macchi’s artistic project: in terms of the media that he uses (drawing, painting, collage, sculpture, installation, photography, video, performance); in terms of the pivotal points around which his work revolves (light-darkness, sound-silence, emptiness-fullness, presence-absence, chance-fate); in terms of the daily objects that he chooses, like the elements that order and structure the world (maps, newspapers, punctuation marks, sheets for writing, travel guides, music stands); in terms of elements like water, light, music, shadow, mirror; or in terms of the exploration of recurring ideas like fate, emptiness, solitude, loss, disappearance, accident and frustration. This text focuses on works in which the motif of music plays a key role on either an auditory or visual level. Through them, it will attempt to discover the strategies and elements that render Macchi’s work a magical and highly suggestive place where certainties are blurred and we are invited to experience a reality in which what is barely seen and barely heard takes on a complex, dramatic and unusual presence.


            In 1993, Jorge Macchi created the work Pentagrama [Pentagram]: a pillow held against the wall by five parallel strings; at the end of the strings, which run across the pillow horizontally, there are springs. This is probably the first work by Macchi that makes such direct reference to music and that connects it to sleep –or to nightmare and insomnia. Anticipating the synthetic and concentrated nature of Macchi’s future work, in this image the everyday objects exhibited vacillate between a zero degree of meaning (by which I mean the objects’ meaning and basic functions: these objects are what they are and do what they do: strings, springs and pillows that hold each other up) and an unpredictable extension of their possibilities in terms of meaning and suggestion.

            What do we see beyond these objects? Beyond a pillow held against the wall by the brute force of some strings that keep it upright, that don’t let it sag or fall? Might the vibrations of what resonates in the form of the pentagram have been smothered or absorbed by the feather object? What is this asphyxia, this silencing? There are no clear answers. The meanings of this work –and this holds true for all of Macchi’s work– are not definite, stable or univocal. But they somehow convey a series of sensations that come before us as undeniable truths.

            Pentagrama is one of several mute works: silenced musical presences. In them, there is a certain sense of unease due to looking at a musical element in absolute silence. And from this conflict many others arise. The sculpture Music Stands Still (2007) consists of three music stands on whose structure are written the words that create the title’s pun. The work thus contradicts the temporal nature of music, freezing it, placing us in a state of limbo between silence and the possibility of sound that will never come. Here, the natural course of things is frustrated, infecting the viewer with a desire for that endless silence, that stillness prior to existence, to be done away with. In Nocturno [Nocturne] (2004), we come upon a sort of act of revenge against the support of musical notation: two pages of sheet music are passionately, almost violently attached to the wall by too many nails which also serve to replace the notes in the melody, both writing it and covering it up. The nails cast a shadow, a dark cloak, over the pages, covering the score. 5 Notes (2007) is another sheet of music that hangs in the wind from five wire strings that pierce the sheet at five spots, thus indicating the notes of a possible melody that is at once written and erased (perforated). 85 cajas vacías [85 Empty Boxes] (2010) consists of black and white rectangular boxes placed on the floor to give shape to a life-size piano that seems to have lost its ability to emit sound: the hollowness of the boxes evokes a sound sunk and emptied into the floor, a sound that has crossed over into an underground world.

            If in these works contradiction is the primary means of generating a sense of strangeness, in others this contradiction is furthered by the fact that the objects involved are dominated by strange forces. In Still Song (2005) –whose title returns to the theme of immobility– we are faced with the impossible fact that, in an almost indecent exhibition, the rays of light emitted by a disco ball hanging in a well-lit room have perforated the walls where the light has hit in an inconceivable act of materialization. In the artist’s book La Ascensión [The Ascent] (2005), the lines of the pentagrams on empty sheet music gradually ‘ascend’ page after page, moving towards the upper end of the page until they collapse into it. Shy (2008), on the other hand, consists of smooth white sheets hanging from the wall. We can see the lines that make up the pentagram drawn on the wall behind the sheet, as if they had withdrawn, seeking refuge behind the piece of paper.

            In these extremely simple, easy-to-make works –they are not the result of an elaborate composition but of a simple, though astonishingly precise, movement– we see a strategy common in the art of Jorge Macchi: presenting us with actual unforeseen juxtapositions that unleash revelatory visions, juxtapositions of supposedly unrelated, distant or opposing entities that meet and imbue one another. The revelation does not ensue in the work itself –there is nothing explicit here– but in the viewer: it is an idea that comes to us as a result of this somewhat coincidental and unlikely combination. It is like a vision, a hallucination that takes place in the blink of an eye and that leaves us with the feeling that, if we blink again, we will quite likely no longer see what we have just discovered and everything will go on being simply what it is.

            As these works demonstrate, the everyday and the minimal are essential points of departure in Macchi’s artistic practice. Indeed, it is through the lifelike facade of his works that the spectral is felt. So obvious and common, the ordinary mocks us as viewers; apparently unmodified, it makes us doubt, take a second look and then discover what’s strange. The bareness of the banal, its plain, pure, unadorned presentation –in the work’s formal sobriety and austerity, even representation borders on abstraction– is what allows these things to walk the line between going unnoticed and providing us with an image from a daydream. (3)

Along these lines, and considering Macchi’s fondness for the 19 th- and 20 th- century story tradition, the concerns of his art are akin to those of the Argentine writer Julio Cortázar; in the realm of the visual arts, Macchi’s work seems to create an effect similar to the one experienced upon reading Cortázar’s stories in which, almost without realizing it, without understanding how or when or why, reality –or the world as we know it– is suddenly upset by strange phenomena. Macchi himself recalls that ‘what I liked about those stories was their ability to relate normal things that gradually change until turning into something like torture, … [and] that naturalness bared of fluidity’. ‘[I was interested in] how, through thought or observation, something normal becomes something strange’ (4). Something that provokes what Cortázar himself called ‘the sense of the fantastic’, experienced in

those situations, those eruptions, those so-called coincidences where suddenly our intelligence and sensibility are seized by the feeling that the laws that we usually follow do not apply entirely, but only partially, or are undergoing a state of exception. That sense of the fantastic, as I like to call it because I believe that it is mostly a sensation, a somewhat visceral one at that, has been with me since the beginning of my life .… I have always felt that between two things that seem perfectly defined and separate, there are gaps through which, for me at least, something that could not be explained by laws, logic or rational intelligence would slip. …. That sensation … could be called estrangement (5).


            If Pentagrama was Macchi’s first work that made explicit reference to music, his first work with music was Música incidental [Incidental Music] (1997), created in London during a residency at Delfina Studios. The title of the work refers to music conceived to accompany non-musical forms like a play or radio program. The work consists of what appear to be three pages of sheet music (230 x 150 cm) with no notes; the lines on the sheets are randomly interrupted by small blank spaces. Upon moving closer, it becomes evident that the lines are formed by text taken from newspapers –articles about crimes and accidents– and that the blanks are the spaces between news items. A set of headphones hanging down in from of the sheets transmits a sad, almost lugubrious melody played on a piano. Upon moving farther away, the blanks are revealed to be the notes that make up the melody being played.

            The power of this work resides in the unexpected correspondence between the tragedies related in the articles, the shape they assume in both the pentagram and the written music, and the fact that that written music gives rise to a melody that seems to have been composed specifically as an homage to these ordinary people, these fleetingly famous victims of a misfortune who, just as they lost their lives, will most likely lose their spot in the public eye as soon as tomorrow’s paper comes out. The word ‘incidental’ in the title alludes not only to the music that accompanies a certain mood but also to the accident or random event that caused these things to come together. Macchi’s work attempts to prove that, in fact, this was not the work of chance but of fate: everything turned out as it had to.

            This coming together also ensues between the support and sound. Time and again in Macchi’s work, music does not seem to need writing but rather to do away with the support or the structure that would make its writing possible: the pentagrams in Música incidental bear the music written on them. And that is where, in my view, the communicative power of the work lies: form and content have become indivisible. And this maximum reduction is the source of the work’s multiple meanings. To speak of an early parallel, we could say that, obliquely, something similar happens in Horizonte [Horizon] (1995), a postcard-size image that is half sea and half sky whose horizon is extended beyond the photograph by two springs: this small object holds infinity.

            The source of the sound in Música incidental is the reading of a drawing or visual pattern. It is gathered from the marks left by the order of the news articles and the way they extend on the page, a strategy that suggests, in a certain way, that everything might have music in its form. What allows that to be discovered, at least in this case, is attention to structure –sheet music as the support of writing– not the supposed content of things. Similarly, in other works the marginal, the grid, the background, the base or the frame is the initial source of that perhaps obvious yet indescribable charge –that basic, almost metaphysical content– in a sort of silent revolution of what goes unnoticed, of excess and remains, of specter. In La canción del final [The Song of the End] (2001), for instance, the credits of a film take center stage. Blurry, the lines of text scroll up the screen; each line is a sound that, we gather, is related to the length of the line, thus producing a piece of music and becoming a drawing-text. A similar formal strategy is used in Caja de música [Music Box] (2003-4), a video that, at first glance, appears to be the simple recording of the vehicles that circulate along a six-lane highway accompanied by the crystalline sound of a music box, the object in the title. Upon closer look, though, we realize that the musical notes are sounded by the vehicles that appear in the shot: the sound emerges at the moment that each car ‘strums’ or goes under the square that frames the image, as if it were the metal roller into which the music box’s rivets (cars, in this case) collide. Thus, the frame and the image that it frames collapse, coming together at the same level, giving shape to a musical device whose ‘mechanics is revealed’ to the viewer as the spirit that governs the movement of things.

            In works like Caja de música, the choice of the musical instrument is crucial to the emotional quality of the work since it has to do with the work’s referential power, the world it evokes, everything it says to our imagination and memory. Often, instruments and compositions (the results of the scales chosen) bring with them a feeling of nostalgia, a charge that is at once ingenuous and dark or grave. In Caja de música, the instrument suggests secret and intimacy. It is a symbol of the past, of something lost. At the same time, the loop of the music box evokes something eternal, something without time. Furthermore, music boxes are usually observed alone, thus making reference to introspection and the contemplation of something treasured. In this case, the video conveys all that symbolic weight: that parallel order, that world that goes unnoticed becomes a hidden treasure.

            Indeed, Macchi has actually performed daily acts to set off devices to generate music. Little Music (2008) –created in conjunction with the Argentine musician Edgardo Rudnitzky for Prospect 1, the New Orleans Biennial curated by Dan Cameron– is a good example of this. For this work, the physical act of pedaling is what reveals melodies. Intending to create a work that would dialogue with the city, Macchi and Rudnitzky manufactured five paddle boats like the ones traditionally used at the City Park before the devastation of Hurricane Katrina; the public would be able to use the boats in Bayou Saint John. According to Rudnitzky, the creative search found its course when they came upon a phrase that went something like, ‘until music comes back to New Orleans, New Orleans will never be the same’. This led Macchi and Rudnitzky to think ‘about the lack of music in a city of music’ (6).This reflection, along with the African roots of the local population and its music, inspired them to conceive of five boats whose paddles, turning to the rhythm of the pedaling, would sound a kalimba (‘little music’ in the Bantu language), a modernized version of the African instrument the mbira: the paddles play the metal keys whose sound is then amplified by a sound board attached to the boat. For the viewer, the music generated by a boat is a sweet surprise: a sound whose color sets off associations with Africa, with percussion, even with childhood. Music that awakens and comes from the water in an act of return, a brief recovery of something in which the environment itself resonates. The loop and magical harmony produced when all the boats are in motion is like an echo, an homage, and even perhaps a call to those musicians who have not returned after the tragedy. As the boats meander through the channel, the music, to those standing still, moves away and comes closer, further heightening the insinuated, even slippery nature of the work’s presence. At the same time, here the viewers are the ones who execute the work: they must become participants in the ceremony that, regardless of its joyful and leisurely spirit, is necessarily an act of social and historical consciousness. The work and what it sets off become hope and optimism: its very nostalgia is the seed of a music being born, a music that returns, a music that bears the healthy lightness and innocence with which a child plays music.


            Little Music was not the first collaborative piece by Macchi and Edgardo Rudnitzky. In 1998, back in Buenos Aires after his residency in London and motivated by his interest in theater, Macchi participated in the Taller de Experimentación Escénica, an initiative of the Fundación Antorchas that emphasized interdisciplinary work between visual artists, musicians, writers and theater directors. That is where he met Rudnitzky, one of the project’s coordinators, with whom he started collaborating (indeed, they still work together). Since 2003, they have created joint works like Buenos Aires Tour (2003), La Ascensión [The Ascent] (2005), Twilight (2006), The Singers’ Room (2006), Streamline (2006), Fim de Film (2007), Little Music (2008) and Last Minute (2009). In these projects, Rudnitzky’s collaboration has not only provided a more complex music or sound composition and a wider range of instruments in keeping with their spirit; it has also –thanks to his experience as a percussionist and his interest in the physical mechanisms that generate music, in the object that produces sound– afforded the possibility of bringing those mechanisms to the sphere of daily acts and movement in space, which is what will be discussed here. At the same time, music would continue to play a key role in the environment surrounding and the production of the phenomenon experienced by the viewers, broadening, through the instruments chosen, the content of the work.

            In opposition to the common belief that the present is fleeting, many of Macchi’s works –and of the ones he has made with Rudnitzky– attempt to hold us in the present; they pervade us with the feeling that time has stood still or that we have broken into a realm where time passes differently. This phenomenological effect is created through exhibiting time: clocks appear throughout these works, consuming and displaying the time they are charged to measure. The movement of the second hand that, again and again, counts out a minute in the work Last Minute (2009)–an installation Macchi and Rudnitzky made for the Pinacoteca of São Paulo, Brazil– condenses that sense of the perpetuation and exhibition of the present. Located in an octagonal space that acts as a quadrant, the work consists of a clock with a single, six-meter-long hand, a red second hand that, in the course of exactly one minute, rotates around an axis in the middle of the room. The second hand is surrounded by a circular rail of sixty bars that, when seen from above (which is possible due to the double-height ceiling), complete the outline of the clock. As the needle rotates, we hear a strange sound, a sort of high- and low-pitched interference, a faint sound –inaudible to our ears– that microphones and speakers strive to amplify, as if breaking the sound barrier on the side of silence. Technically, the second hand, during this minute of time, reads the architecture –the floor, to be precise. What we hear, though, is the voice of a place and of time –a short time, measured in small marks which, when amplified, render time a real presence as well. All that happens during this time is time; the change in our habit consists of the invitation to participate in a purely contemplative act where what is heeded is time itself, not what happens in it.

            If, then, in some works we are made to appreciate time as such, in others the experience of time is taken to a more unusual extreme: it is, in a certain way, slowed down; the time that we know, the time in which things happen, undergoes a transformation.

            In Twilight (2006), for instance, the fleeting ceases to be fleeting. A wholly bare work, the installation consists of a light bulb that slowly swings across a room, gradually turning off along the way. The work enacts, then, something that usually happens in an immeasurable and imperceptible fraction of time. The light bulb’s journey takes twenty long and dramatic minutes during which we hear music played on a glass harmonica (an element produced by Edgardo Rudnitzky); gradually, the music turns into noise. By the time the light bulb has come to the end of its course and the light has entirely vanished without our having realized it, the sound that we hear is only the echo of the music played minutes before and now no longer being played. And the energy that has been electrically and melodically displayed has vanished. The light turning off becomes a slow extinction, a sort of lethargy that even physically infects the viewer, who feels something has been taken away from him. The awareness of the lack of light is also slow to set in: as the light bulb dims, the viewer’s vision grows used to the penumbra. And what ‘goes by’ leaves traces in its wake: the light is doubled in its music and the music in its echo. Each one becomes the other’s ghost. In a strange dilatation of time in space and of being in time, the work leaves us with a sensation akin to the one described in ‘Dicotomía incruenta’ (Bloodless Dichotomy), a poem by the Argentine writer Oliverio Girondo:

My hand always arriveslater than another hand that mixes with mine
and forms one hand.
When I go to sit downI become aware that my bodyis sitting on another body that has just sat downwhere I am sitting.

And in the precise instant that I enter a house,
I discover that I was already there before I ever arrived.

That is why it is quite possible that I won’t attend my burial,and that while they shower me with commonplace sayings,I will already be in my tombdressed as a skeleton,
yawning at the phony expressions and weeping. (7)

            In addition to highlighting Macchi’s interest in the experience of time, Last Minute and Twilight show, in the case of the first, his interest in interaction with architecture –which, in his installations, becomes the daily object rendered strange– and, in the case of the second, in theatrical sets –dark spaces with precise lighting are found in most of Macchi’s installations, which are steeped in a sense of mystery. These two aspects have been combined to great success in La ascensión [The Ascent] (2005), created in conjunction with Rudnitzky for the Argentine delegation to the 51st Venice Biennial. In this installation, the simple placement of an object in a given context manages to trigger an array of meanings and sensations which allow us to vacillate between spiritual elevation and earthly lowness.

            La ascensión was made in an 18 th century Baroque building, the seat of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri. The ceiling of the almost perfectly square building is decorated with a fresco of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in a curved and counter-curved frame. Like the rotation of the hand of the clock and of the pedaling, and like the loop mechanism of the music box, here once again Macchi intervenes in the space with an element that alludes to what could be endless movement: directly under the fresco, he installed a blue trampoline that precisely replicates the shape of the fresco. The trampoline is a sort of fallen version of the fresco. During the night of the Biennial’s opening, an usual concert was held: a piece that Edgardo Rudnitzky had composed for viola da gamba (an instrument in the European musical tradition) and trampoline was played. An acrobat jumping to the rhythm indicated by the composer, who was also the conductor, accompanied the performer playing the stringed instrument. In subsequent days, the recording of the piece would be heard as part of the installation. In the penumbra of this solemn space, this space of ritual, worship and introspection, the absurd appearance of the trampoline unleashed a series of ambiguous and contradictory –indeed even mocking– thoughts and images, dictated by the superimposition of trampoline and ceiling, land and sky, the fiction of the image of the virgin and the material and finite reality of the blue surface, the miracle of a permanent ascent and the earthly leap that irremediably returns you to earth, insinuating the possibility of a fall to something even deeper. The work entailed the humor of the virginal blue of the trampoline –stretchy and tempting– alongside the immaculate religious figure; the solemn and elegant tone of the viola da gamba alongside the crude and vulgar bouncing of the acrobat; the respect and seriousness imposed by a religious place alongside the lightness of earthly pleasures and mere amusement. An Yves Klein blue suggests the possibility of a blind leap but, in the end, marks the limit of the material.

            Restricted light focused solely on two objects served to guide attention to this vertical stretch from floor to roof. C. Auguste Dupin, the character in Edgar Allan Poe’s story ‘The Purloined Letter’, observes that ‘If it is any point requiring reflection, we shall examine it to better purpose in the dark’, inciting an analysis of a “simple and odd mystery” that might be ‘too plain’. Perhaps this is the very reason that the lighting in Macchi’s installations is so bare and precise, combining dramatics with the need to evidence what, because so simple, could go unnoticed. In this case, that is the mirroring of the trampoline and the fresco, illuminated as a means to indicate those things whose nature has been penetrated as if by a gust of wind. Furthermore, this sparse lighting gives the work a theatrical quality that accentuates the performative and musical quality of its components. And in the endless bouncing of the acrobat, the music reinforces this presence of the strange, of that which is asserted and denied; it is constituted in the revelation itself. In addition to alluding to the original function of the oratory and of bringing the space back to life as such (8), the music is the signal that uncovers the paradox. It is not background or accompaniment, but fiction and ritual. Thus, like the shadow that rises above the sheet music in Nocturno, the sound of the acrobat is projected onto the image of the Assumption, dimming it.

            Music runs through Macchi’s artistic practice as form and content, causing it to resonate and ordering an existence whose nature is unknown to us. Music dresses and undresses the object or the aspect of daily life on which the artist focuses, giving us a hint about how to penetrate that parallel world that he sets before us. The temporal and emerging nature of music–the fact that it ‘happens’ in time– heightens the visionary and mysterious quality of Macchi’s work, as his work happens at the moment that, in our consciousness, we catch a glimpse of that strange presence, that surprising image, that coexistence of opposites. Like a specter –and like that cathedral that reemerges in memory of a lost city to which Debussy referred– music comes before us as apparition, as consciousness, as mirage and duplication.

            In his essay ‘Image and Text’, the German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer asserts that the art of his (and our) time has something to say and that its messages are held in ‘gestures’:

What a gesture expresses is ‘there’ in the gesture itself. A gesture is something wholly corporeal and wholly spiritual at one and the same time. The gesture reveals no inner meaning behind itself. The whole being of the gesture lies in what it says. At the same time every gesture is also opaque in an enigmatic fashion. It is a mystery that holds back as much as it reveals. For what the gesture reveals is the being of meaning rather than the knowledge of meaning. (9)

            Macchi’s works seem to reproduce themselves in a series of gestures, of enigmas that we recognize but cannot fully grasp, of warnings that tell us that there is something else out there. If, as the Romantic writer and composer E. T. A. Hoffmann is claimed to have said, ‘Music begins where language ends’, in Macchi’s art music serves to reinforce the work’s ability to suggest, to communicate in such a way that the audience can sense the presence of what’s exposed without ever fully comprehending it, thus collaborating by spreading sensations rather than knowledge and allowing those sensations to communicate with the power of truth that so convincingly speaks to us in poetry, the imaginary and, indeed, music itself.


1. In an unpublished interview with the author on 15 October 2010, Jorge Macchi said in connection to his experience studying the piano: ‘I remember one piece that I have always loved –Debussy’s “The Sunken Cathdal”, which I studied on my own on the basis of a record I had. I looked at the score and figured it out. It was one of the last pieces that I ever read. It seems a little ominous in relation to my work because that sense of progression, of disappearance, of what happens with sound is connected to this piece, behind which there is a literary story: Debussy composed it thinking about the sound that might be made by the bells of that church underwater. There are a lot of things in that piece that have been constants in my work: sound, water, the relationship between them, disappearance’.

2. ‘Jorge Macchi by Edgardo Rudnitzky’ in Revista BOMB, New York, USA, 2009.

3. Macchi’s work seems, on the one hand, conceptual due to its austere, cold and minimalist appearance, its delicacy and formal solemnity, the absence of color or the indistinct quality of the white, gray, brown and black tones he uses, and an assemblage whose meaning is resolved in the viewer’s mind. Another side of his work, however, is by no means bound to a conceptual logic. On the contrary, his work often presents us with situations that defy logic and have a strong surreal component. Indeed, Surrealism is what allows the artist ‘to connect with the strange’, which is crucial in his work; he states, ‘If I had to define what art is I would say that it is what generates a sense of strangeness’. And strangeness is what overcomes you when the complexity of what comes before you forces you to ‘make an effort to stop trying to understand to better absorb that complexity’ (from an unpublished interview with the author, 15 October 2010).

4. Unpublished interview with the author,

15 October 2010.

5. Cortázar, Julio, ‘El sentimiento fantástico’, reproduced in Spanish at


6. Correspondence with the author,

9 November 2010.

7. Reproduced in Guido Indij, Sobre el tiempo, La marca editora, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2008, p. 288.

8. The oratory was not only a place to withdraw to in order to pray, but also a place where musical compositions on the sacred, also called ‘oratory,’ were played.

9. Hans-Georg Gadamer, The Relevance of the Beautiful and Other Essays, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998, p. 79.