…THE POWER OF ‘THEY’ …
By Rosanna Albertini
Damn repetition. Damn mental habits implanted in a middle class dream of happiness: an artificial place for every thing that was created wild, leashes for animals, and security belts for humans. Don’t expect an artist to adapt. Christopher reads words very fast, but he writes with images. Most of them floating on paper, on screens, industrially fabricated: the skin of a human landscape in which images are trusted more than words. The money makers’ business. What better way to jump in this crazy flatness than to grasp a pair of scissors and cut images out like peeling an apple, or chopping parsley and onions. This Wilde guy did it with money. Currency from all over the world reduced to linguine or tagliatelle so thin that what remains is paper grain. Then, from the primordial chaos of fragments, he rebuilds his own world shaped by feelings and prodigious fingers.
I won’t call it collage. It’s a place. Local statement where dreams and nightmares take free rides through the map. Their freedom explodes in the ride itself, and the horse blooms with flowers and leaves as if a piece of tapestry had woken up in a horse shape. Didn’t need a direction. Go!
He had just arrived to Los Angeles from New York City a few years ago. I was bumping my head against the wall refusing to look for a publisher. Though I had published several books, I had just written my first book free from academic rules. Christopher Wilde looked at me with surprise: “Make it yourself” he said, “use your fingers.” “The whole book as a hand made object? More than one hundred pages…” “I can teach you to bind it with no glue, only needle and thread.”
My mother’s and grandmother’s hands, both seamstresses, tickled my brain. My master was a maker of books as artworks. He showed me how to work through knots in the thread, and cope with the thickness of eleven signatures. Practice, practice! To my surprise, the physical ordeal was not merely technical. Giving the thread the right tension to keep the pages in only one body was no different than writing; there is a personal tension that keeps words and stories together. Every day brings a new tension. That’s why I refuse to lock this artist in his technique. Stories he represents are much more interesting.
Christopher’s studio was then in Alhambra, a cute small building lost among gas stations and car mechanics. But inside, it could have been an Italian bottega with a master proud of his tools. It was the place from which his first Los Angeles artwork came out, welcomed by Rosamund Felsen. Still not completely his place, not in a hospitable part of the city. And family stories filled the working space as a sort of necessity. I was adjusting to my new American life as Wallis Wilde-Menozzi, the artist’s favorite aunt, was searching for her new life’s meaning in her husband’s small Italian town. “Moving to Italy made place a vast body that I had to reenter in all its difference.” The same happened to me moving to Los Angeles. Wallis and I had followed the men we loved. Wallis wrote a wonderful book about her experience, I did not. Her book became the beginning of deep friendship between the artist, myself and our partners, based on our sense of place. William Carlos Williams said that “Place is the true core of the universal.”
I borrow from aunt Wallis the body of the next and last paragraph. Her thinking is quite close to Christopher’s visual ideas. Literature and visual stories hold hands without knowing, one could never tell if they think or imagine to be thinking.
“I hide, you hide, we hide, they hide. I conjugate the verb and wonder at it. I do it again. It is hypnotizing. I must address the I hiding, the you, the we. They. It’s powerful and empty. They has always been a false position. I can’t speak about a they.”
Christopher shows their hands.
“Patrice Lumumba was an African leader and the first democratically elected President of the Congo. He was a member of the Tetela ethnic group and was born with name Elias Okit’ Asombo. His original surname means “heir of the cursed.” Lumumba’s presidency was brief, as he was assassinated. His body was dismembered, set on fire, and dissolved with acid. The assassination was orchestrated by a coterie of international corporations, sovereign nations, and local political rivals. His death was part of the post-colonial struggle of African nations against the control of foreign parties. Leopold II of Belgium was the colonizer of Congo in the 18oo’s. He set up a corporation with all the European leaders who had stakes in the division of Africa for colonies. Over twenty years this corporation, disguised as a state, enslaved and killed 2-15 million Congolese for ivory and rubber. The punishment for trying to escape the plantation system was to have a hand or arm cut off. Hence the use of the images of hands to make up the body of Leopold II representing the rapacious lust of the European for African resources and the hands of the slaves cut off in pursuit of those resources. Behind Leopol are torn maps of the Congo in different eras, symbolizing the control of the land by naming and mapping it. The portrait of Lumumba is made of maps of Africa, with the background made of hands in a halo around his head. Lumumba, the Pan-Africanist, appears here having been made out of the continent he loved, surrounded by the grasping hands of the world trying to get into his head. The Belgians, the USA, the USSR, and Great Britain all meddled in the life and career of Lumumba, eventually killing him rather than see his vision of a unified Africa come into being. The two portraits are framed in black rubber, in a final surreal gesture.”