Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Art Corner: Piero Manzoni: Thank you for the Audacity!


 “I cannot possibly understand those artists who place themselves in front of the canvas as if it was a surface to be filed up with colors and shapes, following a taste that is more or less appreciable. They trace out a sign, walk a few steps back, look carefully at what they have just done, bend their head, half close their eyes, then jump forward and start again. They go with this sort of physical training until they have filled up the canvas completely. In this case a surface if endless possibility is now reduced to a sort of receptacle in which artificial colors and meanings are compressed. Why do they not empty out this receptacle? Why don't they set this surface free? Why do they not investigate the endless meaning of a total space, of a pure and absolute light?
- Piero Manzoni

The first time I ever heard or seen any works of Piero Manzoni, the avant garde Italian artist was at Tate Modern in London. It showcased one of Manzoni’s iconic small cans titled Artist’s Shit - his famous bit of contribution. My friend and I were novices at Tate. We stared at this piece of art and then back at each other suppressing giggles; onlookers looked on and appeared serious – this was serious shit! Despite the amusement and the shock horror of the eccentric and the informative at Tate, this was one of its kinds. Citing references, Manzoni experimented with rabbit fur, hard-boiled eggs, human excrement, cotton, fiber glass, colours and many others.

Manzoni was a keen observer of the Economic Miracle (an echo of Italy’s 1994 elections Berlusconi pledged a ‘miracle’) during the 1950s and 1960s in Italy which was the onset of consumerism. He was a critic of those times and questioned waste and bulk production.Today when I look back, my classes in Literature, Economics, History and Philosophy would have been far more enduring if the likes of Manzoni were quoted. A shift from the conformity of drab lectures would have yielded a little bit of thinking and could’ve wiped the mediocrity of minds. I can only be glad that travel has been my greatest educator after my parents’ contribution.

(Article by Kabita Sonowal) 

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