ERASURE ART – GIVING PRAISE TO EMILIO ISGRO

 

 ITALIAN ARTIST EMILIO ISGRO and UNEXPECTED DEVELOPMENTS: 

THE RONAWEAVE REVOLUTION

by Rosanna Albertini

 

 

Emilio Isgrò, GRANDE DIZIONARIO ENCICLOPEDICO / GREAT ENCYCLOPEDIC DICTIONARY, 1969, Indian ink on printed book in box of wood and plexiglas 100x41x67 cm  Photo: Cristian Castelnuovo Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano

Remaining words: “passando da  312.000 a 314.000″ ” going from 312.000 to 314.000″

“riprendendo le dottrine platoniche della reminiscenza e della trasmigrazione delle anime” “bringing back the platonic doctrines of reminescence and transmigration of the souls”*

Words, and the arts, he says, are the essence of democracy. Emilio Isgrò started erasing printed pages and images around fifty years ago. Lines and lines obnubilate the words that had covered the paper like legs of insects, calligraphic bodies of the most movable and fleeting of human activities: thinking and writing thoughts to reach other people who are not in the room, and never will be. 

A few words remain. Some fragments of images still visible. “A word is a petal of the soul”, wrote Jabès. Isgrò saves very few of them in his garden. He plays with them and with language, art needs space, renovation, a long way of discoveries: words and images testing their limits, replacing each other, hiding, sometimes pretending an imaginary game: if you have two red squares, in which one is Trotsky going to fall, when he wears a red suit? 

Emilio Isgrò, MANIFESTO COMUNALE / MUNICIPAL POSTER 1974, Indian ink on printed poster in box of wood and plexiglas, 100×76 cm Photo: Cristian Castelnuovo Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano

 

Emilio Isgrò, DOVE CADE TROTSKIJ / WHERE TROTSKY FALLS 1974, Acrylic on canvas mounted on wood, 59,7×104,5 cm  Photo: Cristian Castelnuovo  Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano

IN WHICH ONE OF THE TWO SQUARES DOES LEV DAVIDOVIC TROTSKIJ FALL WEARING A RED SUIT?

I have never met Emilio Isgrò, I wish I could. I want to talk to him.  If, inspired by him, I erase the enormous volume of words and voices that try to describe and reasonably explain what’s happening today all over the world, I’d like to stop the flood, but I can only see something that is terrifying and spellbinding. A potential of liberation … spread by the ronaweave. And I am not able to send away the image of a gigantic specter made with numbers of sick or dead real humans. My daydreaming has the lightness of unreal things. When I see doctors at work in emergency rooms, and I am face to face with them, then I am in the belly of the monster. Nobody expected that nature herself might start erasing. “Natura matrigna,” wrote my grandchild from Pisa, determined to become a doctor. But your erasure is different, dear artist, it opens space for thinking as the art of desire, and art as the desire of a journey beyond codified ways of thinking.                                                            

Emilio Isgrò, HENRICUS KISSINGER, EX 1974  Emulsified canvas  125×160 cm Photo: Cristian Castelnuovo Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano

“HENRICUS KISSINGER, EX URBE PECHINO ADVENIENS, EX AEROPLANO DESCENDIT. SUB VESPERUM PRAESIDEM NIXON CUNCTA EDOCEBIT”

 

Emilio Isgrò, NEGLI OCCHI DI BEATRICE / IN THE EYES OF BEATRICE 1979 Acrylic on canvas
79×79 cm  Photo Cristian Castelnuovo  Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano

 

Emilio Isgrò, PURGATORIO XXVI /PURGATORY XXVI 1983 Acrylic on printed book in box of wood and plexiglas 40×50 cm  Photo: Cristian Castelnuovo  Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano

“SODDOMA E GOMORRA!”; “VACCA”      “SODDOMA AND GOMORRA!”;  “COW”

 

Emilio Isgrò, BERTRAND BARERE DE VIEUZAC 1979, Acrylic on canvas 80×80 cm Photo: Cristian Castelnuovo  Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano

“Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac, detto l’Anacreonte della ghigliottina, muove un dito nel rosso vestito di rosso, con molta nostalgia del verde. Tarbes, 1841.”   “Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac, called the Anacreon of the guillotine, moves a finger in the red wearing red, with acute nostalgia for the green. Tarbes, 1841.”

 

The past is a quite recent shadow, a pillow left after the night, we can still feel it touching the skin. As I go out my steps are counted, I say hello to the dogs, my face is covered. Cars are back, two fire engines scream like red elephants, birds still fly in formation. Humans avoid contacts. Smog. The careless freedom of going and doing has been erased. It was nice to be spensierati. No equivalent in English. More or less: out of the cage of thoughts, bipeds with wings. 

We live under the tyranny of not being too puzzling, both to ourselves and others … But above all it is when the pressure to understand is taken off that the most valuable words are spoken or written; the act, the struggle to make oneself intelligible must therefore be some kind of distraction; in psychoanalityc terms, some kind of defense. The words that matter most are the words we don’t understand. ADAM PHILLIPS

When you mentioned Pasolini, dear Isgrò, and it was about revolution: “Only the revolution can save the past,” and you added that today there is no past anymore because we don’t have a real revolution of habits, customs, of the living, you were right… a few years ago!  Here we are, a revolution is happening, so far rather a scarecrow with shredded clothes, but the wind blows.

Democracy, al least in the US, where I live, has become the home of institutions fermenting on their foundations, desperately trying to respond to this natural challenge of life or death. I call it ronawave like the chicano members of the LA community. It’s a word with flesh. The whole country quivers with emotion once more dipping fingers into fundamental, violated, human rights. No more quietly appeased. 

Erased, erased, erased is the silence. 

Every day brings new yellow butterflies on a small tree with yellow flowers. 

Los Angeles is home to me. So are Milano, Pisa, Napoli, Venezia, Paris, whose smell I can feel at the distance, just while thinking of them. The ronawave erased borders with no ambiguity: there are none in our souls. History, maybe, could be pushed aside. If a future remains, this present will be a revered past.

 

Emilio Isgrò, SPINOZA 2002, Acrylic on canvas 120×190 cm  Photo: Cristian Castelnuovo
Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano

A RED STORY     by Silvia Guastalla

Heart, imagination, reason. Let’s ask for their help in this time of uncertainty. They’ll listen to us.

This red story by Emilio Isgrò reminds us that life is a space in which anyone can write, with the signs of one’s imagination, and that imagination is a faculty that frees the power of existence and makes us masters of ourselves. For Spinoza, the philosopher who Isgrò makes appear and disappear in this large red color field, imagination is a virtue, not a defect in our minds, if accompanied by analysis. 

Imagination, as capacity to think about what doesn’t exist, and reason, that is awareness of reality, are the two poles between which our freedom to be human beings moves. And red is the potent color that symbolizes our ability to use our hearts.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

EMILIO ISGRO – LA CANCELLATURA E ALTRI PARTICOLARI, Opere 1966-1993, Catalogue Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Editions Graphis Arte, Milano, 2012

ADAM PHILLIS, Equals. Published by Basic Books, © 2002 by Adam Phillips

*It’s a funny coincidence that precisely these doctrines are an irreverent disguise for the eighteenth century intelligence in a small book written by Montesquieu, L’Histoire véritable. The first (and unique) Italian edition was translated by me, with some words about transmigrations at the end of the book. Elvira Sellerio, A Sicilian publisher, made the book exactly as I asked, and published it in the Blue collection. I was thrilled. The Blue collection was my favorite among very many.

CHARLES-LOUIS DE MONTESQUIEU, Storia vera, Translation and note by Rosanna Albertini, ©Sellerio Editore, Palermo, 1983, 1992.

EDMOND JABES, Le Livre des Questions, © Editions Gallimard, 1963

MORE CHALLENGES for Alberto

MORE CHALLENGES, AROUND THE WORLD (Fragments of memory)

by ALBERTO ALBERTINI

Photos: Alberto Albertini

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

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

PARIS

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

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

 

SWITZERLAND

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

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

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

 

UK

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

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

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

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

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

 

ALTRE SFIDE, FRAMMENTI DI MEMORIA

di ALBERTO ALBERTINI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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