THE UNIQUE COPY
It was underground, in the dark recesses of a cave, that humankind's first stories were born, and with them their first deceptions. The act of crossing this threshold has enabled us to examine the world and ourselves. Some believe that after entering the ground for eternity they will encounter a dazzling paradise. Others have dug deep into the earth to retrieve something black and fossilized only to burn it and reveal a light that warms.The passage from a 'naturalist' era, where everything was linked by cause and effect, to a 'disgressive' era where nothing is linear and thoughts and ideas are subordinated to argumentation, is fundamental to understanding Domenico Mangano's & Marieke van Rooy's project The Unique Copy. They turn their attention to the study of two simulacra constructed in the early 1900s in the marl quarries of the tourist village of Valkenburg in the early 1900s: a copy of a Roman catacomb and a replica of a coal mine. These two worlds of catacomb and mine, though seemingly distinct, share an idea of worship. They are the twin gospels of religion and progress. The artists have unspooled the mechanisms behind these simulacra: the sites' physical properties, as well as the narratives presented by the guide of the descent. With archival, field and 'embedded' research as their point of departure, Mangano & Van Rooy create art works that question what becomes perceived and instantiated as reality over time, and by whose authority. They parse changing conceptions of the real and fictive to create a surreal third dimension.
(Text by Amanda Sarroff for Open Studios, Jan van Eyck Academie, March 2020.)