“Minor deities […]. Dangerous, as is memory when we investigate it in its deepest recesses, as are eagerness and time itself” 1.
In a livid light, Kusterle’s nymphs surface from a flooded world: the sea, judging from the animal stage of their metamorphoses. Claws, fins, and tentacles – already parts of their bodies, extensions of their flesh – would identify them as Nereids, but these are creatures that might have risen to face us from the muddy swashing of a canal similar to those on which Vigo’s Atalante rafted, amidst the gurgling of a lock not far from the city; actually, with our modern existence they share the turbid feeling, that sometimes besets us, not to be in full control of our identities.
Here they are, back from the depths of a journey to the end of the night, returning to us coated with the vitality of an omnivorous and swarming nature, imbued with seductiveness, but at the same time with a flavour of accomplished death.
We could imagine those figures in a drawing by Klinger, filled with a sensuousness consisting in the implicit eroticism of offering themselves in pose for the portrait, but also in the viscid or keratinous evidence of a metamorphic interpenetration starting almost invariably from the hair, that in other of Kusterle’s works quivers in a sudden wriggling of roots, while here it turns into a snakelike tangle of suction cups, tightened beneath a sallet of crab claws.
The transformation sprouts even in the tissues, where the scales of little wiggling fishes become the twinkling of a lamé. But where clothes preserve the mark of human tailoring, they recount about past ages, about a fashion emanating a cloying, necrotic taste of bygone times. Their fibre gives the impression of being about to crumble in front of us like the Roman frescoes in the ending of Fellini’s Satyricon, but for now it preserves in itself the mark of Bronzino or Michelangelo, suspended between the classical world and the distressing dissonances of the new world. As in the ancient artifices of Mannerism, figures are unreal, in this case for lack of water. They do not possess the glimmering and spontaneous sensuousness of a mermaid or a movie spy that emerges dripping from the ocean, rather they exhibit the more turbid, alchemically concocted sensuousness of a psychic birth.
Silent, as if they were conscious that speaking is useless, that “our sentences do not withstand the disaster of their slime garments” 2, these creatures disquiet us because we sense them as risen from a deep dimension, “from under a surface” that disrupts the planar quality of our way of looking; and perhaps points to ambiguity as the only concrete condition of our being. What are these nymphs? Are they a memory of the mythical abyss wherefrom we come or a projection towards the darkness that awaits us? In their provocative but worn out embroideries we seem to read the future recollection of a love skirmish, of a dialectic between body and spirit, of which – in view of the likely assertion of the self-sufficiency of the ego, with its pervading specular character – “… that seductive rag is one of the relics left over […]. Something like a time’s shred” 3.