Dance of ideas for a woman with a blue guitar

Is this BLOG an experiment? I doubt it. It’s not a reasonable, predictable space. Words can be heavy. Stones, they were called. How to love them?

A place of pleasure, that’s my goal. Encounters and exchanges about art and life. A selected group of people will come and play the thinking game. They will send their thoughts by e-mail. We might be read by the global village. Let’s give them pleasure! Let’s learn to be light. Fleeting and temporary, at least for one year. Personal, fearless, bringing out uncertainties, pauses and hesitations, conflicts and doubts. Most of the artworks reveal idiosyncratic states of mind that are not allowed to writers: no smoking in the toilette during the flight! Unless they are poets.

I was an Eighteenth-century philosophy scholar who turned into a journalist and a maker of hand-sewn books. So my hands give the books a body as the secluded princesses of the old tales, making their lovers’ body with flour and water. None of them have a beating heart. Lack of love makes me sick. Lack of confidence, same effect. Plaintive commentaries about climate and institutional collapse are a black mask on my eyes. Reality is painted black. But The Arts keep me alive. Meredith Monk sings without words, only voice and feelings. I wish we could write like she sings.

No yes, no, I like, dislike, no evaluations. Intelligent kindness. No aggression nor rivalry. Reading, writing, “an exchange of desire becomes possible, of an enjoyment that was not foreseen. Games are not done, let’s play.” (Roland Barthes) Wind and earthquakes shake our landscape. Los Angeles is luminous in the middle of April. We can wear the on-line dress, all the possible colors and shapes, because ideas have colors, if someone cares. The kite needs hands holding the thread as well as the winds and the sky; it needs tension, inside and outside.

“I play them on a blue guitar / And then things are not as they are. / The shape of the instrument  / Distorts the shape of what I meant, / Which takes shape by accident. / Yet what I mean I always say. / The accident is how I play./  I still intend things as they are. / The greenish quaverings of day /  Quiver upon the blue guitar. (Wallace Stevens)

GIULIANA CUNEAZ : Remaking the Natural Magic

I speak within the time and out of time.
I speak for yesterday and today;
for yesterday which is a lesson of life,
for today with is a lesson of death.

Edmond Jabès

GIULIANA CUNEAZ, Le cabinet de la neige, 2014  Video installation  3D animation, wood, clay and acrylic paint with crystal dust, monitor.  76 x 65 x 50 cm.   Courtesy of the artist and Gagliardi e Domke Gallery, Torino

A myriad of interior sceneries from mother earth,
always struck with amazement

by Rosanna Albertini

Common sense says that we only see what we know. Giuliana Cuneaz invites us to the opposite journey and brings us, at least in our imagination, to a living universe out of the reach of our perception, a realm of infinite transformations and a variety of forms. She is attracted by the invisible presence of the same kind of patterns shaping the forms of neurons, roots, or mineral structures. She wonders about the natural ‘thinking’ that seems to have been designed for the shell, bark or minerals’ inner architecture. ‘Designed?’ By whom? When? Hard to find the proper words for the secret growth of a living world that doesn’t need humans to exist.

Her art is one more physical process, something in between visible things as they appear in the daylight and invisible configurations revealed by electron microscopes and digital simulations.

As an artist, she can only be absurd:

The absurd work illustrates how thinking gives up with prestige and accepts to be nothing more than intelligence activating appearances and covering with images what doesn’t have a reason to exist. If the world were easy to see, art wouldn’t be.  Albert Camus

GIULIANA CUNEAZ, Le cabinet de la neige, (details), 2014   Uncooked clay, acrylic paint with crystal dust.  
 

Through valleys and woods, Giuliana put her green eyes at work to discover the fairies’ sites – each of them has a name in her mountains. At the mouth of cracks, or caves, she placed a music stand holding a piece of music written for one instrument. She gave to the silent fairies a musical voice that the public could listen to in a building, where humans and invisible presences were wrapped in the same vibrations. Fairies are not always good, they can be scary or threatening.

One of these invisible fairies, hidden in the image of her place, followed me through a photograph — given to me by Giuliana — in all the moves I went through since my visit to the mountains: the site looks quite dark, with rocks and pine trees ravaged by the wind. The Fairy of Grand Brissogne is now here in front of me, between the keyboard and the computer screen. In my attachment to that picture I probably did see my own life as the life of an absurd woman accepting sadness and fear as a present. Obstacles needing to be defeated.

GIULIANA CUNEAZ, Matter Waves Unseen, 2013  Video installation. 3D animation, wood, monitor, plexiglass, led, sand, clay, acrylic paint. 165 x 113,5 x 40 cm.  Courtesy of the artist and Private collection.

Giuliana Cuneaz engaged her life in a similar struggle, at the same time asking her hands to remake the natural magic, covering with handmade figures of curiosities and rarities the shelves of contemporary Wunderkammers, the chambers of marvels. Only one of her many artworks. It’s so wonderful to see a snow that doesn’t melt on the wood and shines forever, crystal by crystal, and to realize how the artist’s hands transformed uncooked clay into stars, corals, and seeds and flowers: natural forms whose story is only “invincible progress of the form, a sort of visible music”. (Paul Valéry)
For once, the fairies have been benevolent.

To break the crust of solid material bodies, trying to turn inside out the natural birth of crystals, rocks, or shells, this is the challenge that Giuliana Cuneaz seems to have embraced for a long time, offering to us her imaginary visit into the heart of matter. Her handmade objects are humble replicas. That’s for their marvelous configuration. Where they came from, at first, is a process lost in the dark of undetected beginnings, as if an artist had made them.

GIULIANA CUNEAZ, Matter Waves Unseen, 213, details

Happiness and absurdity are two children of the same ground. …
When sadness raises up in a human heart, the rock is winning, sadness is the rock itself. …
The absurd woman contemplating her suffering shuts all the idols down. In the universe suddenly brought back to silence, appear thousands of small, stupefied voices of the earth. …
Sisyphus teaches the superior loyalty that denies gods and lifts rocks. She also believes that everything is good. This universe deprived of gods doesn’t seem sterile to her, nor trivial. Every grain of the stone, every mineral sparkle of this mountain filled with weight is a world by itself. Struggling toward the top can fill up a woman’s heart. Imagine lady Sisyphus is a happy one. … The absurd woman says yes and her effort will never cease.
Albert Camus, Le mythe de Sisyphe, 1942 (with my alteration into a feminine mode).

GIULIANA CUNEAZ, Matter Waves Unseen, 2013, details

3D computer graphics helped her to add a mental magic to the physical appearance of objects. Sculpting forms is not enough. They die in their frozen stillness. Giuliana Cuneaz’s chambers of marvels include a screen showing the 3D computer graphic version of the same objects she had made. The fantastic sceneries she displays have two different lives: one is a lesson of death cherished, honored by the artist’s fingers accepting the drama of making a physical form, the other on the screen is a lesson of life in search of visible modulations, bursts of changes, phases of passage, movements.

Giuliana Cuneaz, Matter Waves Unseen, 2013  3D computer animation  Courtesy of the artist and Private collection

Giuliana’s waves are earthly as if the clay, the shy and silent skin of the earth, had suddenly made her surface strong and dynamic like the ocean waves — each bringing new presents to the seashore. Although supported by numbers and programs, artificial life doesn’t cease to be human. It’s our brain trying to approach, to understand the admirable quality of natural artifacts. Inner landscapes suggested by microscopic photographs and nanotechnologies gave to my artist, maybe, the same surprise as the anatomic drawings gave to the 15th century’s artists. We see her imagination at work, and we can be transported with her inside her earthly waves, like we were invisible particles of dust.

Un saggio: L’anima verso cui andiamo è un paese di neve. …
Un saggio: … Un paese tagliato nell’acqua indurita dal gelo. L’acqua ci custodisce. Cosi i ghiacciai, gli occhi dilatati degli scomparsi.

Edmond Jabès

A wise man: The soul we go after is a country of snow. …
A wise man: … A country cut into the water hardened by cold. Water preserves us. So the glaciers, and the dilated eyes of the dead.

Yes, crystals are black in the valley of snow. They can’t forget they need to pause on the rocky surface of mountains, or the smoother layers of clay. Black is memory of their love joining them to the pebbles, of melting on the skin of an obstinate, stringent partner. Water and dirt are inseparable like day and night. Chemistry tells us that life springs from that wedding. We should unite our body to them, and remember in our cells what we are not able to know.

Giuliana Cuneaz, Chrystal Growth 2012, 3D animation Courtesy of the artist and Gagliardi e Domke Gallery, Torino

Giuliana Cuneaz at work

Bibliography

Edmond Jabès, Le livre des questions, Paris, Gallimard, 1963. Il libro delle interrogazioni, trad. it. di Chiara Rebellato, Casale Monferrato, Marietti, 1985

Paul Valéry, L’homme et la coquille, Paris, Gallimard, 1937

Albert Camus, Le mythe de Sisyphe, Paris, Gallimard, 1942

William Bryant Logan, DIRT, The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth, New York, The Berkley Publishing Group, 1995

 

SIMONE FORTI : how to position yourself in the world, with grace

Free Consultation — Chicago, January 30, 2016

“I’m trying to find the relationship to my dance and the world.” Simone Forti 1989

Stills from Video: Jason Underhill

 

 

From Simone Forti’s notes written in Vermont, in the spring 1989:

David Bradshaw came to visit me a few evenings ago. We were talking about the phenomenon of development and damage to environment. He said, “people are in such a hurry to get symbols of satisfaction.” I don’t remember the exact context, but it made sense. It reminds me of my sense about posturing that goes into having certain political attitudes or ‘positions.’ Making choices out of concern for how you are perceived, being hot stuff, liberal, or patriotic, or what have you.

One thing that strikes me in the winter is the sweetness of warm-blooded beings. I sit surrounded by ice and snow, warm in my clothes like a juicy hot plum, a rare thing, knowing that here and there there is a bird, a rabbit in its hole under the snow, warm, juicy, marvelous.

It keeps coming back to me that certain things I am aware of, the national, global things that strike me, frighten me, break my heart, come to me defined by the news. Not homelessness. I see that. But the rest, it’s like a body of information that comes to me and makes me shout “Don’t you see?” And I do believe that media gives a kind of reflection of the world. The world. Gives me images that seem solid.

Issues are named. In a way they are names. They are constructed of experiences. They come to me as the digestion of many stories. They identify the tide of a problem. But it’s hard to say what you mean with grace. By grace, I mean the way thoughts and perceptions really go. A maze of juxtapositions of sense and nonsense, pulling towards meaning.

What I am learning, I am learning slowly. My previous living gives me no way to name it. Of the things I expect to name, I see only traces. That which I see, I have no names for.

 

When she performs, Simone moves sending out into the air, sometimes, stories and names, or songs, that are told by her entire body. Powerful as well as invisible, the world goes through her mind like the birds’ voice in the morning, or the river flush of the freeway through the city.
I first thought that her own words from 1989 were more than eloquent company for the images of Free Consultation, her performance by the lake in Chicago. But then, because my previous living gave me the pleasure of reading, through words and grammar, the imaginary visions of brilliant, dead people,  I’m challenged even more by living friends. And Simone is not less alive than the the yellow butterfly I see every day dancing among the yellow flowers of a bush in my garden. Her immersion in the world tunes her feelings without turning out the lights of her thinking body.

A few years ago I went with Simone for a walk in Will Rogers Park. I think it was in June. The delicate undulating of the new grass grabbed our attention, but at a certain moment we stopped seeing it. “That which I see, I have no names for.” We were in a corral, no horses around. Yet we were seeing horses running, and listening to their high-pitched neighs. We were just standing still in the middle of a vibrating place, absorbing smells and hints, those dispersed by the wind. That was also what we call world. It’s constant transformation, natural power and beauty often mistaken for entertainment. How she is perceived, nature doesn’t care.

As for Simone, she likes to speak with her dead. Once more, she follows invisible threads of a natural history. Her dead father, now under the surface of the Westwood ground. She tells him, “You were in a military prison, right? Watching how the flies cleaned their front paws and then their back paws.” She says these conversations help her clean her mind. I also talk to my dead people, my Neapolitan blood. Maybe they increase my confusion, the sense of how much I don’t know about them, but they also make me aware that my life is much easier than the one they had. I even have time for writing and publishing, the least productive of all activities. “As long as you are free, says my grandmother Rosa, and she offers to me a handful of pastina.”

AMERICAN ALLIGATORS IN MID-AIR

 

Paintings and drawings by STEVE GALLOWAY, Los Angeles

“I travel through time,” says a seven year old, “Which time? Ancient, a far past?”
asks the adult. “I come from yesterday night.”

A conversation reported by artist Giuliano Nannipieri, from Livorno (Italy)

STEVE GALLOWAY, Suppose 2011  14″ x 11″ Oil on canvas
Courtesy of the artist and Rose Gallery

STEVE GALLOWAY, Terrestrial Patterns 2007 15″x 11″ Charcoal and pastel on paper
Courtesy of the artist and Rose Gallery

MEMORY BEHIND THE EYES

by Rosanna Albertini

John Cage wrote that the means of thinking are exterior to the mind, and we might leave the mind ready to welcome divine influences. It is so hard to do. Maybe the handstand on the back of heron, giving our feet to the sky, would help if we could accept being displaced in an unfamiliar landscape. Steve Galloway places the heron on an alligator and the alligator in mid-air. This pathetic description, that says nothing about the art, only sends the art to hell.

You can only count on your eyes and look through charcoal and pastel until the imaginary land the artist found behind his eyes starts filling the paper. Along with him, we believe he saw it, he discovered it, he felt the power of images somehow as people did when they did not have books in their hands, and written language. “Tout faire parler,” let everything talk, representing the “large uniform flatland of words and things.” (Michel Foucault)

STEVE GALLOWAY, Floating 2008 52″ x 72″ Charcoal and pastel on paper
Courtesy of the artist and Rose Gallery

STEVE GALLOWAY, Moonflight 2015 20″ x 25″  Charcoal and pastel on paper
Courtesy of the artist and Rose gallery

Words, animals, and trees as figures of the world, limbs of the same body: neither too big nor too little, as they must be deep in a dream: feelings wearing the heaviness of matter: they are so dense and persistent that maybe only the alligator’s skin reveals their bumpy, obstinate proliferation. Now, as well as in the night of times, we know there is an infinite mystery we were born in. It doesn’t matter if computers try to visualize the back holes as if they were organs of the universe. How can we believe in what scientists say today, which is different from what they told yesterday night? At least in my countryside Italian legends we found and believed newborn babies were picked up from underneath a cabbage leaf. God’s eye, only one, inscribed in a triangle, was piercing the clouds to look at us, even listening to our thoughts. I don’t know about dreams. I suspect they were secret. He was not a god we children could love, his son was much closer to us, with his bloody cut in the chest and nails through his hands and feet. Children feared the father, not the son.

Sorry, I traveled back through time. It is what Steve Galloway’s images do to me: they bring my mind to a time before the order of grammars, to the time when I believed dreams were not distant from the frozen trees I was watching through the ice crystals on the window. Seeing was believing, although most of the images were made up. Nature couldn’t be copied. Books were the end of my era of belief.

STEVE GALLOWAY, Hibbies ol’ Place 20″ x 25″  Charcoal and pastel on paper
Courtesy of the artist and Rose Gallery

We live today in an age of disbelief. Let’s read Wallace Stevens:
“It is for the poet [and the visual artist] to supply the satisfaction of belief, in his measure and in his style….
To see the gods dispelled in mid-air and dissolve like clouds is one of the great human experiences. It is not as if they had gone over the horizon to disappear for a time; … it is simply that they came to nothing. Since we have always shared all things with them and have always had a part of their strength and, certainly, all of their knowledge, we shared likewise this experience of annihilation. It was their annihilation, not ours, and yet it left us feeling disposed and alone in a solitude, like children without parents, in a home that seemed deserted, in which the amical rooms and halls have taken on a look of hardness and emptiness. What was most extraordinary is that they left no momentous behind, no thrones, no mystic rings, no texts either of the soil or of the souls. It was if they had never inhabited the earth.”
WALLACE STEVENS, Two or three ideas.

STEVE GALLOWAY, Handstand 2011 50.8 x 63.5 cm Charcoal and pastel on paper    Courtesy of the artist

We had the Greek gods in mid-air, we had utopias, and later on in a similar vein Marx, Gramsci, Lenin and Che Guevara; now we have American alligators. They give us back impenetrable truths, and yet become our nautilus, the vehicle towards Galloway’s landscapes filled with irony and gentleness. It’s enough we “suppose” things that he doesn’t dare to entrust to words. We shouldn’t either. His image are not objects, they are “expressions of delight.”

STEVE GALLOWAY, Coyote Sky 2017, 30″ x 24″ oil on canvas
Courtesy of the artist and Rose Gallery

Bibliography

Wallace Stevens, “Two or three ideas”, in Opus Posthumous, edited by Milton J, Bates, Vintage Books, New York, 1990

John Cage, composition in retrospect, Exact Change Cambridge, 1993

Michel Foucault, Les mots et les choses, Une archeologie des sciences humaines, Gallimard, paris, 1966

 

SEWING FRIENDSHIP AND ART

with Sylvia Salazar Simpson, Allan Kaprow, Judy Fiskin, Peter Kirby

 

and Richard Tuttle getting rid of frames and capital letters:

“ art is not a copy of nature but an extension

how to make this extension concrete

it will be absolutely not be prethought
(absolutely not be absolutely)

the one an extension of the other without reference to priority ”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SYLVIA SALAZAR SIMPSON, Eggs Verbal A / Z , 1973, Courtesy of the artist

 

THE TABLE FIRST OR THE EGGS? THE WORDS OR THE PAGE?

by Rosanna Albertini

Sylvia made me aware of the sensuality of language. Of shameless decay as a mystery, a smelling, progressive alteration of fruits and flowers and things with flesh, or leaves.
She taught me to honor a molding lemon as well as the ashes of her burned out house. She made small altars with the remains, friendly places where other abandoned objects could be added over the years, tricky homes hiding the prick of cactus spines. They dislike to be touched.

Sylvia became the best companion for playing at life, pointing out to me how life becomes “life,” “something that floats, outside of time, in our thoughts.” Allan Kaprow. Kaprow had been one of her teachers at Cal Arts, CA, she was already mother of two. They remained friends to the end of his life. I also became his friend, having married Peter Kirby who worked with him for years, and cherished him like very few. Allan Kaprow allowed Sylvia to see herself as an artist, a mother and wife embracing “life,” the an-artist life. But she was not confused about the ungraspable separation between art and life, and built her own experience. Never gave up with physicality. Sewed uncooked eggs to the table, wore shoes made with celery, strawberries or ice cream, pinned into her ankles and feet. She made books with sugar, or paprika, or oregano attached to their pages. Imposed to them the destiny of decay.

SYLVIA SALAZAR SIMPSON, Imitations, 1977  Courtesy of the artist

About twenty years ago, one of the many days of playing at life with Sylvia, she introduced me to Judy Fiskin’s photographs, I vaguely remember they were at LACMA. It was such a surprise to discover photographic miniatures, of a kind I had never seen. Such a pleasure for the beginning of my new American life. As pleasurable as cooking and eating with Sylvia, mixing Mexican and Italian traditions, sharing pain and joy, as life brought them to us.

There is something amusing and embarrassing about the work” — wrote Sylvia Salazar Simpson years ago. These books’ pages don’t carry words, nor images. Each book is a physical story going bad and smelly over time. “Can you fold the page please? That’s the ritual.” “Disgusting? Why?” Any repulsion disappears when the most terrible things are written words. A jelly beans-bacon-pearl page should be sucked, read by the lips, by the same voracious tongue of a newborn exploring surfaces around her before names appear.

Art only needs an alien space to physically exist. The Sugar Book, the Spit Book? What do they mean if the book is a tongue as rough as a cat’s, black sandpaper growing Tylenol at the heart of chewed bubble gum. “Can you fold the page please?” Can you touch what your brain has produced, who knows if it is human or not it must be but it does not perfectly fit. Art is not an experiment. Sylvia Salazar Simpson’s books are flowers lying on old stems torn from the ground of history, on pieces of wood soaked with tar, cut for the railroad. They can’t hurt.

SYLVIA SALAZAR SIMPSON, Blue Sugar Book, 1997   Photo: Hannah Kirby

We have in common a passion for natural growing: trees, bushes, and flowers. The first art piece made by Sylvia that she shared with me by giving me a picture of it, was of a group of trees she had to abandon, when moving from their Los Olivos ranch. And the art was a gesture, of wrapping them with clothes and fabrics as if covering them for the winter, adding decorations to their trunk, or letting them know how much she cared for them, which is the same thing. I’m sure they understood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Allan Kaprow, Essays on The Blurring of Art and Life, University of California press, 1993

Richard Tuttle, In Parts, 1998-2001  Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, © 2001 Richard Tuttle;  2001 the authors.

 

 

JUDY FISKIN : Photography is a mental thing

“Imagination applied to the whole world is vapid in comparison to imagination applied to a detail.” Wallace Stevens

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 234 Courtesy of the artist

“The mind is the most terrible force in the world principally in this that it is the only force that can defend us against itself. The modern world is based on this pensée.” Wallace Stevens

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 242 Courtesy of the artist

UNTITLED  by Rosanna Albertini

Each little house is a song of solitude. A body opening limbs in a space where the distance between the sky and the ground has been reduced to zero: a flat, white empty space. They would float like islands. A scrawny bush, a pole, or little trees sometimes shaped by an odd haircut are ornaments in the wrong place, a complement to the odd shape of the houses.

“I am more interested in creating an experience than in summarizing experience.”JF
“The most interesting part is looking at this little universe of representation that I can make out of the world.” JF

It’s not the maternal opening of doors and windows of people’s homes that makes the artist happy. Each print gives the houses a face, the front of a building that seem to say the viewer: “True, things are people as they are.” Wallace Stevens, Like Fiskin, isn’t afraid of absurdity.
Am I ridiculous, with my single window and the bricks on my feet? You can say so, it doesn’t touch me. Oh, my forehead is too low, maybe two round eyes, of course closed, make me smarter looking. But I have three legs and two enormous garage doors (?)
Each house is a song of indifference, a self contained score only showing the mask of a secret, not immaculate conception.

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 233 Courtesy of the artist

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 235 Courtesy of the artist

jUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 240 Courtesy of the artist

“Impenetrable, opaque, obdurate: these are good terms to apply to the work. They all express something about what the world feels like to me.” JF

Through Judy Fiskin’s mind passes, maybe, the temptation to escape architectural codes and history of forms. Her 1988 eyes isolate each house from the landscape. Each house is a detail, almost a cut out, free from aesthetic rules or repetitions of architectural patterns.
See? My windows have curved eyebrows, and they stick out from the roof!
I am, instead, the reminiscence of a stilt house. And I grew like a barn with a vague Chinese flavor of a pagoda roof. I’m better than you, replies another house whose origins are uncertain: big ears and a city look under a hat low enough to evoke a pagoda, but centered in a way that makes more evident the asymmetrical face of the house.
Each house is a chant of styles speaking different languages in the same building.

“Idealized images from my mind.” JF

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 238 Courtesy of the artist

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 239 Courtesy of the artist

One house is the queen of flatland, another is so shy she hides behind a tree, the lateral side leaning on a tall chimney. Lady symmetry sits in the body of an urban figure waiting for cars, she has two garage doors. A pale, gray creature seems to be there by mistake, what a romantic mistake!
The high contrast prints reveal a flash of light not only erasing the context around these little houses, also removing all sign of memory, and comparisons to famous buildings. What’s wrong with common life? It’s mostly stifled by an eccessive closeness, to siblings and objects. Really, we need an artist to gently building a distance, and revealing its twisted, uncanny beauty.
Each house, a scream of silence.

OF MERE BEING

The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze decor,

A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.

You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.

The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind move slowly in the branches.
The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

— Wallace Stevens —

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 245 Courtesy of the artist

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 249 Courtesy of the artist

Bibliography:

Some Aesthetic Decisions, The Photographs of Judy Fiskin, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2011

Wallace Stevens, Opus Posthumous, Edited by Milton J. Bates, Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc. New York, 1990

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARISA MERZ : Art is a mental thing

LIGHT AND FLEXIBLE, WITH NAILS

by Rosanna Albertini

MARISA MERZ, Untitled 1993, Copper wire, unfired clay, steel structure. Photo: Hannah Kirby

MARISA MERZ, Untitled 1989. Unfired clay, galvanized metal, glass cup, flowers. Photo: Hannah Kirby

Los Angeles,  Hammer Museum: THE SKY IS A GREAT SPACE   June-August 2017

March – April 1968:
“I do not respect Johnson, I do not respect the masters.
I’m not available anymore because I want to start from scratch.
I could still be available to a child, but not to a man, no.
If a man asks me to do something, I do it the way I want to.
I no longer believe in catalysts* because they are the beggars of slaves.
At present the world is peopled by slaves, and catalysts are still around.
I’m not interested in power or career; only myself and the world.
I can do little, very little.
I’m battling against malice and competition.
I cannot escape the reality I see.”

Marisa Merz, Come una dichiarazione, Bit, vol.II, n.1 March-April 1968.

(*catalyst, the prime agent of any change or action.)

MARISA MERZ, Untitled 1968. Nylon thread, nails.

Despite her official position in Arte Povera’s historical dress, I want to unravel this ninety year old Italian artist from any cocoon. Just her and reality around her in Turin, from what I remember, also around me in Milan, the same years when she was knitting little nylon shoes like clouds ready to fly, joining the green of the grass to the light blue of Northern sky, as if colors did make the shoes for a walk in the void. Mid sixties. I was wearing comfortable boots to run faster during the police-student confrontations. I was a philosophy student, and clouds were in my brain.

No wonder Marisa Merz dislikes catalysts, they were nailing our minds to ideological boxes, heavy like lead, separating the mind from the rest of life. Marisa was building around her an undefined space, a hole in between art and life. The same way that Robert Rauschenberg considered the adventure of painting, or of art making in every way. Doors, tables and chairs are a population of hopeless objects, condemned to only one form forever. There is not much she can do about that. But she can surround them with natural or artificial shadows to soften their rigidity, and approach them to the human touch, helping them to escape from their destiny. Sometimes the shadow materializes in knitted, transparent shadows moving squares and rectangles from the floor toward light triangles pointed to the ceiling, becoming smaller and smaller, she can do little, very little. Yet, out of her hands, stools can dream of a kite and a wooden door plays with the illusion of softness of squared empty pillows made with copper wire, as if opening a new mode of being for a door, opening and not only closing.

 

MARISA MERZ, Untitled 1976. Copper wire, nails, canvas. (detail)

MARISA MERZ, Untitled 1977. Wood, copper wire brass. newspaper. Photo: Hannah Kirby

Any connection between the art world in the sixties and seventies and the student movement was absent. And Marisa Merz seems to me now much closer to Piero Manzoni personal mythology than to the Arte Povera heroic answers to the growing search for perfection and technocracy — rationality in modern societies turning into sickness. Although married to Mario Merz, the sculptor who built powerful forms like bubbles of thought impenetrable to the viewer’s body, Marisa kept her feminine instinct intact. Yes, her tables wrapped in veils bring a sense of isolation, although adding, at the same time, the absurdity of a dream that could be of freedom, or just of care. Her little sculpted heads look at the sky. Humans are the invisible bodies dissolved around her pieces, leaving their scent.

MARISA MERZ, Untitled, 1977. Table, copper wire, flower, metal rods.

MARISA MERZ, Untitled 1975. Nylon thread, iron.

MARISA MERZ, Untitled 1975, Iron wire, copper wire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The more we are immersed in ourselves, the more we are open; when we approach the earliest signs of our totality, we also approach everyone else’s totality. The difficult task is to liberate ourselves from foreign and superfluous things, facts and gestures that pollute the compact units coming from the art of our days and easily becoming the emblems of artistic fashions.”

Nebulous memories from childhood, impressions, abstractions, sentimentalisms, deliberate constructions, pictorial symbolic or descriptive intentions, fake anxieties, undigested unconscious events, the perpetual hedonistic repetition of already explored subjects: these are things to be discarded. The process of revelation and elimination releases our original quality in the form of images: images that are primary, and the ones of our time gushing out from the same point, for us and our civilization. Nothing must be avoided to accelerate the emergency, the urgency of acquiring our own gestures.”
PIERO MANZONI, Prolegomeni all’attività artistica.

MARISA MERZ, Head, Testa, 1984-95. Unfired clay, was, tin, lead, steel table. Photo: Hannah Kirby

A point in time: the soil suddenly trembling under my feet trodding on the sidewalk from Piazza Fontana to Piazza del Duomo, in Milan, on December 12, 1969. The bomb’s explosion didn’t make much noise. It was behind me, where 13 were killed and 88 injured. I was not one of them by only a few seconds. I didn’t turn, a wave of danger pushed me quickly walking away toward the Dome, my heart beating fast. It was like wearing Marisa Merz’s green shoes, and feeling the nails. In minutes, the place was filled with ambulances.

A few days after, the daily paper reported that Giuseppe Pinelli, a well known anarchist, had fallen from a window at the police station. He had been accused of placing the bomb. A dead angel to me. As many of my friends, I used to go to his house where his wife Licia typed academic papers for us. We were bad typists, I still use two fingers. Two little girls running around us. It was an odd time, of idealism killing people. As if the amazing theories we had tried to digest had turned fleshy, back to their sprouting from vital organs, and were made softer, gentler by human frailty. The empty carcass of words crashed with the anarchist body on the asphalt, after the flight through the void. What happened exactly, we never knew. Except, Pinelli was innocent.

MARISA MERZ, Small Head, Unfired clay

We did not know that artists had turned our precious thoughts into metaphors, actions, questions about human identity, as effectively as our philosophical castles. Marisa Merz, for instance, worked on our broken threads, moving the line into hand made, often knitted objects. They embody flexibility, adaptation. They bring a soft hand on reality.

PIERO MANZONI, Catalogue of the exhibition at Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Milano, Arnoldo Mondadori Arte,1991

Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera 1962-1972, Catalogue  of the exhibition organized by  the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and Tate Modern, London. 2001-2003

MORE CHALLENGES for Alberto

MORE CHALLENGES, AROUND THE WORLD (Fragments of memory)

by ALBERTO ALBERTINI

Photos: Alberto Albertini

The seventies were a time of violent events in our country, and because I traveled a lot, it wasn’t difficult for me to find coincidences between my movements and those episodes. It’s also true that such coincidences are easier to remember than all the other travels that went smoothly.

Philips was a technological company: manufacturing, selling, researching; it was not by accident that the CD was born from the Philips-Sony collaboration. But earlier Philips big commercial success was the magnetic tape audio cassette. Born as a small portable recorder with battery, the tiny Philip cassette entered into the high fidelity circuit among builders who produced recorders/players with unexpectedly high quality.
The pioneers in the commercial distribution of audio cassettes had started to duplicate tapes using banks of consumer recorders and at real speed. Considering the demand, someone started to produce machines able to duplicate at high speed. Very quickly cassettes became more popular than the 45 record. It was also market in which the production of audio cassettes was not always legitimate.
One of my clients had made enough money, thanks to “his” productions, to address his mind towards building a recording studio in order to complete the production cycle: from the singer to the finished cassette. This client was so incompetent, and not only in the details of production, that to explain to him the quality of my machines seemed to me not only an impossible task, but also a pointless one. And yet my competitor, who had the advantage of providing duplication machines, had infinite patience trying to introduce data into my client’s brain! My tactic was: to also have a lot of patience, so much so that one day I brought my client to London, to visit a fabulous studio and see a recording console that was the best at the time . It was the winning move. A challenge, always!
The studio for him was completed and I was on vacation at the beach, reading the newspaper under a big umbrella. On the inside pages I saw the picture of a person who looked familiar to me, yes, for sure! it was him, my client. But his presence in the paper was also certifying his absence from our world: he had been killed by a gun shot! Uncertain gossip told me that it hadn’t been a story of jealousy, rather a failure to reimburse the expenses to his wife’s lover, which he had agreed to pay if he would end the affair.
Mah!

PARIS

March 14 1972, coming back from Munich (Germany), I was struck by the news that a corpse had been found underneath a tower carrying high voltage electric cables: it was Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, the publisher. I had met him at TTC in 1969.

The chief exists but is invisible. Only in some rare occasion he shows up, and not for lack of time, just because this is required by his role. So was the founder of Fonoroma, and so was Willie Studer, the creator of the Studer factory. I don’t believe Studer was formal, he seemed to me a reserved man, maybe a little shy, not very communicative for sure, and probably aware he had created the biggest and more perfect factory producing magnetic tape audio recorders.
He had two lines of production: REVOX semiprofessional for amateurs and the professional A80 for recording studios. In a few words, the construction was “Swiss.”
The factory I visited several times was a model: the labs for planners-technicians filled with instruments, and with automatically precise production machines.
The coffe pause was at ten, canteen and gardens. They, the Swiss, had the industrial zone separate from the residential zone… and their taping machines could record on magnetic tape, the text could be corrected and only at the end one or more copies were printed.
Gas was self-service and paid by Bancomat. It was 1970! All that because the personnel was scarse, those available were used in production, everybody produced, the factory couldn’t afford non-productive people. The Italians employed also did produce, and in order to learn the language they had a small blackboard with a written sentence to be learned every day.

 

SWITZERLAND

On September 5, 1972, eight members of Black September, a movement connected to Yasser Arafat’s Organization for the Liberation of Palestina, entered into the Olympic village quite easily, helped to cross the surrounding wall by a group of athletes who had drunk too much and didn’t realize what they were doing. From where had I returned? I don’t remember exactly, probably from a sleeping coach on the train from Monaco!

I had a long technological relationship with RAI (Italian Radio-Television), at every level, because they needed audio equipment for their radio and television programs. I introduced for the first time Studer audio recorders; the representative’s function as a mediator is quite interesting. From my previous experiences I knew the existence of synchronized audio recording system using a pilot tone (NAGRA), and RAI needed to have that kind of system. I convinced Studer to produce such recorders to provide them to RAI. Later on, RAI gave me the job of building a truck equipped for audio recording outdoors. The project had been developed by RAI technicians, and I was providing equipment and following the preparation. It was the occasion for me to introduce my design for the air conditioning diffusion, distributed by large surfaces in such a way that one couldn’t detect from where the air was coming, or the noise.

Air conditioning was my specialty: everywhere clients complained of the cold air blowing on their backs, or the lack of cold air. My system for recording studios consisted of using large surfaces with small holes, or long vents, in such a way that the air was moving at a low speed, but the change of air was fast and complete. Even the smoke —people used to smoke in the studios— immediately disappeared. I was also paying a lot of attention to the noise sent through the air conduits.

 

UK

May 17, 1973. Another return, another accident: the attack in front of the police headquarters Fatebenefratelli, organized by Gianfranco Bertoli. Four people passing by were killed, and forty five wounded.

London, the gray and foggy city. Absolutely not. I went there many times: the air was always clear and windy, in the winter the climate is often mild. The London I saw was lively and colored, music overflowing from houses and stores, maybe on the wave of the Beatles success sales grew, or maybe the Beatles were a great opportunity to export an impressive professional audio production.
Beatles, cockroaches, is there a relationship to carpets? Carpets everywhere, with cockroaches underneath? The empire has left its marks: big marvelous parks with benches that are not flimsy, consistently made with cast iron; marble palaces and red brick houses around a little square with a garden that becomes a small park.

A festive Heathrow. Meadows and hills by the freeway spread with people in groups, isolated, laying on the grass as if participating in a gigantic picnic organized by a national treasure hunt, waiting for a historic event:  the inaugural flight of the Concorde!

They were better off, the English people, under the benevolent eye of the Queen, yes the Queen, “the better sold product”, my client used to say, a perfect gentleman. Although he had a  slight limp, his style was impeccable. Perfect connoisseur of high society, he knew all the most “in” places to bring his guests. He never told me he could speak Italian until one day, suddenly, in perfect Italian he asked me how sales were going. What own earth? We were only beginning. Later I earned a champagne party and a gold record. At the toast, he lifted his goblet exclaiming: “the Queen!!!!” Perbacco, he really believed it.

November 2, 1975. I arrive to Rome for a fair of my equipment: they had murdered Pier Paolo Pasolini!

 

ALTRE SFIDE, FRAMMENTI DI MEMORIA

di ALBERTO ALBERTINI

Anni 70. Quei tempi erano ricchi di episodi di violenza in casa nostra e io, viaggiando molto, non avevo difficoltà a trovare coincidenze con alcuni di questi episodi. Naturalmente si ricordano le coincidenze e non tutti gli altri viaggi andati lisci.

Philips era veramente un serbatoio di tecnologia, fabbricava, vendeva studiava, non a caso il CD nasce dalla collaborazione Philips-Sony. Prima però il grande successo commerciale di PHILIPS è stata la cassetta a nastro magnetico. Nata come piccolo registratore portatile a batteria, la minuscola cassetta Philips era riuscita ad entrare nel circuito dell’alta fedeltà con costruttori che avevano prodotto registratori/lettori dalle qualità inaspettate.
I pionieri del commercio cassette avevano cominciato a copiare nastri su batterie di registratori consumer e a velocità reale, poi vista la richiesta, qualcuno cominciò a produrre macchine per la duplicazione ad alta velocità, in breve la casetta divenne più popolare del 45 giri. Nell’ambito di questo mercato sorsero produttori di cassette registrate un po’ ovunque con produzioni legittime e anche non.
Ebbi un cliente che con le “sue” produzioni aveva guadagnato a sufficienza per pensare di fare uno studio di registrazione per completare il ciclo produttivo: dal cantante alla cassetta finita. Questo cliente era totalmente incompetente in materia, e non solo quella specifica, cosicché spiegargli i pregi delle mie macchine pareva impresa non solo impossibile ma anche inutile, eppure il mio concorrente, fornitore delle macchine di duplicazione e che per questo si trovava avvantaggiato, aveva una pazienza sconfinata nell’inserire i dati in quel cervello! La mia tattica era: se resiste lui, io non posso essere da meno ed ho avuto anch’io tanta pazienza, tanta che un giorno l’ho portai a Londra in uno studio favoloso per vedere una console come si deve e questa fu la mossa vincente. Sempre una sfida!
A studio completato, mi trovavo in vacanza al mare sotto l’ombrellone a leggere il giornale. Nelle pagine interne vidi la foto di una persona che mi sembrava familiare, ma si, certo! Era lui! Il mio cliente, solo che la sua presenza sul giornale certificava le sua assenza nel nostro mondo: era stato ucciso con un colpo di pistola! Indiscrezioni non confermate mi dissero che non era stata una storia di gelosia ma di un mancato rimborso spese del marito all’amante della moglie per fine rapporto! Mah.

14 marzo 1972, al ritorno da Monaco di Baviera la notizia del ritrovamento di un cadavere sotto un traliccio: era Giangiacomo Feltrinelli! ( l’avevo conosciuto nel 69 in TTC! )

Il capo esiste ma non si vede, si concede solo in qualche rara occasione, non perché non ne abbia il tempo ma perché il ruolo lo richiede, così era il fondatore della Fonoroma, così era il creatore della Studer, Willy Studer. Non credo che Studer fosse così ligio al ruolo, mi sembrava un uomo schivo, forse un po’ timido, certamente poco espansivo, probabilmente consapevole di aver creato la più grande e perfetta fabbrica di registratori audio a nastro magnetico.
Aveva due linee di produzione: REVOX semiprofessionale per amatori e A80 professionale per studi di registrazione. In poche parole, la costruzione era “SVIZZERA”. La fabbrica che ho ripetutamente visitato era un modello: i laboratori dei tecnici progettisti erano colmi di strumentazione, le macchine per la produzione automatiche di precisione.
Pausa caffè alle dieci, mensa e giardinetti. Loro, gli svizzeri, avevano la zona industriale separata da quella abitativa…poi avevano le macchine per scrivere che registravano su nastro magnetico, si facevano le correzioni e solo a controllo finale si stampava in una o più copie.
La benzina era self service e si pagava col bancomat. Era il 1970! Questo perché mancavano le persone, quelle che c’erano erano in produzione, tutti producevano, non potevano permettersi uscieri portieri, gente improduttiva. Anche gli italiani producevano e per imparare la lingua, c’era una lavagnetta sulla quale veniva scritta una frase da imparare ogni giorno.

Il 5 settembre 1972, alle 4 del mattino, otto membri di Settembre nero, un movimento affiliato all’Organizzazione per la Liberazione della Palestina di Yasser Arafat, entrarono senza troppe difficoltà nel villaggio olimpico, aiutati a scavalcare la recinzione da un gruppo di atleti che avevano bevuto e non si resero conto di quello che stavano facendo. Da dove ero tornato? Non ricordo, mi pare in vagone letto proprio da Monaco!

La RAI è stata oggetto di un lungo rapporto a tutti i livelli tecnici perché necessitava delle apparecchiature audio per i programmi da trasmettere. Ho introdotto per la prima volta i registratori Studer e quello che può essere interessante è la funzione mediatrice del rappresentante. Dalle mie precedenti esperienze, avevo la conoscenza di un sistema di registrazione sincronizzata a mezzo frequenza rete ( NAGRA ) e la RAI televisione aveva bisogno di un sistema simile. Riuscii a far produrre a Studer, registratori con questa possibilità e fornire quindi la RAI TV. Più avanti, la RAI mi affidò l’appalto per la costruzione di un autocarro attrezzato per le riprese audio esterne. Il progetto era stato sviluppato dai tecnici RAI ed io fornivo le apparecchiature e seguivo i lavori di allestimento. In quell’occasione introdussi i miei criteri di diffusione aria condizionata, distribuita da ampie superfici in modo che non se ne rilevasse la provenienza e nemmeno il rumore.

L’aria condizionata era una mia specialità. Ovunque i clienti lamentavano il classico fastidio dell’aria condizionata che, arrivava gelida nella schiena, o non si avvertiva affatto. Il mio sistema, nella progettazione degli studi di registrazione consisteva nell’utilizzare ampie superfici con piccoli fori, o fessure lunghe, in modo che la velocità dell’aria fosse bassa ma il ricambio rapido e completo, anche il fumo, allora si fumava negli studi, scompariva immediatamente. Grande attenzione per la trasmissione dei rumori attraverso i condotti dell’aria.

17 maggio 1973. Altro ritorno, altro accidente: l’attentato davanti alla questura Fatebenefratelli da parte di Gianfranco Bertoli. Morti 4 passanti e feriti altri 45.

Londra, la grigia e nebbiosa. Assolutamente no. Ci sono stato innumerevoli volte: sempre limpido e un po’ ventoso, spesso d’inverno il clima è mite. Londra mi era apparsa vivace, colorata, le case, i negozi che traboccavano musica, forse sull’onda del successo dei Beatles vendevano tutto ma soprattutto, forse, i Beatles sono stati l’opportunità per una imponente produzione di audio professionale da esportare.
Beatles, scarafaggi, forse c’è una relazione con le moquettes, ovunque moquettes, non ci si accamperanno sotto gli scarafaggi? l’impero aveva lasciato le sue tracce. Meravigliosi grandi parchi con panchine costruite senza economia fatte di consistenti fusioni di ghisa, palazzi marmorei e caseggiati di rossi mattoni, a quadrilatero in modo di farci stare un giardino che è un piccolo parco.

Heatrow in festa. I prati, i dossi che fiancheggiavano l’autostrada, cosparsi di gente, a gruppi, isolati, accomodati sull’erba come partecipanti ad un gigantesco picnic organizzato da una caccia al tesoro nazionale o in attesa di un evento messianico imminente: attendevano il decollo inaugurale del CONCORD!

Come stavano bene, gli inglesi, sotto l’occhio benevolo dalle regina, si la regina, il prodotto più venduto, diceva il mio rappresentato, perfetto gentleman. Zoppicava un pochino ma riusciva a contenersi in uno stile impeccabile, perfetto conoscitore dell’alta società sapeva tutti i posti più “in” dove portare i suoi ospiti e non mi aveva mai detto di conoscere l’italiano finché un giorno, improvvisamente, in perfetto italiano mi chiese conto dell’andamento delle vendite. Diamine eravamo solo agli inizi. In seguito mi sono meritato un party a champagne e un disco d’oro, al brindisi levò il calice esclamando: “the queen!!!!” Perbacco, come ci crede!

2 novembre 1975, arrivo a Roma per una fiera di settore: avevano assassinato Pier Paolo Pasolini!