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)


typographer and self-taught photographer (1925-2000) from Senigallia (Italy)


and my planet of leaves languages and trees meeting Anouar Brahem playing music on his oud (a Middle eastern string instrument)

MARIO GIACOMELLI, metamorfosi della terra, 385 x 278 mm

MARIO GIACOMELLI,  metamorfosi della terra, 385 x 278 mm

Mario Giacomelli passed away three days ago of some years ago November 25th and Mario Merz who was born the same year 1925 followed him on November 3d a few years after why should it be easy to remember dates that are not not at all interesting numbers they don’t shape the history of the person nor do they participate in the natural history not to mention the natural art made with numbers which is sister to music and spirals in the shells

Dans ce progrès invincible, et comme impeccable, de la forme, … qui semble créer son temps propre, on admire la combinaison du rythme, marqué par les taches ou les aspérités régulières, et du movement indivisible. C’est là voir de la musique. Paul Valéry, L’homme et la coquille 1937
an invincible almost impeccable progress of form… seems to create its own rhythm holding spots or regular asperities and an indivisible movement that is like seeing music

each of us surfing on a limited truth flows through life where time doesn’t exist as a peculiar volume buzzing with particles it can’t be stopped until mother earth disappears in meanders of memories that remake, retell the story so many times there is not a first image anymore over unfinished thoughts

tonight I don’t feel like breathing with commas and periods

I wish words could be sensitive like Mario Merz (1925-2003) forced them to be foglie tenere di acqua leaves tender with water or Giacomelli calling his pictures foto di terra photos made with dirt  rather than photos of earth because Italians at least some of us think of ideas like odd ghosts slipping away from the physical matter of a decomposed and ruined space where the animal person looks for abstraction – freedom

it didn’t happen to me for a while this need of disobeying it makes me see words sinking into Giacomelli’s blacks and whites while written lines are traced like furrows with trees and bushes in a wood of punctuation left behind for writers obsessed with grammatical intersections their soul not knowing where to go

effortlessly ancient habits join our art as if calligraphy and drawing were only one thing sharing the same space as five or six centuries ago in hybrid Chinese paintings meant to be poems of words and nuanced landscapes

Extraordinary events came to shake suddenly the quotidian life of millions individuals. We are projected toward the unknown, with immense fears, joys and hopes. What’s happening goes beyond imagination. It took me a long time to be able to write this music. Anouar Brahem Souvenance

Giacomelli says that language becomes the environment within which the image breathes as it flies toward a new life called art

more can be seen in a landscape that is language more than anything else sometimes plowed by the peasants under the artist’s request

more can be felt through the energy that connects our hands brain and feet to the larger scene of reality with it’s musical score inviting us to listen and share our part in it

ahead of the current localism Anouar Brahem’s music is an harmonious journey of intermingled songs that seem to pick from music of every kind petals of hope and strings of voices determined to expand together in a long rope of sounds free from style traditional forms and rigid obligations for beauty herself sings from the window waiting for the prince

the wind that goes around the column
goes round inside the column
it happens when one paints an image
giving reality to an image, the house runs with the world.

Mario Merz, Lo spazio è curvo o diritto 1990


Attraverso le foto di terra io tento di uccidere la natura, cerco di toglierle quella vita che le è stata data non so da chi ed è stata distrutta dal passaggio dell’uomo per ridarle una vita nuova…

Through photos of earth (foto di terra) I try to kill nature, and take away from her a life received from I don’t know whom and destroyed by humans to give her a new life…

MARIO GIACOMELLI, presa di coscienza sulla natura, 300 x 405 mm

MARIO GIACOMELLI,  presa di coscienza sulla natura, 300 x 405 mm

Signs like light tension. It is like having emptied, carved the white out and filled it with dark.

Language becomes the environment within which the image breathes.

MARIO GIACOMELLI, Pesa di coscienza sulla natura, 388 x 283 mm

MARIO GIACOMELLI,  presa di coscienza sulla natura, 388 x 283 mm

The mark remains, the scar, the symbolic image of my intervention, as an act of expression to escape from a reality that does not leave space for creativity.

MARIO GIACOMELLI, storie di terra, 235 x 300 mm

MARIO GIACOMELLI,  storie di terra, 235 x 300 mm

I wish I could slide under the skin of things, to show the energy passing through my soul and the things around me

To express the potential that overturns the real into poetry

MARIO GIACOMELLI, presa di coscienza sulla natura, 392 x 298 mm

MARIO GIACOMELLI,  presa di coscienza sulla natura, 392 x 298 mm

I am not interested in repeating the visible things, but making visible what filters through my unconscious.

MARIO GIACOMELLI, Le fogli, 258 x 390 mm

MARIO GIACOMELLI,  le foglie, 258 x 390 mm

My latest ideas that are growing inside me from typography. In my latest photographs, naturally also in Landscapes, there are many apparitions. The object is always modified, but remains as a memory with the signs of the antique and present time, with a new memory, which is also that of the gesture, the movement, the document.

MARIO GIACOMELLI, presa di coscienza sulla natura, 305 x 404 mm

MARIO GIACOMELLI,  presa di coscienza sulla natura, 305 x 404 mm

Archivio Mario Giacomelli – Sassoferrato

These and others  photographs by Giacomelli are currently on display at Galleria Studio Guastalla, Modern and Contemporary Art, Milano (Italy).  I went to see the exhibition because Silvia Guastalla, curator and director of the gallery, decades ago was one of my students in the Department of Philosophy of the University of Pisa. A great joy to see her again and having her this time guiding me through Giacomelli’s art.



Things have a need of us in order to exist, or to feel that they exist, and, without us, remain in a state of waiting. And hence man feels an anxious uneasiness: the pressure in us of all that has not yet been and wishes to be ― of all the unknown that asks for its little moment of thought, seems to entreat us for existence, because everything has to go that way — and as if there were some joy in telling oneself that one has been ― when one is no longer.
André Gide, Reflections



      Villa Panza and Robert Wilson A House for Giuseppe Panza, 2016

 Photo: Tenderini Fotografia  for FAI, Fondo Ambiente Italiano

I gasp with surprise when young artists or people who are not completely uninterested in contemporary art ask me: “who is Giuseppe Panza?” And I feel pedantic to correct: “He was.” I would be wrong. For the first time in this blog I say with no hesitation he was the greatest art collector of the last century. But because he gave his spirit and love, almost an act of faith, to an unrepeatable, awkward collection he started when Robert Morris, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Robert Rauschenberg, Douglas Huebler, Antony Tàpies, Franz Kline -and others now august members of art history- were still struggling for survival, Giuseppe Panza is the living mind giving trust and home to minimal and conceptual art pieces. His name and feelings will be with them, forever. They needed him in order to exist. With them he waited, thirty years sometimes, before recognition arrived. He filled with art his house and family life. He also happened to be perplexed, not sure, not able to understand at first sight. He took his time. With Robert Ryman and Brice Marden, for instance. Suddenly, after a year he realized that Marden’s paintings were very beautiful.

Paintings made with wax, a semitransparent material. I sensed the light going into the matter and being absorbed. A matter that seemed to absorb the viewer’s gaze. It was the beginning of a journey toward the unknown, hidden by penumbra and obscurity. It was seeing the power of the matter, a power impossible to define. If one considers matter as something final, it’s impossible to go beyond. Marden opened an endless possibility.
The same is happening in the most advanced scientific researches.” (G.P.)

I visited the villa one more time at the beginning of November, the last day Bob Wilson’s video Tales were in final testing before the opening. Guided by the FAI* responsible for the exhibition, Giovanni Giorgetti, I was struck by the attention he paid to Giuseppe Panza’s desires, not to violate the sacredness of his place, as if Panza were in his small studio, on the second floor, waiting to see the finished installation. Not a museum, despite the rotation of public events, still and more than ever VILLA PANZA is Giuseppe Panza’s house, where he left more than paintings and sculptures. He helped the artists to install their work, sometimes forcing them to reveal the emotional secret of their art. Dan Flavin, for whom Panza changed some angles between floor and walls, making them curved, or worked on the windows in order to perfect the sunlight’s reflexions, avoided talking to him, only speaking with his wife. The result is the most convincing and intense experience of Flavin’s art one can stumble into.



Artists today pay homage to Giuseppe Panza with a sort of awe: they know his spirit is there. Bob Wilson gave him a new house, American style: a tiny church Shaker-style, painted with the same exterior colors of the old house. A place of intimacy in the park, for reading and listening to the silence as John Cage would.  So many spirits among us! Out of their bodies, they grow gigantic. The trees around the little house sing their mysterious cantico which is one with the movement of the air and the sound of birds. A blue light shines inside, on a book with no words, for a man with no body. A House for Giuseppe Panza by Bob Wilson, 2016, is an act of thanks, giving back to him what he gave to so many artists.

When nights are clear, in Biumo, I see a myriad of stars. Tiny luminous points in the endless immensity of the universe. I don’t feel lost in the night, I rather feel as if someone was there calling for me, making me confident. Life comes from the infinite void. A powerful life that attracts and absorbs every thing in herself. Do not know why this call is so strong. There is no theorem to justify it, nor a theory to prove it. I can only be sure that this call is stronger than any other. I am also a blade of grass lasting one season, like the ones gathered by Löhr **. (G.P.)


New York, April 1999.  I was in New York in the spring of 1999, when the trees start growing leaves and are full of flowers. I was staying with my wife on the 37th floor of the Essex House Hotel, Central Park South.
I was higher, much higher than the Madonnina of the Dome in Milan, the highest point of the city. Only a medium hight in New York… I came for the first time in 1954. … About half of my collection has been thought of, experienced and created in this city, the southern part, poor, in a range of a few miles. Ideally, my mind, emotions and thoughts were sharing the same life as the artists living there. I have been one of the first who discovered and loved them, among thousand who disappeared without traces left behind. Maybe I am the first who loved so much what they thought and felt, the first who wanted to have many of their art works. …
Although Rothko, Klein, Lichtenstein, Flavin, Judd, Huebler, Segal disappeared, their works live and re-live in us, still alive. Buying their art I gave my self into the soul of this city. (G.P.)


In my artistic choices I always had the future in mind, never the present and not even tomorrow; something distant in time not foreseeable, completely uncertain, that I could only hope. My wife and myself were sure we made good choices, meditated, heartfelt, intensely loved. When one loves and doesn’t ask for anything in exchange, to be wrong is more difficult. (G.P.)


Beauty is a powerful force and yet not intrusive, and generous if one looks for her without ulterior motives; otherwise she doesn’t reveal herself. It is the direct expression of a superior good, she doesn’t die, and is immortal because she is not made of matter, although she uses matter to manifest herself. No instrument can measure her. She is inside every thing, from the stones to the stars, from the flowers to our mind. Impossible to measure, she escapes from scientists who only believe in measurable things. She is the invisible motor of the universe and the sparkle for life. (G.P.)

All the quotes, translated by RA, are from Giuseppe Panza, Ricordi di un collezionista, Milano, Jaca Book, 2006

There is no conclusion. I’m walking on the grass of the park, smelling the fall of leaves still green in November but tired of such a long summer. I look from afar, around the terrace which is one of the most pleasant gardens I’ve met in my life. In Italian we have a word with no equivalent in English: le lontananze. Something absent and distant, says the dictionary. In lontananza, a distance of time more than geographical, I see my village and the house where I was born, half an hour by car from Villa Panza. Hard to tell, feelings are tangled. Panza, the house, the grass, the view on the valley, they talk to me of a Lombard soul which is proud and modest at the same time; daring and quite, never loud. The stronger the passions, the more secret.
Bob Wilson made Panza invisible, as if he was present in his mind; I would like, instead, to have a portrait of him and his wife painted by Lorenzo Lotto, like The Young Man in His Study, 1527, leafing through the book of life.


To presume that we definitely know brings us to the death of knowledge, especially about contemporary art.  The quality of art is always an emotional phenomenon, an act of love, the happiness of looking at and possessing art is nothing but this love relationship. (G.P.)


*FAI – Fondo Ambiente Italiano. It’s a non-profit foundation supported by private citizens, companies and institutions in order to protect, preserve and develop the artistic and natural heritage of Italian landscape. Founded in 1975, it was built under the inspiration of the British National Trust and is affiliated with INTO – International National Trust Organization. Villa Panza is one of the 56 sites under FAI’s wings.

** Christiane Löhr, German artist who works with dry, and fragile vegetable elements preserved in glass boxes.

VILLA PANZA was bought by Giuseppe’s father in 1935 when Giuseppe Panza was 12 years old. The building was first conceived and realized in the mid 1700s by Paolo Antonio Menafoglio, “a merchant of money.” At his death in 1768 the property was sold and resold to various owners until it ended into the hands of Pompeo Litta in 1823. The Litta family was one of the richest in Milan. Some rooms were added to the Villa, and the park was modified. Pompeo Litta received the title of duke from Napoleon for his political views, he was “a liberal and democratic spirit.” When Panza’s father found and bought the Villa, the property needed to be restored. The project was directed by Portaluppi, in the thirties one of the most prominent architects in Milan.



Walking Drawing and Ceremonial Pole and a Rock
at Denler Gallery, University of Northwestern, St. Paul


All the photographs by Tetsuya Yamada, courtesy of the artist

Writing itself should be untied from canonic habits: these sculptures are not meant to be monumental, or reproductions of anything physical. They are shaped by a secret feeling the artist has every day of his life: such a deep awe for the living that ordinary trees, stones, and the color of the day seem to him extraordinary gifts from the present. Just the very existence of things that surround us with no voice, not particularly appealing, many times invisible for lack of attention. Humans only see what they already have in mind, so it happens that ordinary things can look at us with detachment.

Yamada likes to think through Basho’s poems (1644-1694):

“in my view a good poem is one in which the form of the verse, and the joining of its parts, seem light as a shallow river flowing over its sandy bed.”

The true and the beautiful of his art must flow in a rarefied landscape; a place in which the artist tries to detach himself from physical desire and wish of possession. His art making becomes an absolute gesture: walking around the walls of the gallery for hours moving his arm up and down, letting the arm trace on the walls an horizontal action which is personal only because he did it, but has an impersonal quality like the blades of grass in a field.



It has been written that art, for the Japanese Gutai Group in the Fifties, “speaks of the delicate interaction between spirit and matter that ultimately enables art to tell a story and possess life and freshness.” (Wikipedia)


The Gutai experience is for sure on Tetsuya’s mind, and yet it is there along with many other Japanese rituals that Tetsuya knows well enough to keep their essence, and let the pods go away. It’s a way to unwrap his feelings, make them as pure as possible, but also to fill the space with them, this seems to be his goal. The lines he traced are light and thin as human hair. Up and down, into the mid space which is the active living between the ground and the sky. Life is a temporary density that rolls on herself. And art is the simple left over of a regular motion, the hand beating, the hand touching, exactly as with the prehistoric graffiti makers and the Anasazi shepherds leaving white little hands on a cave’s ceiling to mark their presence, once or more.

Tetsuya Yamada says he likes Zen ideas, not the practice itself. He doesn’t wear any specific religious habit. Maybe his ritual around the walls of the gallery was meant to be stripped from style, or cultural definitions, as if preceding human communication, or pretending to. The ritual scene has two witnesses, the stone and the tree at the center the room. They are both silent. Wondering what that human machine was doing around the room? The tree and the stone smile patiently at the bundle of lines all around them, so regular, and softly repetitive, without really disturbing one another: was that human body allowed to dream on his own -the will was gone once the action had started- until a thought appeared, the first of many: humans can only dream of the roots they don’t have.


The artist’s studio

Being Italian, I can’t avoid comparing Yamada’s sculptural artwork to the practice and ideas of Giuseppe Penone, an Italian delicate interaction between spirit and matter.

What is sculpture? (by Giuseppe Penone)

A work that evolves in space, occupies space.
A work whose form is necessary in all its parts.
A work whose form is possible only by way of the materials it consists of.
A work whose content is the significance of its material.
A work that contains the wonder of the material.
A work that represents nothing other than itself.
A work that reflects an anthropomorphic vision of the world.
A work that suggests and reflects our existence.
A work that does not describe but is described.
A work that is created by hand.
A work that is a thought produced by action.
A work that…

From Branches of Thought, by Giuseppe Penone, a little book published on the occasion of Penone’s exhibition at Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, 2014


Déjeuner sur l’herbe – Garden Lunch  
February 28, 2016

Los Angeles, 3632 Grand View Boulevard, LA 90066

Lucie Fontaine’s employees hosted the thanksgiving lunch of Laurel Doody, Fiona Connor’s non-profit art space that has been active in Los Angeles for about a year. March 2015-March 2016.








FIONA CONNOR, plates   Photos: Fredrik Nilsen

The gallery was also Fiona Connor’s small apartment. Often she moved her bed downstair during the day and brought it back for the night. The exhibition space was rigourously empty. The table for the ritual dinner at each exhibition was improvised and built at the moment. Laurel Doody was not only a whimsical initiative of a single person. Values were at stake. Exhibition by exhibition, it became an offering to the art makers, and their friends. By choice, not a commercial experience. Cooking and eating were parts of the ritual. A little like the Maori who offer hot soup to the stars, sitting on the seashore. Curators, writers, gallerists, designers, photographers, filmakers, performers were part of the collaborative group.

Many people in Los Angeles can say they were there, In Laurel Doody’s space, experiencing sincerity, honesty, passion for art and joyful time. Fiona Connor is an artist who likes displacements of objects and of their common meanings. She brought from her apartment to the Garden Lunch materials for the table: a small cupboard and two doors. The table setting was displayed on the doors. The artist set the table with ceramic plates made by her and with old white and blue Ginori 1900.




Photos: Peter Kirby

As Claude Lévi-Strauss  would say, “The same mind which has abandoned itself to the experience becomes the theater of mental operations which, without suppressing the experience, nevertheless transform it into a model to release further mental operations. In the last analysis, the logical coherence of these mental operations is based on the sincerity and honesty of the person who can say, like the explorer bird of the fable, ‘I was there; such and such happened to me; you will believe were you there yourself,’ and who in fact succeeds in communicating that conviction.”

Fiona’s plates are made by pressing clay on architectural surfaces and the ground, then peeling them off and letting them dry over moulds. They were fired at Laurel Doody. At the end of the garden lunch, the friends of the project received their plate as a present.


EDGAR PISANI: REBEL and MASTER in the art of politics

        C’est beau la politique! There is beauty in politics!

  in memoriam                by Rosanna Albertini


Photograph by Peter Kirby

Twelve years ago. The old man has flown back to France. Los Angeles was the Pacific edge of his life, one more seashore after his native dunes in Tunis and after the Atlantic, flinging its rage against Normandie and Bretagne. I still see his silhouette on the sidewalk, his legs walking steady and brisk. Arms and shoulders don’t move, a walking statue. Even the long sleeves of his shirt look dignified. I don’t know if history or simply age, made him exiled from decades of active political life, among other things serving France as a minister for two presidents, Charles De Gaulle and Francois Mitterand. He knows what he was and still is: first of all, “serviteur de l’Etat.” The two leaders, in his words, became political artists (plasticiens): De Gaulle like a Rodin “travaillant le marbre a grand coups de ciseaux,” working the marble with strong strikes of chisel, and Mitterrand “caressant indéfiniment la glaise,” endlessely fondling the clay.*

His eyes barely contain the urging of thoughts and the pressure of projects he needs to achieve before his feet are pointed to the sky, I hope without socks. So far his eighty seven years move on his feet back and forth through a Los Angeles sculpture garden, populated by a number of bronzes by Auguste Rodin and some by Bourdelle. There he feels at home. Not so much among contemporary geometries or textures emptied of figures, or Mel Bochner’s interrupted lines: language is not transparent. Far from me the idea of guiding his mind through LACMA’s meanders, we both know too well that art and politics can speak only to unpredictable motions of a personal sensitivity. He connects instantly to Gerhard Richter’s abstractions, though: a tormented embrace of greens and reds, as if the canvas had absorbed an informal density, completely earthly. The viewer could wonder whether the sky had ever existed, not to mention the humans.

Outside, in the garden, a full size bronze emerges from the bushes, the legs are hidden. Look at that figure, “It’s enough to look at,” says the old man, “this is solitude.” My eyes follow his feeling. Yes, life is heavy on that man’s sculpted shoulders, it is a dress he/we wear every day, it gets heavier and heavier, and yet the person is the core, the kernel of the story: instead of being put down, the person keeps light, and resilient. I turn myself, staring at the face of the old man: the statue is his mirror, that’s him. “Poor Bourdelle!” — he says — “Il a la même énergie, pas le même génie.” Rodin comes first.

The old man runs the clock backward repeating thoughts he does not want to forget, writing in the air the wisdom he has distilled from the vapors of power. Democracy, he truly cares about it. Food for everybody, he cares even more. We walk for almost an hour and he doesn’t look tired. If I suggest to take the bus, “Don’t treat me like an old,” he replies promptly, dropping a smile into his throat. He likes to talk sitting on the benches by the ocean.

What are you doing here?” he asks me for no reason. “I keep myself Italian, and partially French: here everything I’ve learned makes more sense.” As a matter of fact, in a couple of months the old man has turned on in me strings I had kept silent during a decade spent adapting to American life, trying to. Observing his struggle to keep his life active and interesting, for the first time I look at my own aging, still an odd thing, hard to believe that everything will stop, and one day, a day that I will not be able to see, I will not be here or there, where?

So far, my heart is pumping well: it sends me to see friends and grandchildren, other people older than I, animated by a ridiculous energy like a sonata by Ludwig Van Beethoven. I wear a red shirt from my husband’s collection and look at myself in the mirror: It fits me well, I burst out laughing! although they had told me when I was eleven or twelve that red was not a good color for my complexion. I suspect they had in mind the untold idea that red is too appealing, maybe suggests illicit sex, but then, what about Santa Claus? I was five when I learned that Garibaldi’s shirt was red. Garibaldi Giuseppe, of course, like most of my family members bearing the same name, on his feet in an oval frame. This was the way children learned history: Romolo and Remo, Nero, Napoleon, Garibaldi, pictures of famous humans in an oval frame.

We were sure they were truly dead like all the people looking at us from the gravestones in pictures with the same kind of oval. Mysterious that the twins were represented as babies nursed by a mother wolf, as if they had never grown up. A short sentence about each of them…. done, we knew that ancestors had prepared the life we are in. Garibaldi was l’eroe dei due mondi, the two worlds hero: meaning Europe and South America, or the deeply parted Northern and Southern Italy. The red shirts invaded Sicily. They killed, robbed, raped, only one hundred and fifty years ago. Why should Sicilians feel proud of being Italians. Of course they don’t. I wish I could grow my legs in a Munchausenian fanfaronnade and put one foot in Naples, and the other in Los Angeles, which is as far from being a truly American city as Naples from being an Italian one. Displacement is my favorite habit. Will I be a displaced ghost in the afterlife? I wonder. Will I stop dreaming?


A NOTE on POLITICS, by Edgar Pisani

Politics is the refusal to be resigned to fate and fatalism, but also brings a wish to fight, build, and negotiate. A luxury for the affluent, politics is a necessity for everybody else. Giving rise to free examination, politics gives meaning to what appears to be inevitable.” (Translation R.A.)

As it is human, politics does not only obey laws of ‘reasoning reason” and it is not only subject to the rhythm of the moments. It sanctions the importance of a “sentient reason,” and of duration. It is based on a philosophy of the world and the species, it tries to be prophetic by bridging the present that is known and the future that is negotiable; it is a poetics, for it sings the human adventure out of dramas and catastrophes; it is an ethics, for it identifies the rules that make it possible and good to live together; it is a pedagogy, for it help us to read and understand; it teaches us curiosity and method; it also teaches us responsibility. Politics is an ethics, for it teaches mutual respect and encourages learning. It helps us to understand that liberty can only exist if linked to responsibility. It is wisdom and courage for, when it has to confront forces and passions, it does not claim to stop them through decisions, but to tame them by mediation.

Edgar Pisani, A Personal View of the World, Utopia as Method, New York, Ottawa, Toronto, LEGAS, 2005 Translated and edited by Paul Perron
*This quotes were reported in Patrick Roger, Mort d’Edgar Pisani, résistant et ancient ministre de De Gaulle et de Mitterrand. LE MONDE 21.06.2016


THE CONCERT: April 21, 1961

THE CITY OF FOG, SNOW, SMOG: from  war to  reconstruction

Text and photographes by ALBERTO ALBERTINI, Milano 2016




Milan after the bombs in 1943










Milan in the early 60s

It was the time when we used to go to Rome by train in the sleeping car, and the trip lasted the entire night. If one really wanted to fly, DC4s were available. The Constellations were only transcontinental. It was also the early time of TV advertisements. Having the RAI [Radio Audizioni Italiane, a public institution] opened the door to the Caroselli*. Production companies pushed up like mushrooms in Milan, and the producers from Rome used to come to Milan (by sleeping car) to show short movies to advertising companies and customers.

The productive part of the country was in Northern Italy, that’s well know. Customers and advertising agencies used to invite Roman producers of advertising movies to Milano. And yet an incredible quantity of work was enabled in Milan because of the RAI decision to introduce an advertising program: of course they were movies, although short. In a city where movie-making was slow and only focused on some parts of the movies produced in Rome, it didn’t take much time to put in sound stages, recording and dubbing studios, development and printing. Sound technicians, boom operators, directors of photography, electricians, were suddenly called to work.


It happened that an agency of film processing, printing and sound mixing, born in the immediate after war, realizing the equipment was inadequate, signed an agreement with FONO ROMA for the management of the audio department in Milan. It was a necessary decision to improve the sound quality. At stake was the cost of broadcasting Caroselli, so high that bad sound quality wasn’t acceptable.
After seven years of tough training at the FONO ROMA in Rome, I appeared to be suitable for leading the Roman management of the Milanese studio. That’s a fact from which a very long story could arise not quite influential about Thelonious Monk concert in Milan.


It was the very first concert by Thelonious Monk in Italy, April 21 1961, at Teatro Lirico in Milan, a memorable event in history of jazz music.

My recording of this concert was due to two coincidences: the meeting with an American person, Blesser I believe, who wanted to sell an audio recorder, an AMPEX 350, before he went back to the U.S., and a different meeting, with Mario Fattori. Mario Fattori was a director and the head of one of most prestigious Milanese companies producing advertising movies. He was also a passionate supporter of jazz.
FONO ROMA purchased the AMPEX 350 portable recorder with three tracks, and a mixer with twelve inputs and four outputs -of course everything was tube- plus twelve SCHOEPS CM54 condenser microphones.
Mario Fattori was a FONO ROMA customer and the producer of the CONCERT. He asked me to record the exceptional event bringing to the Teatro Lirico the AMPEX in suitcases. It must be told that, at the time, magnetic recording on tape had already reached high quality levels, as in the CINEMASCOPE films of the early 50s. Nevertheless, to use a recorder with three tracks on half-inch tape, and portable, was a big advantage.

Such advantage forced me actually to face a conflict between two schools: the American and the European. In Rome, the capital of movie making in Italy, where I fed my professional skills, the American school prevailed, based on the CINEMASCOPE stereophonic structure: left, center and right, represented by three speaker behind the screen, hence the recording was on three tracks. In Milan instead, where the record companies prevailed, stereophony was on two tracks.

How to reconcile the conflict? It would have been inevitable to use only two tracks, implying only two microphones positioned for the “concert.” That was impossible due to the way the musicians were positioned, the lack of a boom and the need to have sounds in the foreground: the microphones in front of the instruments. How did I distribute the instruments on the tracks? Frankly, I don’t remember. Much more important is what happened in the second part of the concert. I don’t know what kind of agreement was there between musicians and producer, yet I clearly remember that the musicians, men of a certain stature and not only in a musical sense, were going round between the stage and the room where I had placed the equipment. They were very, very suspicious. So suspicious that, after the break, at the beginning of the second half of the concert with the curtains open, they moved the microphones before they started playing, rotating the stands in such a way that the sound could only be randomly grabbed I thought. Evidently, they knew what they were doing. Before I delivered the tape, I made a stereo-copy for my personal memory, that I never used. After such a long time, it could still contain something to tell us.









*Caroselli: every night at 9 pm, advertisements were a small theater with very short episodes. They were funny and well made. I grew up watching them before I was sent to sleep. I still remember the opening music.  RA


Per Francesco e Diego

Erano i tempi in cui per andare a Roma si prendeva il vagone letto e si viaggiava tutta la notte. Se proprio si voleva usare l’aereo, c’erano i DC4. I Constellations erano solo transcontinentali. Erano i primi tempi della pubblicità televisiva. Avendo la RAI aperto ai Caroselli, le case di produzione erano sorte come funghi, a Milano, e le produzioni romane venivano a Milano ( in vagone letto ) per visionare i film alle agenzie di pubblicità e ai committenti.


Siccome la parte produttiva del paese gravitava sul settentrione, i committenti e le agenzie pubblicitarie invitavano a Milano i produttori di film pubblicitari romani. Ma è incredibile la quantità di lavoro messa in movimento a Milano da questa decisione della RAI nel settore cinema s’intende, perché di film, brevi, si trattava. Nella città dove il cinema languiva e si girava solo una parte dei film prodotti a Roma, rapidamente si rimisero in moto teatri di posa, studi di registrazione doppiaggio, sviluppo stampa. Fonici, microfonisti, direttori della fotografia, elettricisti ecc. erano improvvisamente messi al lavoro.

Un’azienda di sviluppo stampa e sonorizzazione films, sorta nell’immediato dopoguerra, si trovò con apparecchiature inadeguate e stipulò un accordo con la FONO ROMA per la gestione del reparto audio. Questo si rendeva necessario per migliorare la qualità delle colonne sonore, lo richiedeva la posta in gioco, nel senso che il costo della messa in onda dei Caroselli non poteva giustificare una cattiva qualità del suono. Io, dopo sette anni di duro tirocinio alla FONO ROMA a Roma, fui ritenuto idoneo a condurre la gestione romana dello studio milanese. Da questo fatto deriverebbe una storia molto lunga ma ininfluente ai fini del concerto di Thelonius Monk.

Era il primo concerto di Thelonius Monk in Italia, il 21 aprile 1961
al teatro Lirico di Milano, un avvenimento memorabile nella storia della musica jazz.


La registrazione di questo concerto fu dovuta a due coincidenze: l’incontro con un americano, credo certo Blesser, che prima di rientrare in USA voleva vendere un registratore AMPEX 350, e l’incontro con Mario Fattori. Mario Fattori, era un regista e titolare di una delle più prestigiose case di produzione milanesi di film pubblicitari, e grande appassionato della musica Jazz.
La FONOROMA rilevò il registratore AMPEX 350 a tre tracce in versione portatile e un mixer a 12 ingressi quattro uscite, ovviamente tutto valvolare, più dodici microfoni a condensatore SCHOEPS CM54.
Mario Fattori era cliente della FONOROMA e produttore del CONCERTO. Mi propose di registrare questo evento eccezionale portando le valige dell’AMPEX al teatro Lirico. A quel tempo la registrazione magnetica su nastro aveva già raggiunto livelli di qualità elevata, basta pensare ai film CINEMASCOPE a pista magnetica usciti nei primi anni cinquanta. Tuttavia, disporre di un registratore a tre tracce su nastro da mezzo pollice per giunta portatile, era un grande vantaggio.

Questo vantaggio in realtà mi pose di fronte ad un conflitto: le due scuole di pensiero, quella americana e quella europea. A Roma, capitale del cinema, dove mi sono fatto le ossa, prevaleva la scuola americana che faceva riferimento alla stereofonia del CINEMASCOPE ovvero: sinistra, centro e destra, rappresentati da tre diffusori suono dietro lo schermo, da qui la registrazione su tre tracce. A Milano, dove prevalevano le case discografiche, la stereofonia era a due tracce.

Come conciliare questo conflitto? Sarebbe stato inevitabile usare solo due tracce ma questo avrebbe comportato una disposizione di solo due microfoni in posizione “concerto,” cosa impossibile per la disposizione dei musicisti, per la mancanza di una giraffa e per la necessità di avere suoni in primo piano, cioè i microfoni davanti agli strumenti. Come divisi gli strumenti sulle tre tracce? Impossibile, non me lo ricordo. Molto più importante quello che accadde nella seconda parte del concerto. Non so quali fossero gli accordi tra i musicisti e il produttore, ma ricordo bene che i musicisti, uomini di una certa statura non solo in senso musicale, si aggiravano tra il palcoscenico e la stanza dove avevo disposto le apparecchiature ed erano molto, molto sospettosi. Così sospettosi che dopo l’intervallo, nella seconda parte del concerto, a sipario aperto, prima di iniziare spostarono i microfoni ruotando le aste in modo che il suono fosse preso solo a caso. Evidentemente sapevano come fare. Prima di consegnare il nastro mi feci una copia stereo per mio ricordo personale e che mai utilizzai. Dopo moltissimo tempo, forse contiene ancora qualcosa da raccontarci.



Text by Rosanna Albertini


EILEEN COWIN, From the series Mad Love, Courtesy of the artist

EILEEN COWIN, Untitled from the Mad Love series,  2014    5.5″ x 8.2″                  
Courtesy of the artist

I lost my mother!
The young man sits at my left side on the bus, dirty nails ―in Italy we say che porta il lutto al gatto, that he is mourning the cat. At least mentally, he could cling to the window but he doesn’t. Medium long, greasy hair covers half of his face. His head and face are nothing noticeable except for the voice, a harsh sound like a badly played violin cord. The traffic from Westwood to Wilshire Boulevard makes the bus an island on wheels shaken between dry waves. The exhaust stinks whatever the brand. I can barely think, the inside air is cooled down and stays dirty, perspiration mixed with fragrances sent off from shoes, Mexican cooked beans’ flavor hidden in plastic bags and the stale breath of sleepers.
The young man decided for me that I shouldn’t get lost in my own thoughts, the brain lulled by dreams of clean air. And the story began as if he were the girl and I the pasha, in the thousand and one days of Los Angeles. Once upon a time there was a boy from the midwest. He now works at the Trader Joe’s.

Why did you come to Los Angeles?
My boy friend lives here.
And your mother?
She just died.

It was like to lie across a bare road erased from the map. Right, mother left us here to float in finitudes. Why my brain insists on thinking? Drawing parallels and circles? Adam and Eve lost the Paradise, so we keep falling, far from happiness and perfection. The young man didn’t look distressed. His hands, though, were agitated in a continuous finger torture, his nails could break.

She died and was cremated and I brought the ashes to Los Angeles.
And I went to a restroom. It was this morning. And somebody robbed my backpack, I had put it on the sink. I tried to grab it back, I was not strong enough. Mother was in the back pack. I lost her.

Feelings brushed against me like branches of biancospino, a prickly spring bush so full of white, tender flowers that thorns disappear covered by petals. Good to look at, without touching. I couldn’t avoid sympathy for my traveling companion. Keeping visible my  understanding, payed attention not to mingle with the personal spines surrounding his hands like a crown. Besides, my own spines started to fill my talking throat: whatever one says, go to the beach, take it easy, sounds so hypocritical, a screeching noise.

       If it wasn’t for the ashes transported in it, the backpack would have disappeared from his memory like the semi-transparent and light bags we bring home from the market filled with salad and carrots. Empty, they would fly far away, toward the faded circle of the moon still visible in the morning, a white ghost on the blue of the sky. They would be like moon lovers lost in her distance. The young man’s love for his mother, maybe, was no different. Dead, converted into ashes, she is so close to him he doesn’t know what to do with her. To know her wasn’t the point when she was standing on earth, for love had nothing to do with knowing and that was normal. But when it comes to death, he cannot get rid of something that looks like awareness, and it is not. It’s only the violent storm of all things never known about mother, an enormous empty ghost of memories that had been missed, or maybe, never existed.

Sitting next to him, I was daydreaming a chain of absurdities:  breakfast with ashes on the table, bus with ashes on the shoulders, ashes at Trader Joes underneath the check out counter, than home again. Mother’s ghost glued to his back. I was not really surprised, since I carried my mother inside my body for months, after she passed away. Almost an unspeakable feeling. The lost backpack made me smile.

Vladimir Nabokov:
“Hullo, person! Doesn’t hear me.
Perhaps if the future existed, concretely and individually, as something that could be discerned buy a better brain, the past would not be so seductive: its demands would be balanced by those of the future. […]
But the future has no such reality (as the pictured past and the perceived present possess); the future is but a figure of speech, a specter of thought.
Hullo person! What’s the matter, don’t pull me. I’m not bothering him. Oh, all right. Hullo, person . . . (last time, in a very small voice.)
When we concentrate on a material object, whatever its situation, the very act of attention may lead to our involuntarily sinking into the history of that object. Novices must learn to skim over matter if they want matter to stay at the exact level of the moment. Transparent things, through which the past shines!”*


EILEEN COWIN, From the series Mad Love, Courtesy of the artist

EILEEN COWIN, Untitled from the  Mad Love series, 2014   5.5″ x 8.2″
Courtesy of the artist

*VLADIMIR NABOKOV, Transparent Things, @ 1972, New York, Vintage Books, First Vintage International Edition, 1989