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

Objects of a dysfunctional time: PETER SHIRE’s TEAPOTS

At MOCA Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles

 

MUSICAL, WHISPERING VOICES

 by Rosanna Albertini

Photos: Hannah Kirby

One can look at them naked, or encrusted with the shells of futurism, art deco, Milanese design, post modernism, California surrealism, like the door of a lobster cage. I would prefer to put all the verbal definitions into a fishnet and throw them deep into the ocean. The abandonment of the teapots to themselves “is an act of generosity,” as Mario Merz would say, “deciphering is the will to die.”

They are sirens these teapots singing the music of colors and forms: an endless, nostalgic song longing for water. Their nose too big, too long for their body, and the body shrunk like a musical instrument, or borrowing heaviness from a building, or eternalizing a fruit that tries to preserve the beauty of a flower and misses the branch moved by the wind. The teapots know there is no use for them. They are sculptures, born from an artist who likes to lie on the void, trying to forget rules and all the rational roads to understanding. Search for beauty is a source of anxiety.

“to orient
not to compel
to orient
in architecture
as in sculpture
like in a drawing of oriental vocal sensibilities
that is to say musical”
— Mario Merz

“All value depends upon somebody else’s opinion. For it is the essence of this philosophy that things have no independent existence, but live only in the eye of other people. It is a looking-glass world, this, to which we climb slowly; and its prizes are all reflexions. That may amount for our baffled feelings as we shuffle, and shuffle vainly, among those urban pages for something hard to lay our hands upon. Hardness is the last thing we shall find.”
— Virginia Woolf

That’s why there is no futurISM in these teapots, no celebration of civil and warlike mechanical machineries expected to pierce the present with energy, violent breaks, and, at least verbally, to introduce hardness. Instead, the teapots are a whispering voice, like the French and Italian words avenir, l’avvenire. From the late Latin ad-venire.

I find their softness and I don’t know what it is that touches me, unless what I like is just the uncertainty about what they are. They are displaced and useless, but searching for their face to face with us. The human side which is in them, the artist’s making, meets other humans in a present which is constantly coming to be, fleeting and incapable of standing as an accomplished future. Displacement is everywhere: between words and things, dreams and reality, thinking and making. What a dysfunctional time!

And yet, I miss stroking them, giving them a caress. I can only send them a philosophical caress, the most beautiful I found.

“The caress doesn’t know what she looks for. Such ‘not knowing’ such fundamental incongruence, is essential.” “The caress is waiting for a pure time to come, time without a content. She is made with growing hunger, and more and more enticing promises, which brings new perspectives on the things we cannot grasp.”
— Emmanuel Lévinas

Mario Merz, Lo spazio e curvo e diritto, Firenze, Hopeful Monster Editore, 1990

Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader, London, The Hogarth Press, 1935

Emmanuel Lévinas, Le temps et l’autre, @Fata Morgana, 1979. First edition February 1983, PUF, Paris.

 

Eileen Cowin: MAD LOVE n.6

Eileen Cowin: MAD LOVE n.6

 

EILEEN COWIN,  The Dangerous Edge of Things, 2015,  from Mad Love series, 7.7″ x 9″

How we don’t see

by Rosanna Albertini

The curtain pulled through the open window trembles slightly; sunlight, and rumbling noise from the freeway and birds screeching interrupted by silly mockingbirds who imitate snoring early in the morning, make a density of sounds kept in the distance, outside, by the luminous screen, vibrating and warming. Yes Kristin, for the first time I understand why you painted on canvas a big, vertical curtain with little blue and green flowers. The painting becomes an absorbing screen, an opaque surface  asking things from the world to stay out for a while. For a moment, let me veil their impact. The curtain makes me feel as if my body were absorbing echoes and reflections, I don’t have to see and be touched by the shadows of the day. Sounds, light and wind are filtered. Maybe the Muslim veil over women’s faces, that allows them to see through, though remaining perfectly hidden, is much more than a discriminatory symbol, it could be a privilege.

Not to be seen anymore is the reason one leaves, not to be regarded by people who are only partially in touch with our life and yet ask for attention, surrounding us with a cloud of pressure. I have been biting my tail over and over for decades, chasing a story of mine that followed me like an unknown ghost. I see why people do not usually leave their hometown, or their country, unless their roots have been snatched and pulled out. If they leave, then often they move as if wearing a diving suit that makes them slow, as if the air was water winding its way with unfamiliar vibrations.

It took me a remarkable number of years to realize how strongly my eyes have been wide shut while adapting my senses to the New World’s sky, my nervous system to the vibrations of the soil, and my mouth to the tongue. My perception of American life was that it was going to be forever new. I’m always yearning for the excitement of the new, that’s a curse that makes me think of my own death as the very last adventure. You float over your used body and fly, god knows where. Will I join you, mother? Instead of receiving food from you, or dresses that I did not like, I would rest with you on an apricot tree. We rest and laugh, hidden by the foliage. “Your body was your screen, wasn’t it?” I ask her.

She smiles like Alice’s cat, her smile expands in the air until there is nothing left but an impression of her. She is back being an absence. I can only sing through her genes, enumerating the few keys she gave me to understand her mysterious withdrawing —most likely not knowing what she was doing. A movie and an opera have become indelible clues to discover her. My mother’s pink lipstick was called “indelible.” The cream for her face —why am I remembering such details?— was named from herbs and leaves: “botana.” Names, events, work in my mind like the little pebbles of the fable. Pollicino let them fall behind him on the ground in the woods, so he could find his way back.

There was no way mother and I could miss Pietro Mascagni’s most popular opera. We walked the narrow pathway behind the house, with stinging nettles between two low wire nets covered with vines; despite precautions we did wake up the dogs of the neighbors, and in no more than five minutes were sitting in the smoky room of our Circolo Familiare, the only public TV space in the village. The card players did not stop slamming on the tables, coughing and laughing. “Let’s go to the opera,” she had told me, which for me, at the time, was only one: Cavalleria Rusticana. Had I known that the author was from Livorno I would have been even more confused; I always thought he was Sicilian because the singers wore Sicilian names and costumes. Despite the small screen, and the rural lack of respect for musical performances, amid spectators much more excited by Mike Bongiorno and his TV quiz than by opera singers, I entered with my mother into a space of tension that isolated us from the smoky, humid room. Tension grows, the story makes a strong impression on us: a figurine that seems to have escaped from a Neapolitan crib runs towards the edge of the stage. He wears a short, black vest, a white scarf around the waist and white socks to the knees. The story is about to be doomed. The loud dwarf brings terrible news at the end of a too long vocalization and shouts, “Hanno ammazzato compare Turiddu!” (Somebody killed godfather Turiddu!)

As my mother shivers, I am taken by surprise; I don’t really like that music, or the ridiculous look of the scene, and wait for an explanation. In short: two men were in love with the same woman, and one of them stubbed the other to death. I spent my whole life making fun of the ridiculous way Italian operas expand a long stretch of feelings on the vocal cords. But never had I connected to my mother’s silence, and emotion, during that loud recitativo. It was maybe her real story, safely represented in a fictional space for everybody to see. Her story, there, dramatically resolved: one of the contenders had killed the other. In real life, she was the one who stepped to the Acheron and the two who loved her survived her.

 

EILEEN COWIN,The Possibility of Regret, 2016, from Mad Love series, 6.6″ x 10″

 

THE CHALLENGE : Milan in the Sixties

THE CHALLENGE: to plan and build from zero two recording studios in three months

ALBERTO in Milano

Text and images by ALBERTO ALBERTINI

The best conditions for damage to a company, a family or a political party, are when one creates or tolerates an inner conflict. “The Challenge” was a textbook case: the perfect conflict. The idea of disturbing my peaceful work by giving me a boss who was not really useful to me, but rather involved in projects totally distant from me, created this conflict. I need to emphasize the dimension of the challenge: to create from zero, in an empty loft, two recording studios in three months. The project implied decisions about what to buy and the complete planning, to the slightest details. Not having any intention to replicate the Roman Fonoroma studios, I paid attention not to do what I had learned doesn’t have to be done and, what’s more, I improved my work thanks to my five years of inventions and innovations. I can’t explain the trust I received.

A constant in my planning activity is a certain incompetence. As Anatole France used to say, the specialists of a discipline know everything about it, but beyond that, they grope in the dark. Being an outsider and not a specialist at all, I did not grope in the dark. Never having had the right school over the years, the son of a painter who had been a mechanic and grandchild of a carpenter, I had studied chemistry, physics, photography, film technique on my own, that’s why maybe I had a bent for applying techniques of one discipline to another. I mean, in developing my first sound recorder I applied in the control system of the reels  the technique used in motorcycle brakes. To the film developing system for the Cineservicefilm I had applied the technique used in a steam engine heat exchange mechanism. A panoramic vision, joined to my natural thoughtlessness, allowed me to face problems certainly bigger than me.

After my departure from Rome in 1959, Fonoroma became something completely different and for sure not my responsibility; maybe their investments to try and make “Cinema in Milano” were excessive or wrong. In the late 50’s people in the film business in Rome used to say that Fonoroma was losing in film production what had been gained by dubbing, but was able to recover. But this time, in the 60’s it did not recover. The workers, after various ups and down, organized a cooperative that maintained the prestigious name. But they had to move, abandoning the marvelous palace behind Piazza del Popolo.

 

There was, in Milan, a factory of film development and film and sound printing created in 1945, immediately after the end of the war, as a present to his daughter by a textile manufacturer from Veneto. The name was Filmservice. The audio equipment of Filmservice didn’t have the quality required by the new market: the “Caroselli,” the very first TV advertisements. In ’58-’59 this factory owner asked Fonoroma to manage the sound department. In 1959 I was sent to Milan by Fonoroma as a manager of the department, to be immersed in the hell of an industrialized dubbing system. I was meeting a completely different reality. The transition that leads to the “Challenge” was five years spent as a manager of the Milanese Fonoroma.

For Fonoroma, sending me north was a big opportunity: I was a Northerner speaking the same language as the clients, and a pain in the neck eliminated from Rome. They easily convinced me with a very good salary to go to Milan, where I found a different world in which producing television advertisements had promoted a style of work adapted to short films. Studios, cameras, microphones were all the same as in feature filmmaking, but designed for very short shoots and with top level audio, because each advertisement had to be clear, intelligible and powerful!

They were the fabulous years…a banal commonplace or cheap sentimentalism? Fabulous years are those containing a more or less defined hope, certainly perceived by intuition, a hope today quite hard to feel. Although those Sixties were fabulous indeed, I didn’t know it, but my instinct pressed me to keep going. In those years the construction of the first subway turned the city upside down, it was the time of miniskirts, and the famous Giamaica bar was nearby, but I didn’t have the time to go there, and Paolo Sarpi Street was not one way yet. These were also the pioneering years of the new electronic solid state technology, those tiny worms with three threads sticking out before they became integrate circuits and then microprocessors. Electronics was then something one could touch, made visible by few and simple tools, now instead it’s the unknown, entirely analyzed by processors indicating if it works or not! The new field was so satisfying to me that I also made one of the first solid state commutators. I could describe the technical aspects of my work, and yet they would be impossible to comprehend even for a competent persons today, so much have technologies changed. In another report I will try an accessible description. More interesting are the clouds approaching on the horizon…

When I arrived in 1959 I found the space of the recording studio in Milan was similar to a submarine: steep metal stairs, a closet for machines, another for directing. The room for actors speaking at the microphone, although bigger, was smelling of humidity, dust and the passing of years. Projects recorded there were absolutely inadequate to the new requirements. RAI (the Italian state television network) had a department of quality control and rejected our products that were not good enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A young engineer had renewed these studios in Milan. The son of Fonoroma’s owner, he had either tried to save money, or to put to the test the new electronic devices: transistors. In conclusion, I found myself caught in a multitude of technical and methodological troubles because the feature film sound approach was different from the approach for producing sound for TV advertising; they were both effective, and their conflict was only due to the arrogance of the young engineer. On one side there was a fantastic relationship with clients, actors, dubbers, editors, producers, but on the other hand, I had to deal with the problems created by thermal drift in the circuitry of the studio that lead to a decline in sound quality after a few hours of work. It became necessary to quickly examine the new devices, analyze and solve the design problems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I remember that between 1962-63, the owners of the Filmservices studios sold the whole activity to a financial group owned by the Cefis. Filmservice became TTC: tecno tele cine. 

The financial group was concerned with another project, initiated under Fonoroma’s wings, that started to take shape in order to attract to Milan the film production centered in Rome. A “Cinelandia” was supposed to be built by Fonoroma and other investors on the outskirts of Milan. This project would be far from the film processing labs. Because TTC where I worked was in the city center, our actors used to go quickly to the RAI nearby, if the scripts needing to be recorded were only a few minutes long. The new project would have implied inconceivable long traveling, or otherwise disrupted the advertisement production.

My collaboration was as loyal as the one of a dissident in his own party. I was waiting for the right opportunity. The “Cinema a Milano” project continued with general indifference from outside, but for Fonoroma it was a must! A remarkable quantity of money had been invested to build everything ex novo. Since I had built the new film mixing studio in the old TTC place, the director of TTC, seeing how I worked, believed I was in a position to solve his problems. He asked me to build two new studios in the same building, on the top floor, where there was an empty space of 30 x 15 x 5 meters.

The challenge was to accomplish everything in three months and open the activities before the “Cinema a Milano” could open. Their construction were already quite advanced.

From April to September 1965 we planned the entire project, in order to complete it and open in December. This included the planning of acoustic walls as well as the mechanics and electronic components. Orders and construction had to start within planned, rigid times, in a way that every piece could enter the plan precisely at the right time and in the right space: contractors, modified projectors, recorders for magnetic and optical film, general mechanics, plus the parts built by me. At my little table, I had prepared all the audio and network connections, with orders and deliveries precisely calculated.

There, in that empty and bleak, immense pavillion, the ceiling still a naked, sagging roof, masons pour the floating floors and the double walls for  perfect acoustic insolation, carpenters place the pipes for electric and audio connections, while our workshop prepares the frames for the mixing consoles, the consoles and recording machines arrive, with a collaborator helping me we proceed to work at connections, we install the screens…the sheets of paper for invoices are printed: we start recording!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calculations had been precise. We succeeded in starting to record before the engineers closed the old studio to move it out of town. The hardware project was also supported by a method to manage recordings, archives and invoices, so that the work started immediately in a fluid way. I had learned what does not have to be done and planned all the possible improvements I had discovered in years of work.

These studios, as I had conceived them,  worked for 25 years. The studios of our competitors never took off, stalled in telefilm dubbing. The recording studios were given in the end to private televisions. Now, 2015, I don’t know what remains of the out of town studios. Those I had planned and built do not exist anymore. The whole building was demolished and replaced by a luxury apartments building. It’s a new time. After all, fifty years have passed.

(For the translation of all the technical details and more, I had the invaluable help of my husband Peter Kirby. Thank you Peter!)

 

 

LA SFIDA: progettare e costruire da zero due studi di registrazione in tre mesi

ALBERTO a Milano

La condizione migliore per danneggiare un’azienda, una famiglia, un partito, è la creazione o la tolleranza di un conflitto interno. “La sfida” era un caso da manuale: il conflitto perfetto. L’idea di disturbare il mio pacifico lavoro dandomi un capo che non serviva a me ma ai progetti a me estranei, creò il conflitto cui ho accennato. Quello che intendo sottolineare è la dimensione dell’impresa: creare da zero, cioè da un capannone vuoto, due studi di registrazione in mesi tre. Il progetto comportava la decisione sui prodotti da acquistare e la progettazione completa, nei minimi dettagli. Non intendevo ripetere gli studi romani della Fonoroma, ma fare tutto quello che avevo imparato che non bisognava fare, e in più tutte le migliorie del lavoro in base alle esperienze di cinque anni di invenzioni e innovazioni. Non trovo spiegazione della fiducia che mi era stata accordata.

Una costante nella mia attività di progettazione è l’ incompetenza specifica. Come diceva Anatole France, gli specialisti di una disciplina sanno tutto di questa ma, al di fuori di essa, brancolano nel buio. Io ero al di fuori, e non essendo specialista non brancolavo nel buio. Non avendo mai frequentato la stessa scuola negli anni, figlio di un pittore che era stato meccanico e nipote di un falegname, avevo studiato chimica, fisica, fotografia, tecnica cinematografica per conto mio, forse per questo tendevo ad applicare le tecniche di una disciplina a un’altra. Per dire, al mio primo registratore avevo applicato al freno di svolgimento della bobina la tecnica delle frizioni motociclistiche. Alla sviluppatrice della Cineservicefilm avevo applicato la tecnica dei vasi comunicanti e degli scambiatori di calore delle locomotive a vapore. Una visione panoramica, non unilaterale, unita all’incoscienza congenita di cui godo, mi consentiva di affrontare azioni sicuramente più grandi di me.

Dopo la mia partenza da Roma la Fonoroma non fu più la stessa, non certo per causa mia ma perché gli investimenti per “fare il cinema a Milano” dovettero essere eccessivi o sbagliati. Si diceva, a Roma, che la Fonoroma perdeva, nella produzione di film, quello che aveva guadagnato con il doppiaggio, ma comunque si riprendeva. Questa volta non si riprese e dopo varie vicissitudini, i lavoratori finirono in cooperativa, conservando il prestigioso nome ma cambiando sede, abbandonando il meraviglioso palazzo dietro Piazza del Popolo!

A Milano esisteva uno stabilimento di sviluppo stampa e sonorizzazione film nato nel 1945, subito dopo la guerra, come regalo di un industriale tessile veneto alla figlia: si chiamava Filmservice. Le apparecchiature audio del Filmservice erano di qualità insufficiente a soddisfare le richieste del nuovo mercato: i Caroselli, pubblicità televisiva. Nel ’58-’59 la proprietà di questo stabilimento propose alla Fonoroma di gestire il reparto suono. Nel 1959 sono stato spedito a Milano con l’incarico di gestire questo reparto, immerso nella bolgia del sistema di doppiaggio industrializzato; mi venivo a trovare in contatto con una realtà tutta diversa. La transizione che conduce alla sfida è un interregno di cinque anni passati come gestore della Fonoroma milanese.

Come settentrionale ero una grossa opportunità: parlavo la stessa lingua dei clienti ed ero un rompiscatole eliminato a Roma. Con un’ottima retribuzione mi convinsero facilmente a tornare a Milano nel ’59, dove ho trovato un mondo diverso. La pubblicità televisiva aveva promosso un modo di lavorare su misura dei brevi filmati. Teatri di posa, pellicola, microfoni, tutto come nel cinema vero ma solo per brevissime riprese per giunta con un audio ai massimi livelli perché ogni pubblicità doveva essere chiara, intellegibile e potente!

Erano i favolosi anni…un banale luogo comune oppure sentimentalismo a buon prezzo? Gli anni favolosi sono quelli che contenevano una speranza più o meno definita, sicuramente intuita, speranza che oggi è difficile nutrire. Quegli anni sessanta erano favolosi, io non lo sapevo ma il mio istinto mi sollecitava ad andare avanti. Erano gli anni della città sottosopra per i lavori della prima metropolitana, delle minigonne, del Giamaica a due passi ma che io non avevo il tempo di frequentare e via Paolo Sarpi era a doppio senso, ma erano anche gli anni pionieristici della nuova tecnica elettronica allo stato solido, quei minuscoli bruchi con tre fili sporgenti destinati a divenire circuiti integrati e poi microprocessori. Allora l’elettronica si toccava con mano, cioè la si vedeva con pochi semplici strumenti, ora invece è l’ignoto, tutto analizzato da processori che dicono se funziona oppure no! Questo mi dava soddisfazione ed avevo pure realizzato una delle prime commutazioni allo stato solido. Certo potrei descrivere gli aspetti tecnici del mio lavoro ma sarebbero incomprensibili anche agli addetti ai lavori del giorno d’oggi, tanto le tecnologie sono cambiate.
Tenterò comunque in altro rapporto di farne una descrizione comprensibile.
Più interessanti le nubi che si approssimavano all’orizzonte…

Lo studio di registrazione milanese disponeva più o meno degli spazi che si trovano in un sommergibile: ripide scalette di metallo, un buco per le macchine e un altro per la regia. La sala, il luogo dove gli attori parlano al microfono era più grande, si, ma puzzolente di umidità polvere e tempo. Progetti assolutamente inadeguati alle nuove necessità. La RAI aveva un reparto di controllo qualità e respingeva i prodotti deficienti.

Il progettista del rinnovamento degli impianti di Milano era un giovane ingegnere, figlio del padrone degli studi romani, che aveva voluto sia economizzare, sia sperimentare i nuovi dispositivi elettronici: i transistori. In conclusione mi sono trovato in una moltitudine di guai tecnici e metodologici perché la scuola di suono cinema era diversa da quella del suono pubblicitario, pur essendo entrambe valide erano in conflitto per via della supponenza del nuovo progettista. Se da un lato si era instaurato un fantastico rapporto con i clienti, attori, doppiatori, montatori, produttori, dall’altro mi trovavo a gestire apparecchiature che principalmente soffrivano di deriva termica tale che dopo qualche ora la qualità del suono decadeva. Dunque necessità di studiare i nuovi dispositivi, analizzare i problemi e risolverli.

Intanto, la proprietà dello stabilimento sviluppo, stampa e sonorizzazione film (Filmservice) cedette tutta l’attività ad un gruppo finanziario facente capo ai Cefis, mi pare fra il 1962-63. La Filmservice diventa TTC: tecno tele cine. Questo gruppo era preoccupato da un altro progetto, promosso da Fonoroma, che cominciava a prendere forma, per attirare a Milano le produzioni cinematografiche romane. Avrebbe dovuto diventare una “Cinelandia” fuori città, dove la Fonoroma avrebbe deciso di trasferirsi. Sarebbe venuto a mancare lo studio di doppiaggio che faceva da supporto all’attività di sviluppo film. Siccome lo stabilimento dove lavoravo era in centro città, gli speakers facevano un salto dalla vicina RAI per registrare testi di pochi minuti. Il nuovo progetto avrebbe richiesto tempi di spostamento impensabili, ovvero sconvolto l’attività pubblicitaria.

La mia collaborazione era leale quanto quella di un dissidente entro il proprio partito. In definitiva aspettavo l’occasione giusta. Tra l’indifferenza generale il progetto “Cinema a Milano” andò avanti, doveva! Furono investiti parecchi capitali per costruire tutto ex novo. Poiché io avevo costruito il nuovo studio mixaggio film nella vecchia sede TTC, il direttore di questa, vedendomi al lavoro, mi reputò in grado di risolvere i suoi problemi e mi contattò proponendomi di costruire due nuovi studi nello stesso stabile all’ultimo piano dove esisteva uno spazio libero di 30X15X5 metri.
La sfida consisteva nel farlo in tre mesi e aprire l’attività prima dei “facciamo il cinema a Milano”, già avanti con i lavori.

Da aprile 1965, inizio dei contatti, a settembre, il progetto doveva essere pronto per l’esecuzione che doveva terminare in dicembre. Questo implicava sia la progettazione murario-acustica che quella meccanico elettronica, cioè far partire ordini e costruzioni con tempi previsti e impegnativi in modo che ogni pezzo si incastrasse in tempi e luoghi precisi: impresa di costruzioni, proiettori modificati, registratori su film magnetico e ottico, meccanica generale più la parte costruita da me. Anche tutte le connessioni audio e rete, erano preparate da me a tavolino, ordini e consegne calcolati con precisione.

Ed ecco che nell’immenso padiglione vuoto e squallido, il soffitto ancora a tetto nudo e spiovente, i muratori posano i pavimenti galleggianti e le doppie murature, per un perfetto isolamento acustico, i carpentieri posano le tubature per le connessioni elettriche e audio, la cabina elettricità, l’officina prepara lo scheletro del mixer, arrivano le macchine, con un collaboratore si procede alle connessioni si installano gli schermi…si stampano i fogli lavorazione/fatturazione: si registra!!

I calcoli erano stati precisi, riuscimmo a iniziare le registrazioni prima che gli ingegneri chiudessero il vecchio studio per trasferirsi fuori città. Il progetto dell’hardware era affiancato anche da un software: il modo di gestire le registrazioni, le archiviazioni e le fatturazioni cosicché il lavoro iniziò subito scorrevole. Avevo imparato ciò che non bisogna fare e progettato tutte le migliorie possibili osservate durante il lavoro.

Quegli studi, così come li ho concepiti, hanno lavorato per 25 anni. Quelli dei concorrenti non decollarono mai, ripiegarono sul doppiaggio di telefilm e i teatri di posa infine ceduti alle nuove TV private. Ora, 2015, non so cosa sia rimasto degli studi fuori città, di quelli che ho progettato io, più niente. L’intero palazzo demolito e al suo posto una nuova costruzione residenziale di lusso. Segno dei tempi, in fondo sono passati cinquant’anni.

 

 

Eileen Cowin: MAD LOVE N.5

Eileen Cowin: MAD LOVE N.5

EILEEN COWIN, Lost in Translation from the Mad Love Series, 2017 5.5″ x 8.2″
Courtesy of the artist

Not just self, maybe before
by Rosanna Albertini

The apricot tree was a large umbrella spread over a square piece of ground sown with potatoes. A green hedge separated this part of the garden, the hole for garbage and the henhouse, from the pine tree and the rose garden. After the beans had been completely harvested, I used to move the sticks into the potato field. Because they were five time higher than me, I pretended they were poles for building my favorite space: a sort of teepee made out of wooden sticks crossed at the top. Before the dew was frost on the clogs, almost never before November, the soil was soft enough to keep my construction quite steady. It was a difficult achievement for a seven year old; my home was often falling apart like a house of cards, scratching my arms legs and feet – but the final contentment was beyond description. I had my own house, and an unrestrained mind freedom. I didn’t mind of all those strange people inside the big house. They weren’t usually able to find me until dark, but it must be said that quite often they also forgot I existed. If they called, I believe I did not answer, sitting as I was on the inner curve of the moon. In summertime, before the grass was cut, it was even easier to disappear in tunnels through the blades, or astride the branches of a pear tree. God knows what I had in mind, lots of stories that were all vividly true since pretending is not lying; pretending is a secret work that one does not share with anybody. Besides, I was encumbered by theological doubts. Perhaps because people were not yet feeling safe, immediately after the end of the war, and quite often children died young, the local Catholic community (four nuns and one priest attended by his sister) had probably decided that children, at least, had to die sanctified, having received the sacraments at age six and seven. The elementary school started at age five, a year after we could chew the doctrine book listening and memorizing, rather than reading. It was easy: Italian or Latin, it did not matter. Because of the long skirted people who had told us that our heart had to connect to those words, we were seriously charmed. Our families never knew how influential the Catholic rituals had been on our small lives. We did not know what it is to be smart. Naive, dumbfounded creatures, my friends and I were a group of about fifteen children not really capable of separating the fairy tale territory from the church discipline. Like a small army wearing pink or blue overalls, each of us brandishing one carnation, we walked to the cemetery at every funeral. Not to chat or burst out laughing were the hardest things, being the circumstance only a normal death in which our feelings were clearly not involved. Did we even have feelings? Maybe not, I don’t remember. And now, as I look back at those years with no rules, I see the strange tall people in the big house must have loved me very much, if they left so much space around me.

EILEEN COWIN, Merely an Episode from the Mad Love series, 2017 5.5″ x 8.2″
Courtesy of the artist

Eileen Cowin: MAD LOVE n.4

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

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

A migration story

by Rosanna Albertini

In your old age you used your wooden prosthetic hand as an advantage against the many obstacles a working woman encounters, starting with the train’s schedule. You were always late. One morning, after grabbing the handle while the wheels were already turning on the rails, the door slammed on your hand. Four fingers were blocked outside. The station master dropped his hat, and almost fainted for he couldn’t understand: you were smiling through the window, over the locked door. “Didn’t you see they are wood?” you screamed after him. The wooden hand had several clones in the dresser’s drawers. If we found one of them in the kitchen and you were not at home, the main concern of everyone was, “Again, grandmother forgot the hand!”

As if it wasn’t enough, for two years at the hospital you became an experimental human field for doctors. They dug two channels through your right arm: one underneath the wrist, the other before the elbow, trying to figure out how to connect an artificial limb to the tendons. Having maimed soldiers in mind, – it was one of  World War I years, 1916 or 1917- they used you as a guinea pig and irretrievably broke your tendons. A seventeen year old girl could only be sacrificed to the young men’s future. You spent two years educating your left hand to writing and sewing, probably growing beautiful in your acceptance of a physical imperfection that did not prevent you from being admired. Soldiers used to throw secret messages on folded pieces of paper through the hospital’s windows. After leaving the hospital, your left hand got used to serving dinners. Your parents had invested in a restaurant with the money paid by the factory for your accident. Such a dreadful sequence of facts seem to have only strengthened your tenacity: this was always, for you, the best of all possible worlds. As a matter of fact, at the restaurant you met grandfather. His love messages were hidden underneath the emptied, dirty plates.

What I see looking at me right now from teeth to toes, is both your lives, mother and grandmother. I read vestiges in irrelevant gestures; I am the only person in the world who can give them a meaning. Since I have only one body, to make your magnificent ghosts compatible in the only space I have is not a matter of choice. I rarely allow my feelings to be transparent, or I strike the comic note. After all, the marks of yours I recognize in my own person are free from both your wills and my own. I walk on grandmother’s straight legs, and often I hold my right wrist, using my left hand like an open fan that completely covers the right hand mysteriously shrunk in a fist. It was grandmother’s most frequent gesture. Does it make sense? It did to her, to me it’s almost embarrassing, a religious gesture out of church. I’m covering a stump although my right hand hasn’t lost four fingers all of a sudden, as happened to her, when the four fingers of the right hand were cut off by a sharp mechanism of a thread producing machine, the common thread for sewing. Was the nocturnal factory life during World War I as bloody as the battlefields? Did I intensify such a mimic gesture after I moved to the U.S? Perhaps I am binding our lives with double thread, grandmother, bringing you back through me into this country that you met first when you were sixteen. It was in 1914. While sleeping on the bridge of a transatlantic steamer, or  learning English thanks to a waiter —you were sent by your family to join an uncle who had a drugstore in Pittsburgh— you certainly could not anticipate the stories to come, very much like Candide: back to Italy after a year with chilblains at your feet because you had spent the Pittsburgh’s winter wearing rubber boots; sent to Switzerland as a baby sitter to make money, this time you only had to cross a lake; brought back to your village at the beginning of World War I by your parents who, ignorant of neutral politics, wanted to have their child at hand. They surely lost the grab. Of you right hand, only the thumb remained.

A strong, rough awareness of my body, without shame or fear, grew in me since I was a child thanks to grandmother’s frankness and unusual metaphors. Bathing outside, in a wooden bucket full of water warmed up by the sun, was a sort of pagan ceremony on which she often put the ornament of unforgettable sermons such as, “remember, take a lot of care of your vagina, keep her always clean because it is your second face.” By the same natural franchise I worked on her skin often damaged by a common sickness that eats the tissues and produces large itching crusts. Never revolted, like the girl of a fairy tale who cleans up louses from an old woman hair and receives a generous reward, I cleaned the wounds, spread pomades, noticing every time as a miracle the simple fact that her skin, though injured, was the softest, clearest, good smelling skin I had ever touched, a rose petal. To be allowed to touch her was my reward, and perhaps my talisman against the senseless order into which my life was coerced. My will to love was reinforced by each visit, bringing flowers to my goddess, rushing as fast as possible up to the fourth floor —there was no elevator— through the smell of bleach on the gray marble steps cleaned early in the morning by the lady concierge, opening the door with impatience and finally, being at home. Who cares that we did not have a kitchen, only a three flame burner underneath a beige and brown curtain next to the front door and the bathroom for washing dishes and clothes. We had a big room and a wide terrace with flowers at the top of a modest building that survived the war. Via Cantoni, 10. It seemed a palace to me because of the constant care, the pride of people who lived there keeping it shining, no dust in the corners.

        The Sundays were filled with movies, or little trips out of town with grandmother and a boyfriend of hers who was an artists specializing in chapels and monuments in the cemeteries just like Lucio Fontana, —Fontana’s father had a company of funerary production —  usually ending in some tabaccheria to check the football game’s results. Totocalcio was the oracle for poor people, a chance of unexpected little money. Then we were running home to look at our receipt. When we won, not very often, grandma was not telling me so the following week we could have a surprise feast instead of our daily eggs and polenta. After dinner, and sometimes in the morning, coffee at the twin apartment on the same floor, the home of a skinny lady smoking so much that her fingers were browned by nicotine. At her kitchen table we did not need TV, almost nobody owned one at the time. It was enough to make the point about famous homicides, love stories among celebrities, other love stories among close family members, political scandals, whispering if a niece of the skinny lady had worked as a prostitute in a house when the houses were still legal before the “Merlin Law.” The two old ladies were dogged readers of newspapers and passionate storytellers. But a moral had to appear from some detail. Yes, the niece was a prostitute, she had a girl, “and you know, the girl wears glasses.” Punishment was as natural as inevitable. The final litany included a formal “thank you, Enrico.” We used to look toward the bedroom, sending our thought to the defunct husband looking back at us from a framed picture on the dresser. There was a red carnation in a vase in front of the picture, just one, to testify his wife’s gratitude. She changed the flower every month, the very day she received the money from his pension funds. Not a bit of nostalgia among us, and we laughed at our cynical detachment. He had been a socialist.

Money of course was the main subject of complaint. Sometimes, daydreaming about my future, grandmother and her friends could see nothing but a job as a secretary at the top of their wishes. They were fairly perplexed, mumbling with discomfort, as they realized my Latin and ancient Greek were not likely to become profitable in a commercial world. But their talking did not make me worried, any future was inconceivable. Besides, I was too busy discovering other people’s stories coming to me from the books. Yet I was far from suspecting that Helen’s role in the Troy war could have been compared to my mother’s disruptive function in our family war. After years of serious preparation for sure, the war exploded as soon as grandfather died, bringing grievance and stinginess into my goddess’ life. “Mother, don’t be angry at me. Sure, I was on grandmother’s side. More than once I felt hatred wrapped in silence flowing between the two of you. And I was myself in a muddle for my attachment to her was unassailable. The only version I have did not come from you.”

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

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

INDIAN CASTLES – CHATEAUX EN ESPAGNE

V o y a g e   en   I n d e  

Chapter I:   Free music for six hands    by Rosanna Albertini

PHOTOGRAPHS by BIANCA SFORNI

IN-414

To Bianca:

Questo viaggio in India è la mia osservazione di te come artista senza esserti fisicamente vicina. La parte immaginaria scaturisce dalla distanza, dalle poche cose che so e le molte che non so.  Quello che capisco e sento essendo tua amica.  E’ un viaggio mentale, attraverso le tue sensazioni dell’India, ma sopratutto è la storia di un’amicizia, forse di due amicizie: surreale, semplice. La scrittura fa il testo. Se vuoi, l’India c’è come pre-testo in senso positivo. Ha creato l’occasione. Per dare un senso alle immagini che non sia solo per te e per me, devo metterle in movimento in un contesto che parli a tutti. 

This journey to India is my observation of you as an artist without being physically close to you. The imaginary part comes from distance, from the few things I know and the many I don’t. What I understand and feel being your friend. It’s a mental journey through your sensations of India, but first of all it’s a story of one, maybe two friendships: surreal, simple. Writing made the text. India is here, if you want, as a pre-text, in a positive way. It gave us the occasion. In order to give the images a meaning that won’t only be for you and me, I must put them in motion in a context which is for everybody.

Bianca Sforni (artist) traveling in India
Claudia Gianferrari (gallerist) crossing the US by car
Rosanna Albertini (writer)  at home, in Los Angeles

with special participation of: Peter Kirby, John Cage, Baruch Spinoza

India, 2016

BIANCA.     Did you sleep well? I was on a horse (equine) in a marvelous light. I slept there and you too, maybe, tomorrow night.

R.     Remaking my bed the morning after, I touch one of the sheets with palm and fingers flat on the cotton, over a print with ships, palms and American Indians of the time when Columbus mistook them for real Indians: my India for the day.

CLAUDIA.      She calls from Las Vegas, on her way to Los Angeles: “Can you make me some pasta? No cilantro please.”

R.     For how many?

CLAUDIA.      We are three, I have a nephew and an adopted son with me.

R.      Having been friends for fifty years, since middle school, when Claudia hadn’t yet discovered contact lenses, I plan pasta for dinner.

Cooking with India on my mind, I’m assaulted by smells as they spread from Indian restaurants in America. Immediately, I send a message to Bianca asking how is the smell of India. I am a person who can feel a smell only thinking about it.

BIANCA.      The smell of India is the same as Pasolini had mentioned: you don’t feel it.

India, 2016

India, 2016

IIM-INDIA 2016
JOHN CAGE.      Our poetry now is the realization that we possess nothing.
Anything therefore is a delight (since we don’t possess it) and thus need not fear its loss.
We need not destroy the past; it is gone. At any moment it might reappear and seem to be and be the present.

g-raja-dogs

JOHN CAGE.      Would it be a repetition?

Only if we thought we owned it, but since we don’t, it is free and so are we.
Most anybody knows about the future and how un-certain it is.
What I am calling poetry is often called content.
I myself have called it form. …
Each moment presents what happens.

India, 2016

India, 2016

India, 2016

 

R.      Photographs. I tell Peter the more I look at them the more they are silent.
The artist gave them life during her dialogue with the light. Peter smells romanticism from afar. I click by instinct, so I’m not a photographer. Bianca is, instead. Peter makes a point which is crucial:

PETER KIRBY.      The photographer finds the frame for each image. That’s what makes her different from one who takes snap-shots. She hunts for the image and clicks when she finds it.

R.      My impression is, she might wait for the time between two heartbeats, like the archer. We still have feelings, but they move inwards. The image becomes a secondary effect of desire.

 

INDIA 2016-
JOHN CAGE.      In other words, there is no split between spirit and matter.

R.      John, you said it partakes of the miraculous when it happens, that I only have to a-wake to the fact. Would you like some pasta with mushrooms? I’m not sure I can. Maybe it works for music. A poem, a photograph, they are like doors. You can open them or not. If you do, you dive into their silence and find your own story. Art is the miracle. Artists.

India, 2016

BARUCH SPINOZA.      Desire is man’s very essence, insofar as it is conceived to be determined, from any given affection of it, to do something.
Exp.: We said above, in P9S, that desire is appetite together with the consciousness of it. And appetite is the very essence of man, insofar as it is determined to do what promotes his preservation. 1664-65.

R.     Claudia’s appetite was inextinguishable. My mothers meals! Claudia couldn’t wait. I don’t know where you are, now that you passed to the clouds. Can you read me? I think you sent Bianca into my life, and me into hers. She was one of your artists. I never told you that the first time Bianca and I met, in New York, we look at each other for a while through the frames and lenses of our glasses, without a word. Only one thought, untold: “Are you Claudia’s friend”?
It was forever. We celebrated our triple connection with a lunch you would have recognized as excellent. Let’s share some India this time. To the next.

INDIA 2016-