The Paradox of a Living Thing in Giuseppe Penone’s Work "It Will Continue to Grow Except at this Point"
Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis
Keywords:Giuseppe Penone, object, tree, gesture, paradox
This case study focuses on the sculptural object titled It Will Continue to Grow Except at this Point (Continuerà a crescere tranne che in quel punto) by Giuseppe Penone from 1968. The work consists of a live, growing tree and a bronze cast of a human hand clasping it. It is a formation where the animate and the inanimate, object, plant, and human worlds meet to become one through the work of art. Due to the “animate nature” of the material of the object – a tree (rather than wood), and the hypothetical independence arising from it, this work cannot be fully described by the concepts of object or thing. The paradox of a living thing is revealed as a gradual process: the sculptor searches for harmony between the life of a human and a plant, contemplating the world from the perspective of the body and from the perspective of consciousness. Through this work, corporeality appears not only as a worldview that brings us closer to the world of other living beings, plants, and things, but also as a way of existence in the world – the artist’s strategy and the way they approach the object. Identifying oneself with the other through art here is an attempt to see it from the plant’s environment. By creating a work of art together with a tree, Penone contemplates not only the presence of otherness in the world, but rather the presence of a person – through the powers given to objects, he reflects on human existence, in this case, on the sculptor’s relationship with the external, material world. Although harmony with nature is sought here by using force, a temporary existence is found, a point of agreement where tension “flows” and transformation takes place in both directions: nature, forced to become a work of art, “responds”. Paradoxically, a tree can not only institute an artistic image, but also impact and transform this image much longer than a human being – within the perspective of time, humans are inferior to nature, that is, they obey the natural course of time. The magical environment, which is instituted by the perceiver of the work, here explains the peculiarities of communication with the tree and helps us transporting ourselves into the time of the tree: to compare it to human time and to turn the “frozen” events contained in the images into animated (moving) states of things – to show that what has no external sensory equivalent.