ALBERTO ALBERTINI: A ROOM OF SURVIVAL

ALBERTO ALBERTINI — A Room of Survival

Text and images by Alberto Albertini

  Nobody cares if someone dies provided he is unknown and far.  Eugenio Montale                                                         

 The story started when Alberto was sixteen, around 1943, in a Northern Italian village. The same story is told in words and images, 16 images for his 16 years. He is now 92.

                                                     

Everyday life in time of war

War is disquieting, the most inhuman manmade activity! Disheartening to think that, at a short distance from destruction, while destruction is happening, there is a calm, quiet state. Such was our condition as adolescents, not yet at the age of being butchered, but mature enough to understand it. It happened that prealpine valleys were crowded with people evacuated from a half destroyed Milan and mountains were the partisans’ refuge. Only some distant exchange of shots caused us to remember. Small towns were under fascist and German control; we used to go to school in Varese by bicycle, ten or fifteen kilometers wouldn’t have been a lot without steep slopes and descents, we went anyway, trains couldn’t go because of the machine guns firing from the allied airplanes. While crossing the town we met squads of black brigades that marched singing hymns of death. Although tragedy was palpable in those moments, we were able, at that age, to get rid of it very quickly.

A secret bubble around him, his entire life

Dear friend of my sixteen, I must confess I arbitrarily used you as a secret room of survival. This door that I quite often opened, and it allowed me to evade the heavier pressures of my existence, represents my unresolved inmost being: that age full of dreams, desires, aspirations, contradictions and disappointments. While we changed, the world also was changing. The war, the loneliness of being antifascists, the golden cage whose privilege we could perceive through the anguishing feeling of what was happening far from us, was an intangible weight on our unprepared mind. The freedom we enjoyed wasn’t deserved, and yet we held her tightly while creating our stories, the first emotions. Nobody —I believe— will hold on so much. Those who came back from the camps, from the war, only have terror in themselves, humiliation and a torn consciousness. We were not able to imagine how much beyond humanity human beings went, but we had unconsciously absorbed the war into the arcadia of our bare fields and chestnuts trees with no leaves on whose branches we rehearsed for the life to come; our magic bubble could hardly contain the overflow that had happened in our most charming and mysterious age. This marvelous nebula floated around me over the years and still does even if I don’t call for her, I feel her presence, and it’s sweet for me to drift away…

Alberto Albertini, Partisans in Varese

Alberto Albertini, Partisans in Varese

                                         

 

Alberto eating grapes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My companions and myself were guiding some friends in the mountains to reach the Swiss border, still open for a few days. September was sultry. Growing hot, we took our shirts off. … A woodland behind us was expanding toward the fences at the border, and it was one of those moments in which a stop brings awareness of what was happening to us: separation from friends, a future about to grab either them or us, and meanwhile we were surrounded by an enchanting beginning of autumn, a sort of laziness that starts with leaves looking tired, and fading colors. As the group began to walk again, a girl was still leaning on a tree. Small, with an exuberant breast, she gave off sweat, heat and pherormones, maybe only tired, maybe available. This is something I will never know.

 

The train to school – before the bombs –  was the place for meeting students of other villages.

 

It’s strange, I entrust my memory to the photographs: I don’t remember at all where and where I made the photo. For instance: the photographs of young people I sent you, I don’t remember I was there making them; one day instead I had talked to the father of a girl about antifascism and Jewish people expatriating and after that I went out with her for a walk on the meadow without taking pictures. And this I remember! AA in 2019

ARTISTS’ TALES – GUTSY STORIES N.1

A R T I S T S’  T A L E S — G U T S Y   S T O R I E S 

N.1

 

with the participation of ERIN COSGROVE (Los Angeles), SYLVIA SALAZAR SIMPSON (Los Angeles), GUILLERMO KUITCA (Buenos Aires, Argentina), ROSANNA ALBERTINI

(Sylvia Salazar Simpson’s foot has free access to this page. A wax creature, the foot pretends to be invisible and moves from the sidewalk to my studio in the most silent way. Photos: Hannah Kirby)

I go first only because this blog is my house. I must open the door. Also because history and unanswerable questions around the mutant forms of her body, transformed into strange alphabetic flooding of signs on tablets or pages, has been my research island when I was a scholar, for twenty years. My head must have been bigger than my whole body at that time. Now I am a woman who writes with the tips of her fingers, and thinks better when her feet move on the outdoor pavement, without studying, waiting for words coming by themselves. Laughing, they sometimes come with one of my old aunt’s expressions: “ego et ego,” that I mutter watching the garbage spread on the street. Little aunt never studied Latin, but mess was egoetego. A word as inscrutable as the birds’ songs hidden in the lilac in front of her window. The meaning was clear to me before I knew about languages or dictionaries. 

The other women I knew in my family look back at me from the mirror: my mother’s shoulders, grandmother’s Rosa jaws, my southern grandmother Giuseppina’s mole in my clavicular left cavity, and god knows how many other spots of heritage from older branches I never met. My body is history! My voice is a concert: every single word I utter or write are history pebbles, their conglomeration is monumental, like an enormous midden. 

And it is for me the most exhilarating discovery to see that from the Papua in New Guinea to the northern Netsilik Inuit to my old friend from the Eighteenth century, Rousseau Jean-Jacques, the mind resides somewhere in the larynx, the memory in the belly, and the force of magic “does not reside in things; it resides within man and can escape only through his voice.”* “Songs are thoughts, sung out with the breath when people are moved by great forces & ordinary speech no longer suffices. Man is moved just like the ice floe sailing here and there in the current.”**

When words shoot up of themselves, there is a new song, a new song from my porous bones. It might have holes of undefined shapes. It might rise like fog around human monuments, it’s only words. “Confusion will be my epitaph,” and that was Jim Shaw. I think he made a nest in my liver.  RA

 

HISTORY — historical origin of the word: it comes from wit, old English witan from Indo-European root shared by Sanskrit “Veda” (knowledge) and latin “videre” see. The passage from wit to Hist is clearly phonetic. It belongs to the spoken more than to the written language. 

 

       THE MARCH OF HISTORY by Erin Cosgrove

 

 

ERIN COSGROVE, The March of History 2012. Live action video 15′ 17”

Before you enjoy watching the whole video, let me pay a few words of introduction; please listen to them with your ears. I’m the mocking bird who repeats all the possible sounds, who can sing some snoring out of your window. My song simply repeats some of Cosgrove’s words. The March of History is an art piece, spoken words go with the actor’s body language. Like me, he also walks, like history we all float through horizontal currents … of time? of air? mainly keeping our feet on the ground. But our mind is disrupted by disturbances: questions, centuries of conjectures and ideal constructions, interpretations, philosophical frames: which are histories, maybe rather stories, with people trying to give their present lives the proper ancestry from recent and ancient past stories rewritten and manipulated ad hoc. An endless work, worthy of Sisyphus. If there are truths making history’s rock too heavy, too painful to absorb, a new revisionist version will be entrusted to the words. Voilà! A march of lies. Erin Cosgrove is a conceptual artist who tears to threads any scholastic disguise. She is not immune from sarcasm and allegoric representations. Her art melts stories into romance, drawings, tapestry and animated films.

Here she deals directly with the big monster of History, a creature as fragile as Polyphemus who is one more symbol of single vision, the railroad of unidirectional thinking. She throws her pole into his unique eye, HISTORY’s single name, although hélas, not without pain for her. As in Camus’s Sisyphus descending the cleavage to recuperate the rock and push it back to the top of the mountain, an infinite sadness appears at the end of the story.  Erin knows too well that lady History, altered and imperfect as she is in her verbal dresses, is our inevitable backbone, no less mysterious than each of her conscious and unconscious performers. Losing History, no doubt, we would lose our shadow. Come to the march!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of Erin Cosgrove’s words, moved around by me in a cloud of thoughts:

The past refuses to die

even if there is a past, history is falsified by everyone

let’s face it; memory is malleable, even in personal history

plausibility?

is history different from fiction?

Abba Eban: “History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely only once they have exhausted all other alternatives.”

It is part of the very warp and woof of life that the poor do not appear in history. As the African proverb goes, until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter. Is it so very surprising then that a brilliant few will be valorized over the many? We cannot undo the past. To think you can demonstrates a fragility of mind. The very price of understanding history is an impotence to do anything about it.

 

SYLVIA’S FOOT

(One of 20 feet exhibited in the water of a big pond at Barnsdall Park, Los Angeles, CA, 1978. An installation for The Great American Foot Show, Junior Visual Arts Center.)

Here Sylvia’s foot meets one of Erin Cosgrove’s paintings on wood:

 

It’s a foot, it’s a candle. The replica of the artist’s foot cut off below the ankle was born in 1978, 41 years old. Nineteen identical siblings didn’t survive the fire of Sylvia’s house. 

It is a base without pillar, maybe he forgot the body he came from. It has become a mental thing in my mind, abandoned by name and personal history. The foot belongs to the realm of death secretly swallowed into the silence of wax, colors also were lost. Only for one day the foot floated in a pond of water at Barnsdall Park in Los Angeles. Children were allowed to grab the feet as if they were fish. “Oh, sea,  what fish is this / so tender and so sweet? / -asked Gregory Corso, his boyish soul-  —Thy mother’s feet.” 

Words are absent minded. They often abandon us mid-way.

Wrongly or rightly, reb Souassi drew the logical conclusion that death was nothing but a coarse distraction of life. Hélas! It was fatal to us.

It is far from the shore that books have a shipwreck, like improvised boats knocked down by the storm.  

Whiteness, by distraction, found herself without color. Unless it was the color that, suddenly, discreetly, found its whiteness again.

EDMOND JABÈS

Jamais le sang ne connaitra la blancheur      Blood will never know whiteness

GUILLERMO KUITCA, one part of Missing Pages 2018, Oil on canvas 285 x 380 cm 18 parts, 95 x 63 cm each.
From the catalogue published by Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles for the Kuitca’s exhibition 18 march-11 August 2019

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Guillermo Kuitca, Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles 2019

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

Gregory Corso, Mindfield, @ 1989 Gregory Corso, New York, Thunder’s Mouth Press

Edmond Jabès, L’ineffaçable L’inaperçu, Paris, Gallimard, 1980 (transl. of the quote by RA)

*Statement by Trobriands, Papua Nuova Guinea, in Jerome Rothenberg, Technicians of the Sacred, University of California press, 2017

**Statement by Orpingalik, Netsilik Inuit, in Jerome Rothenberg, Technicians of the Sacred, University of California press, 2017

TRULEE HALL : a story of baskets, women and eggs

A STORY OF BASKETS, WOMEN AND EGGS

About THE OTHER AND OTHERWISE by TRULEE HALL

an immersive installation at Maccarone Gallery, Los Angeles 2019

TEXT BY ROSANNA ALBERTINI

When a new form appears, it isn’t to express a new content. … We must turn over the object as if we were turning a log over the fire. Than the object can be perceived as if it was the first time.” (Viktor Sklovskji)

 WOMAN CHICKEN EGGS   Trulee’s installation spreads out in two rooms as big as a plaza: painted, sculpted, in videographical stories, partially contained in incomplete rooms, the main theme seems to reproduce itself endlessly, each time with a different configuration. It’s one body with separate parts, each of them a story of woman, chicken, and eggs. Despite the cold isolation of limbs, as if a 3D computer graphic had been transformed into a physical, surreal landscape, the interaction with each part is compelling, absorbing, disorienting. 

Baskets are everywhere, even hung on the ceiling, mostly empty, gracious, useless, decorative. I wonder about baskets, they might be the core of the site. They might be the artist’s offering, silent mask of her personal self. Just filled with life. She can be in a basket, and be contained. She, and all of us, only believe we lead our journey. The eggs made us, the basket transports us to the end of days and our stories with us, until we disappear and the stories remain, as in the Maori legendary tales. My brain is pulsing, just a fleeting moment. Something new fills Trulee Hall’s space,  it could be that it makes me think. For an artwork of these days, a rare trove.

Viktor Sklovskji of 1976 helps me to keep my distance from intellectual temptations about art. Trulee Hall is my present antidote.

“Oh yes. Another of those intellectual passions — new perception, new ways of displaying, and you go on dreaming that reality will change. In 1916 we invented a poetic practice centered on estrangement. I was personally so involved that much later I wrote about art pretending art is not an object, nor a material; it is pure form, arithmetic relationships. I wrote it with passion, but I was wrong. Art is pulsing thinking. We just produce a parallel imaginary reality in which, as Albert Einstein said, ‘We transfer the center of gravity of our spiritual life to find a peace that does not happen in the storm of life.’”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE OTHER AND OTHERWISE    A fictional conversation between Emmanuel Levinas, Trulee Hall, Plato, Rosanna Albertini

RA      Otherwise?  

EL      “Otherwise than Being!” To be human very simply means that we live as if we were not beings among beings.” “You forget – Emmanuel Levinas continues –  that you began somewhere when your existence started. Your being alive, on earth, is not disembodied.”

PLATO,      untouched by idealism:  “Humans are bipeds without wings.”

RA      And here the artist invites us into an enchanted palace where both bipeds, with wings and without, share the eternal ritual of giving birth, producing eggs and being stupefied in front of the sexual essence of every body. The immaculate conception is such a beautiful fable, je vous salut Godard! 

TH      What happens in my sculptures? Legs and feet are fragile, the bust has been reshaped by thousand years of history. Altered like the mountain excavated  in their veins and with limbs mutilated by cannonballs, bullets, hurricanes and diseases, rebuilt out of remains. Still, personality and energy swirl around the body revealing their physical movement. They have colors and shapes. 

“The other” of my piece is female. She is a double her: the one we think and the one we see, the one I belong to in my body, and the one who happens in my brain. A computer image along with her technically generated other, a clay mate.   

RA      Are you saying that we forget we are animals among animals? Content to carry a brain prisoner of a box, an object easily seduced by the book of faces and links without roots? It’s true that your chickens also have their double. 

TH      It’s hard to see ourselves as human animals. We get lost in our head.

EL      I am actually filled with my materiality, she makes who I am. Not true that spirit and mind fall into the body to become prisoner of a deadly box. My freedom grows and expands through and out of my physical life. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I write about the whole body of this palace of wonders I realize that names are not included, except, maybe, as eggs of multiple names. Moving between small rooms with no doors or ceilings, walls that are  paintings and paintings that are walls for video images, clouds under the ceiling tickled by a population of swaying baskets, islands of colors keeping paintings, floor and walls together in the same atmosphere, I don’t have any doubt, this is not a place for pure forms, or intellectual distinctions. It’s an art piece giving a body to real feelings of our time, about the female figure in her entire natural power, stripped from propaganda of any kind. The artistic effort and accomplishment are monumental.

 

 

TRULEE HALL, Side By Side By Suggestion, single channel excerpt from a 2 channel video in an immersive installation. First shown at Gamble House in 2016, and in 2019 at Maccarone Gallery Los Angeles. Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery.

 

Trulee Hall builds a  monument for the female beast, turning beauty and the beast (the old story) upside down. The male was a cursed monster, the female a model of beauty, patience, and devotion. Female existence in Trulee’s art seems to be extricated from cultural stereotypes and brought back to a sweet common destiny: to be a vase for eggs. No different from a chicken for the same purpose. In one of her fantasy video stories a chicken is asked to understand if the ear of corn offered to her is edible or not. The chicken’s eye looks like a piece of glass, petrified in a dilemma. John Baldessari did the same teaching a plant the alphabet. 

TRULEE HALL, Serene Vulnerability 2018,   Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery

TRULEE HALL, Oblivious Baskets 2018,   Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery

TRULEE HALL, Showing the Rooster 2018,   Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery

TRULEE HALL, Chicken Lap Lady Portrait, Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery

A hand made fairy tale. Surprising, disorienting like a forest with many trails. We don’t know where they go. Being more and more under the spell of looking at art in museums or museum like galleries, we are driven to thinking that space and objects in it are the point. Here instead, obsessive variations around the same theme connect every part of the installation with an impeccable logic structure. Threads are invisible. No directions. One has to perceive the invisible connective texture. 

Oh, Simone Forti’s freedom in letting her body talk to the place! With her in mind I follow my body, ignoring where I am. But at every corner, in front of every call for attention, I realize that each stop is time, the time of a face to face with the organs of a scattered female body. Not the kind of time that doesn’t belong to anybody, the banality of proximity, nor time measured by the hands of the watch. Nope, it is the face to face with my own physicality displayed in front of me: funny, playful, ridiculous. Curious as a child who discovers her own flesh, I don’t blush. It’s an orchestra, and I’m part of it. 

A choreography for the same forms: woman, chicken, egg, holes, rooms for living mutate into different entities. Dots on the fabric fly toward the ceiling as white snow flakes, expand in the clouds, solidify in eggs. Between forms, no need of words. Conversation is only visual. The spiraling forms could be snakes, roots, or nothing determined, like a trace of energy in the air. In some cases, their end blooms with an ear of corn. Sexuality and fantasy aren’t separate. Which makes harder the task to mention them, or to identify them with only one single name. It all depends on the way our imagination works.

Perhaps, once more, words are getting separate from things, disconnecting from books, and similitudes are reinstated between forms, from one to another image. The difference with the ages preceding printed books is the man made nature of contemporary images. We read the outcomes of human labor. We read for instance Trulee Hall’s visual statements. Only my passion for writing convince me to put words on them. A group of birds drawing their flight in the sky would be more appropriate. Whether the artist is aware or not of these many implications of her art, is not something I know. 

Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery

A celebration of giving birth.  Female breasts expanded into golden ears of corn?  Not only that, entire bodies of many women are sculpted, almost encrusted in the thick, golden wall at the entrance. Surprising, shiny and painful. To step into the round hole between two active breasts spreading a small, white fountain of milk, opens a hole in my stomach as if I were bringing my present body into the birth space I knew well when I brought my daughter to the light. Like then, I feel my animal nature taking over any other part of me; no identity card, just a female beast.

 

Bibliography

Viktor Sklovskji, Theory of Prose. Translation Benjamin Sher, Elmwood Park, Ill. Dalkey Archive press, 1990

Emmanuel Levinas, Le Temps et l’Autre,  QUADRIGE/PUF, @ Fata Morgana, 1979

Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence, Published the first time in 1974. Translated into English by Alphonso Lingis, Springer, Dordrecht, 1991

Simone Forti, Thinking with the Body, Edited by Sabine Breitwieser for the Museum der Modern, Salzburg, Hirmer, 2014

A.W Reed, Maory Myths & Legendary Tales, New Holland Publishers (NZ), 1999

 

ALBERTO ALBERTINI : a scent of afterlife

ALBERTO ALBERTINI

A SCENT OF AFTERLIFE

Every age has periods of feverish growth, some more than others. As a young man, very young, I was infatuated with the Nineteenth century, time in which everything happened, although the embryos had been fertilized in the Eighteenth century: chemistry and electricity. Rail roads, electrical engines, the discovery of chemical elements, radioactivity and cinematography! Not to mention music, painting and literature. Here too, as the Eighteenth had prepared the Nineteenth century, the Twentieth century’s evolutions sprouted in the previous century. If we look at the Twentieth century and compare it to our days, how many, impactful ferments in the first half, even in the first quarter. Cubism, futurism, dodecaphonic music, the new architecture, nudism, naturism: the automobile and the aeroplanes! Researching in every direction, feeling certain about technical and scientific progress: new richnesses, new aspirations of ambitious, advancing classes. This limitless creative euphoria flew, perhaps, into the first incommensurable tragedy for the humankind. Excessive confidence in humans has been denied and no thing has been like before.

Yet, if I go backwards not with my memory -I wasn’t there- following the traces I can still find, I can easily imagine a world of expectations maybe impossible to fulfill, but captivating. I think of Monte Verità and the cult of sun, of nature. I think of romantic artists, and composers: Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Bartok, Schoenberg. How much nostalgia, and a desire projected into a mysterious and indefinite future that could maybe never come. Schoenberg, his Gurre Lieder. I don’t follow the story, those desperate voices, I am rather in the orchestra round them, in a tense atmosphere transparent, suspended, mysterious, as large as the infinite, sensing my existence without body, moving through my thoughts. The essence of a being that doesn’t need matter anymore. This music, maybe more than Rachmaninov’s symphonic poem dedicated to the Isle of the Dead, Arnold Böcklin’s painting, makes me think I am already there, on the other shore. Does it happen with all the past events? I am certain that that beginning of the Twentieth century could never be repeated; pointless to think it’s better it doesn’t repeat. War, the wars, humans didn’t stop making them anyway. There is a ring at the door: it is the springtime.

 

 Conversation between Alberto and Rosanna Albertini

To refresh my memory about Böcklin I look online.

“Alberto, did you know that the Isle of the Dead was Hitler’s favorite painting?….”

He replies: “Bah, maybe he found it too expensive to transport them there, they were too many…”

Alberto’s wit makes me realize how deeply the political obsessions of these days in America have stained my attitude toward a painting and his artist. It was not painted for Hitler, too early. And Hitler could find in it an esoteric symbolism, Alberto adds in another email. 

The painting had a first version in 1880 and several others until 1886. It was so popular that its prints, which version? could be found in every home in Berlin. Nabokov’s observation in his novel Despair. The images evoke the English Cemetery in Florence, where rests his baby daughter Maria.

Böcklin was apparently mentioned by Marcel Duchamp as having had a major influence on his art. Matter of doubt. Because this is history: somebody says one sentence which is reported and changed who knows how many times, making us skeptical. The past vanishes as in the fog. But artists are surprising: John Cage liked Satie and saw his music like pleasant furniture. He wrote it, I believe him.

In 1932 Salvador Dali  painted his version of The Isle of the Dead. The opposite of Böcklin in the same kind of visual situation: no one can see the dead but they fill an implacably horizontal space. A vertical line of coffee descends from the sky ending in only one cup: “The true painting of the Isle of the Dead at the hour of the Angelus.” What puzzles me is the Angelus. Nostalgia for the flesh? Angel is the incarnation symbol, the divine messenger telling Mary she is pregnant with Jesus. No one cared if she was happy or not. Symbols are not allowed to have feelings. In my childish brain she was a brave lady, for her foot crashed the perfidy snake who offered the apple to Adam and Eve.

 Her statue made with stone -my vague memory- grows on the top of a hill in my native village. Children used to be guided in a procession to her at the time of the Angelus, six in the afternoon, holding torches. The hair of one of girls in front of me suddenly caught fire. Was the snake still powerful? 

Alberto’s photographs evoke Böcklin without symbols. (R.A.)

Alberto: “I’m trying to understand my attention to that painting. That moment in history first of all, symbolists, Pre-Raphaelites: Dante Gabriele Rossetti and the drowned Ophelia, the positivists, symbolists, Previati, Segantini, the tree of life. But I believe it connects to my childhood, and the terror of watching my dead grandma on her death bed, as well as a dead pope in the encyclopedia, both with the same posture. About the dead a lot has been made up, while Böcklin instead, immersed in his time’s atmosphere, thinks of the isle, he’s brilliant. The dead are there, not visible, but there they are. The isle is hazardous, nobody can go and trouble them, they feel at ease because if the isle is protected by rocks, there are trees and gardens inside. Facing the pressure of the “fourth state,” the bourgeoisie escaped, also backed up by proletarian painters dependent on her who paint love, a luminous future, an idyll of lights and against light, escaping from a world on the verge of crumbling. Despite my attempts at explaining, there is no explanation. 

 

 

 

 

 

Ogni epoca ha i suoi fermenti, qualcuna di più. Quando ero giovane, molto giovane, ero infatuato dall’ottocento, il secolo entro il quale tutto era accaduto, benché gli embrioni siano stati fecondati nel settecento: la chimica e l’elettricità. Ferrovie, motori elettrici, centrali elettriche, la scoperta degli elementi chimici, la radioattività e il cinematografo! Per non parlare della musica, della pittura o della letteratura. Anche qui, come il settecento ha preparato l’ottocento, nell’ottocento germogliano le evoluzioni del novecento. Se guardiamo il novecento confrontandolo ad oggi, quali e quanti fermenti nella prima metà, anzi nel primo quarto. Il cubismo, il futurismo, la musica dodecafonica, la nuova architettura, il nudismo, il naturismo: l’automobile e l’aeroplano!! una ricerca in tutte le direzioni e ancora una fiducia nel progresso tecnico scientifico: nuove ricchezze, nuove aspirazioni delle classi alla alla riscossa. Forse questa sconfinata ebbrezza creativa è sfociata nella prima grande immane tragedia dell’umanità, l’eccesso di fiducia nell’uomo è stato smentito e le cose non sono state più come prima.

Però se io vado a ritroso, non con la memoria, non c’ero, ma con le traccie che ancora trovo, mi posso immaginare un mondo di aspirazioni forse inappagabili ma affascinanti. Penso al monte Verità e al culto del sole, della natura. Penso ai grandi romantici, non quelli del secolo prima, ai musicisti: Prokofief, Rachmaninoff, Bartok, Shoenberg. Quanta nostalgia, quanto desiderio proiettato in un futuro misterioso e indefinito che forse non arriverà mai. Schoenberg: Gurre Lieder. Non seguo la storia, quella voce disperata, ma quell’orchestra che le sta intorno, quale tesa atmosfera, trasparente, sospesa, misteriosa, ampia come l’infinito, il senso dell’esistere incorporeo, del navigare nei pensieri. L’essenza dell’essere che non ha più bisogno della materia. Forse più del poema sinfonico di Rachmaninov dedicato all’isola dei morti, quadro di Böklin, questa musica fa pensare di essere già di là. È così per tutti gli avvenimenti passati? Sono sicuro che quel primo novecento sia irripetibile ed è inutile pensare che è meglio che non si ripeta, la guerra, le guerre le hanno rifatte lo stesso. Hanno suonato alla porta: era la primavera.

 Conversazione fra Alberto e Rosanna Albertini

Per rinfrescarmi la memoria cerco Böcklin on line.

“Alberto, lo sapevi che L’isola dei morti era il quadro favorito di Hitler?…”

Alberto risponde: “Beh forse l’ha ritenuto troppo costoso trasportarli li, erano troppi…”

Il botto di spirito mi fa capire che le ossessioni politiche di questi giorni in America mi hanno offuscato la mente nei confronti del quadro e dell’artista. Non era stato dipinto per Hitler, troppo presto. E Hitler poteva trovaci un simbolismo esoterico di suo gusto, aggiunge Alberto in un altro messaggio email. 

Il quadro ebbe la prima versione nel 1880 e alcune altre fino al 1886. Era così popolare che se ne potevano trovare stampe in tutte le case di Berlino. Ma di quale versione? Osservazione di Nabokov nel romanzo Disperazione. Le immagini evocano il Cimitero inglese di Firenze dove riposa Maria, la figlia infante di Böcklin.

Pare che Böcklin fosse citato da Marcel Duchamp come una delle maggiori influenze sulla sua arte. E’ materia di dubbio. Perché la storia è cosi: ciascuno dice una frase che viene riferita e cambiata chissà quante volte, e noi diventiamo scettici. ll passato sparisce come nella nebbia. Ma gli artisti sono sorprendenti: John Cage ammirava Satie e vedeva la sua musica come una serie di mobili piacevoli. Lo ha scritto, io gli credo. 

Nel 1932 Salvador Dali ha dipinto la sua versione dell’Isola dei Morti. L’opposto di Böcklin nello stesso tipo di scena: i morti nessuno li vede nonostante  riempiano uno spazio implacabilmente orizzontale. Una linea verticale di caffè scende giù dal cielo e finisce in una tazzina, una sola: “Il vero dipinto dell’Isola dei Morti nell’ora dell Angelus.” L’Angelus mi lascia perplessa. Nostalgia del corpo? L’Angelo è il simbolo dell’incarnazione, messaggero divino che annuncia a Maria la sua condizione di donna incinta. Che a lei piaccia o no non importa a nessuno. I simboli non hanno sentimenti. Nel mio cervello di bambina lei era una signora di coraggio, il suo piede schiacciava il perfido serpente che aveva offerto la mela ad Adamo ed Eva.

La sua statua di pietra – un ricordo vago – si innalza sulla cima di una collina nel mio paese nativo. Noi bambini eravamo guidati verso di lei in processione all’ora dell’Angelus, le sei del pomeriggio, ognuno con una torcia accesa. D’improvviso i capelli di una bambina nella prima parte della processione, davanti a me, presero fuoco. Eterno potere del serpente?

Le fotografie di Alberto evocano Böcklin senza simboli. (R.A.)

Alberto: “Sto cercando di capire la mia attenzione a quel dipinto. Innanzitutto l’epoca: i simbolisti, i preraffaelliti, Dante Gabriele Rossetti e L’Ofelia annegata, i simbolisti positivisti, Previati, Segantini, l’albero della vita. Ma io credo si ricolleghi alla mia infanzia, al terrore di quando ho visto sul letto la nonna morta, e un papa morto sull’enciclopedia, collocato uguale. I morti, sui morti, ci hanno costruito sopra di tutto, invece Böklin, immerso nell’atmosfera del tempo pensa all’isola, geniale: i morti sono là, non si vedono ma ci sono. l’isola è impervia, non si può andare a disturbarli ma ci sono e si trovano bene perché se l’isola è protetta dalle rocce, dentro ci sono alberi, giardini. Di fronte al premere del “quarto stato” la borghesia evade, assecondata anche da pittori proletari ma da essa dipendenti e che dipingono l’amore, l’avvenire luminoso, un idillio di luci, controluce, evade da quel mondo che si sbriciolerà presto. Nonostante i miei tentativi di spiegazione, la spiegazione non c’è.”

ARNOLD BÖCKLIN, The Isle of the Dead, 1st version 1880, oil on canvas, 111 x 155 cm
Kunstmuseum Basel

Alberto Albertini : A GLIMPSE OF AFTER LIFE

ALBERTO ALBERTINI  from MILAN, Italy  

A letter to Eugenio Scalfari, December 2018 

and photographic Self-Portraits 

This  letter is addressed to a man, Eugenio Scalfari, who is one of the founders of La Repubblica, one of the most popular Italian newspapers, more or less equivalent to the New York Times, and  L’Espresso, a weekly magazine. Scalfari has recently become a good friend of Pope Francesco, it is not clear if also having some religious turns of mind. From his apartment in Milan, Alberto has always been an acute observer of Italian political life, and sometimes in crucial moments he sent his thoughts to those in charge, to the president of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano, for instance. Feeling the candle burning the tail, this time Alberto’s considerations about end of life and the attempt at finding meaning in the inscrutable, has rather an existential quality. But no complaints.  RA (editor)

 

 

Caro Eugenio,

mi permetto questo tono confidenziale non tanto perché sono stato un lettore de “L’Espresso” della prima ora ma perché, in conseguenza di quel fatto, non posso che essere vecchio ( 91 ), vicino alla tua età e pervaso dall’idea che comunque è bene pensare alle operazioni di chiusura. Forse mi manca ancora qualche anno per giungere a conclusioni mistiche perché al momento, anche se la cosa infastidisce, sono convinto che tutto si chiuda, finisca. È irritante pensare che dopo aver lavorato, progettato, desiderato, immaginato, costruito la mia vita, la vita dell’umanità che ci ha dato Prassitele, il Bernini, Galileo e Umberto Eco, l’umanità tutta, abbia il medesimo destino. Eppure non può essere che così. L’energia, questo è il vero grande mistero! L’energia che prende calorie per il nostro cervello viene a mancare, non c’è più trasmissione, è finita. Non possiamo più nemmeno dolercene. So che quando arriveranno le prime avvisaglie, non sarò più così lucidamente logico, forse anche questo fa parte della procedura di atterraggio. Comincio a guardare gli oggetti che mi circondano, che amo, come se potessi goderli di più o forse fissarli nella memoria per portarli inutilmente con me. Mah. Sono però certo che se noi potessimo uscire dal mondo, dall’universo e vedere laggiù come stanno le cose, rideremmo di come sono semplici e comprensibili. Già ma se l’universo è infinito come potremmo uscirne? Anche l’infinito è cosa poco chiara.

aa

Dear Eugenio,

I dare to use this confidential tone not so much because I’ve been a reader of L’Espresso since the first day, but because of that fact it follows that I can only be old (91), close to the age you are and pervaded by the idea that it’s anyway good to think of the ending procedures. Maybe in a few years I will reach mystic conclusions; at the moment I am convinced, although frankly annoyed, that everything has a conclusion, and ends. It’s irritating to think that after having worked, made projects, desired, imagined and build my life, the humans’ life that gave us Prassitele, Bernini, Galileo and Umberto Eco, the entire human race has the same destiny. And yet, this is how things must be. Energy, that’s the real big mystery!  When the energy that provides calories to the brain is missing, transmission is gone, finished. We can’t even be sorry about it.

I do know that, when the first warnings will come, I won’t be so clearly logical anymore, maybe this is also part of the landing procedure. I’m starting to look at the objects around me, objects I love, as if I were able to enjoy them more, or to fix them in my memory hoping to bring them with me, pointlessly. Mah. I am sure nevertheless that, if we could get out of this world, out of the universe, and see from afar how things are down there, we would laugh about how simple and understandable they are. But, if the universe is infinite how could we get out of it?  Infinity as well is not such a clear thing.

aa

Alberto is the oldest member of the Albertini family, my father’s brother. He is one of the pillars of this blog. Four years of on line collaboration produced a number of posts in which our family life is intermingled with our experiences in the art world, since childhood, sharing passion and life with his father Oreste the painter, my unforgotten grandfather.

SCULPTURE IS IMPLACABLE : YOU GET WHAT YOU SEE

SCULPTURE IS IMPLACABLE : YOU GET WHAT YOU SEE

Richard Deacon and Sui Jianguo

at L.A. Louver, Venice, CA — September 2018

 

Installation view, photo RA

SUI JIANGUO, Planting Trace – Constellation 1, 2018  cast bronze 19 1/4 x 9 7/8 x 9 7/8 in.
© Sui Jianguo. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

Holding a humming bird inside

by Rosanna Albertini

What you see, at first, is a population of hand made bodies, mostly small size, on pedestals and little tables. Their shapes are unique, any comparison with the natural world is pointless. Only three of them are taller than a normal human. Tables are part of the piece. But it’s not easy to focus on each single piece. A circulation of movement in the air around the sculptures, the light they spread maybe from inside their artificial organs, as if air was their blood, pushes me from one to another and from one to another room without thinking of objects, perhaps following an inaudible music, a four hand concert with a Chinese-European score.  “Open up, bloom, pause. Breath, pause, pause and breath.” 

Indirectly, Richard Deacon suggested this metaphor years ago, describing his play with a vocabulary of forms: “ten different shapes, together they can make a sentence, even a song.” 

RICHARD DEACON, Flat 10, 2014 glazed dark clay
22 1/4 x 27. 1/2 x 22 7/8 in. © Richard Deacon.
Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

RICHARD DEACON, Fold in the Fabric 5, 2018
Sculpture: wood (Holly and Cedar), epoxy
Table: fumed oak and MDF board; Sculpture: 
12 1/4 x 13 3/4 x 11 in. Table: 18 x 21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in.© Richard Deacon. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, 
Venice, CA

RICHARD DEACON, Cuttings 1, 2018
Sculpture: stainless steel;Table: oak and MDF board. Sculpture: 18 x 14 3/4 x 13 1/4 in.
Table: 21 7/8 x 21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in.
© Richard Deacon. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venic

Variations on the same theme in modestly sized pieces fill the space with gentle songs, and with peaks of sculptural actions in two registers: the first one pausing in neatly cut geometrical surfaces, some shiny, some completely rough—the stainless steal’s whistle joins the voice of the wood cracking and protesting—  and this is Deacon’s work; the second register comes from a folding and unfolding of sculpted bodies, like buds who discover the emergence of leaves, or figures of body parts covered with skin language: Sui Jianguo transferring into his pieces the surface of his own hands, a universal language which is uniquely his, not necessarily Chinese, just his own.

SUI JIANGUO,Planting Trace – Meteor Garden 3, 2018
galvanized photosensitive resin 3D printing 7 x 9 7/8 x 4 in.
© Sui Jianguo. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

RICHARD DEACON, Size is Everything #2, 2018
Sculpture: wood (Oak), epoxy, pigment, bronze
powder, aluminum powder. Table: fumed oak and MDF board 18 x 21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in.
 Sculpture: 11 1/8 x 12 x 2 in. 
Table: 18 x 21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in.
© Richard Deacon. Courtesy
of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

RICHARD DEACON, Size is Everything #2, 2018
Sculpture: wood (Oak), epoxy, pigment,
bronze powder, aluminum powder
Table: fumed oak and MDF board
Sculpture: 11 1/8 x 12 x 2 in.
Table: 18 x 21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in.
© Richard Deacon. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m told the two artists are friends, no reason to doubt it. I’m wondering whether they connect via visual vocabulary, rather than spoken language. And asking myself what Jianguo’s titles mean, all Planting Trace, with a few qualifications added: matter, constellation. ganoderma. Opposed to Deacon’s titles: Flat, Cuttings in various numbers, New Alphabet, Fold in the Fabric. Deacon tells me that “cutting” is what makes his pieces. He cuts and fabricates and asks the matter to cooperate. Jianguo, this time, squeezes the clay, lets his fingers find the forms. Maybe some of these pieces are from his blind work: the artist refusing to see what his hands are doing. Had he realized how implacable sculpture is.

A glimpse of history pierces my mind making me think that both artists, (and myself for the matter) belong to the after war generation. Deacon’s father was in the RAF, Jianguo lived through communism and cultural revolution in China. The outcome is these artists are workers, builders of their lives, perhaps rediscovering their lives through the art they produced. 

Their art isn’t about aesthetics, it’s about life. Sui plants fragments of his body into our mind: traces, as he says, marks. Which seems to me a real revolutionary move out of the pain or mixed feelings he had about Mao and Maoism and the artificial equality that ideology had forced into people. His little and big sculptures bring up his personal self, the one unmistakably marked by his fingerprints. Although he will never be a Western artist, he has to wear, here and there, fashions that other artist of the past almost codified in the public imagination. Art history is an open book, as landscapes are, even in the small space of a garden. I like to call them gardeners, these two artists, gardeners planting their art.

Alternating in the same big space, their sculptures take me into a familiar sense of enjoyment that fills me every time art pieces I see for the first time greet me, waking up remote impressions, not at all déjà-vues, rather déjà-felt, in front of other sculptures. The problem is, life and manners and perception of real things wrap around the person of the artist, and sink beyond the skin, invisibly, exactly as it happens to the viewers of an art piece. I can’t explain why the twisted and almost screaming gestures of Jiankuo’s big pieces, as if form was unfolding herself free from her material essence, make me think of Camille Claudel’s reckless women, trying to get out from their feminine body, and from a history of humiliation.

SUI JIANGUO,Planting Trace 1, 2014-2016 cast bronze 114 1/8 x 70 7/8 x 67 in.
© Sui Jianguo. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

RICHARD DEACON, New Alphabet GHI, 2018  stainless steel and paint
94 x 80 3/4 x 18 1/2 in. © Richard Deacon. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Ve

Showing me the three vertical layers of his Alphabet, light gray and white painted like a wedding dress, Richard Deacon displays his pleasure in finding, trying, combining, working with helpers, solving problems during the fabrication…until the middle layer almost disappears but is there, “like the ham in a sandwich.” He is telling, very simply, that the invisible part is the clue of the piece. Yes, what you see is what you get, but you have to look through the surface, beyond the drawing, to pose your eyes on the sleeping beauty. 

The visual world fills his perception, and stay inert in his memory, until the secret humming bird moves his sharp beak, the tiny scissor, from a recess of his heart. Then Deacon is at work to bring his way of splitting away from the continuous ligaments that keep our bones, our cities, our days and years together, anchored in natural necessity. Cuttings, separation, disclose a different image of the world: by avoiding the natural look of any of his creatures, Deacon fills the art pot with mysterious treasures: a spot of red in the middle of a square piece of wood thick enough to stand, for example. A square hollow centers the back of the same wood. Red color reappears. Beware of the words! What I see is a sensation of something existing, not a sentence. Title is: Size is Everything.

Physical entities whose content “is the significance of its material.” They represent “nothing other than themselves.”  They “suggest and reflect our existence,” They are “thoughts produced by action.” All the quotes from Giuseppe Penone. Deacon’s creatures are cut out from reality to direct our attention toward repetition and reinvention of forms, time doesn’t matter, to renew our attachment to infinite variety.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Giuseppe Penone, Ramificazioni del pensiero-Branches of Thougth, Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles, 2014

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

And this is the link to Douglas Messerli’s beautiful text:  http://artla-bas.blogspot.com/2018/09/a-sculpture-of-small-writ-large-richard.html

RICHARD DEACON, Courtesy L.A. Louver, Venice CA

SUI JIANGUO – Courtesy L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

SYLVIA SALAZAR SIMPSON : Mi mamà era preciosa

MY MOTHER WAS GOLDEN  2017-2018

an art piece by Sylvia Salazar Simpson to celebrate her mother

 Veneranda Emanuela Gutierrez 

 

( Images of “Mi mamà era preciosa” in the final configuration)

 

text by ROSANNA ALBERTINI – photos by SYLVIA SALAZAR SIMPSON

 

Poetry, poetry, is a gesture, a lanscape, 

your eyes and my eyes, girl; ears, heart,

the same music. And I say no more, because 

no one will find the key that no one has lost

And poetry is the chant of my ancestors

a winter day that burns and withers

this melancholy so personal.

Elicura Chihuailaf, “The key that no one has lost”

subterranean poetry from South America

Sylvia’s poetry is visual. It comes from moments and days that don’t sit in the memory, nor are they saved in a notebook. Time particles lacking the illusion of shape or names. Time is one name without a body. It’s hard for me to distinguish it from another strange name, life. Yet, both of them are the source of Sylvia’s attachment to decay as one of the most impressive, stirring and surprising living processes. A rosary losing pearls. Petals and fruits softened by their lack of effort in keeping their self separate from natural dissolution, and from human disillusion. Showing the decay as a body of marvels, Sylvia the artist reveals the physical apparition of time, and it’s a phantom.

ALLAN KAPROW      “Just steps along the way, and the artist’s eyes may have opened up a little…”

“But let’s say that art is a weaving of meaning-making activity with any or all parts of our lives.” 

SYLVIA SALAZAR SIMPSON      “I had received some photographs of my mother. I reproduced them but didn’t want to put them on the wall. In the meantime the mantel of the fireplace accepted to receive some Indian globes, at the edges. On a round table adjacent I started to place flowers in glasses, with water. An old wrinkled squash and giant fresh Persian lemons were added to the globes. Persian lemons have a fungus on them that lets them rot quite rapidly. Some are green, some black. They were followed by pieces of bread from a Eucharistic celebration, and pieces of cedar. My mother crawled into the piece. It was appropriate for her to be on the wall, but her photographs wanted to be in the piece. There is a small owl. Some flowers were removed, or replaced, or added every day for fifteen, sixteen months, starting in April 2017. Drippings were done at Christmas to make beads and small candies shine for the day. They were drippings of piloncillo sugar liquified. My mother was a very proper person. The contrast of the baroque decay and her image is what makes the piece. The piece is a small offering, a celebration.”

Not only a celebration of Veneranda, also a salutation to

“The greatness of every day life, and above all its details, the sparkle of flames, eyes, hands”

as in the South American poem by Elicura. Eyes must become hands to approach Sylvia’s pieces, hands and tongues, two imaginary mouths opening when the moon fades and the sun is still pale, chewing and swallowing what the day brings, and at night, closing the gate of  teeth. Past and present are only one canvas. Dates, facts, would make hole and cuts in it as in Burri’s paintings. Family stories are a mirage from her childhood spread by words of the old women of Veneranda’s house in New Mexico, and later by Veneranda herself in Mexico City.

There is a pond of blood in their memory

a great great great great great…grandmother 

went to New Mexico with the first settlers coming from Mexico

Catalina Robledo gave birth to the first Spanish

 child to be born in that part of the world

they came with a land grant 

they had received from the king of Spain

not without disputes with the local Indians

Indians had their feet cut off

a puritanical morals in the house

more and more children were born

and when Sylvia arrived she was told 

she was better than darker people 

so when she grew up an adult woman she 

embraced the darker people’s side and started to say

about herself “I am Mexican”

she cooks and eats like a Mexican woman

it’s an art-making for her

ephemerality and messiness 

poverty and art were inseparable in Mexico City

where Veneranda lived with her husband and children

she sat in the park with them and taught 

them to draw and to revere art

Rufino Tamayo, Diego Rivera and the early colonial churches

metal or silver hearts, candles, flowers and food in front of them

miracles were described

every thing as real as light through the window

transforming objects in treasures

as if raining sparkles of gold

On the round table near the fireplace a jungle of dry and fresh flowers, candles, glasses, fruits, sticks of wood, almost cover an odd piece of wax: Silvia’s foot cut off and changed into a candle.

“Do you know my mother’s last words?” Sylvia told me years ago. “She suddenly woke up from her quiet absence and asked me, ‘what time is it?’ And I thought, in myself, the time to die.”

She died, — this was the way she died;

And when her breath was done,

Took up her simple wardrobe

And started for the sun.

Her little figure at the gate

The angels must have spied,

Since I could never find her

Upon the mortal side.

VANISHED. by Emily Dickinson

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Emily Dickinson, Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson, 1982 Gramercy Books New York • Avenel

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

Elicura Chihuailaf, Two poems on Poetry, in Technicians of the Sacred, edited by Jerome Rothenberg

Source: Rodrigo Rojas, from “Three Mapuche Poets, ” in J.R. & J.Bloomberg-Rissman,

Barbaric Vast & Wild: A Gathering of Outside & Subterranean Poetry from Origins to Present, Boston, Black Widow press, 201

“Elicura Chihuailaf Nahuelpán (his fill name) has been referred to as the lonco, or chieftain, of mapudungun poetry, and works at recording & preserving the oral traditions of his people. Elicura is from Mapudungun phrase for ‘transparent stone,’ Chihuailaf means ‘fog spread on the lake,’ and Nahuelpán is ‘tiger/cougar.’ ”