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Bertozzi & Casoni. Anthropocene Eng

Bertozzi & Casoni

Galleria Civica, Trento (I)
March ― June 2022

The real dimension of things
Daniele Capra

Making a copy
There are several ways to copy/reproduce a subject placed live in front of us with a mimetic criterion. We can outline it through drawing, that is, by returning it to a horizontal form; we can paint it, outlining it in a vertical position at arm’s length; we can instead mould it, transferring its shape thanks to a plastic material, an approach that inevitably leads us to move in the context and take the measure of its bulk. On the other hand, as Rudolf Arnheim argues, “Each medium prescribes the way in which the features of a model are best rendered”. [1] In classical tradition’s subdivision of the arts, sculpture is in fact the least contemplative; not merely at the moment it is experienced by the observer but in the very dynamics of its creation. We could go so far as to say that, if drawing and painting are the result of careful sedentary observation of a subject, sculpture is instead the outcome of an ambulant interaction: an aspect that indicates, in relation to the context, a different anthropological approach. Whatever the target medium – and the respective strategy to be adopted – mimetically making a copy of a subject inevitably has to do with the way we look at things, with ideology, culture and taste. A copy is, in essence, the outcome of Weltanschauung and the technical knowledge of the individual who carries it out.
Accuracy in rendering volumetric and superficial aspects and formal precision in reproducing the details of the original model provide the observer with the sensation of a realistic transcription, able to connect them to the direct experience of the subject. When a copy is a twin that appears indistinguishable from the source, we are held in check and, automatically, will be forced to seek other criteria of understanding in order to grasp potential differences from the original. In fact, the perfect homology of two elements (except in the case of programmatic sequential production of objects) disturbs us, as it is a nonsensical observation that challenges the uniqueness of our experiences and the principle of the unidirectional flow of time.
Making a copy of something means, at the same time, opposing the inescapability of change; increasing, even in an ephemeral way, the possibility of life for the subject reproduced/led outside its primogenial context. Copying a subject does not entail banal imitation of the world of ideas, as Plato believed in regard who makes copies as “the highest object in life”, [2], an attitude that he negatively attributes to artists first and foremost to “sculptors, painters and musicians, […] reciters, actors, chorus-trainers, and producers”. [3] Creating a copy instead means freeing the subject from its original condition, redeeming it and showing it in an allochthonous and unexpected context. Moreover, as Susan Sontag wrote about photography, the copy gives people “imaginary possession of a past that is unreal” and helps them “take possession of space in which they are insecure”. [4] In this way, the copy let us do contextual and conceptual step, in order to reveals to our eyes a portion of reality that we have yet to deeply analyse or understand, and also strengthens the perception of reality as knowable, measurable and, unconsciously, traceable.

A world out of its mind
The works of Bertozzi & Casoni represent subjects that already exist in reality and are all life-sized. Animals, plants, furnishings and objects are the same size as those we encounter when interacting with the world. Moreover, not only are they perfectly identical to their reference models; even more importantly, they can be confused with these. Represented and representative coincide and are indistinguishable, each endowed with the same precision and quantity of details, much like the vast map of an empire described by Jorge Luis Borges “whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it” [5]in an absurd and surreal way. For example, a dirty dish of leftovers, a dusty plastic box of bottles forgotten in the cellar, a bouquet of flowers or fuel barrel on which a parrot perches are no different from those we already know (even if, materially, they are a ceramic copy). They seem real to us, yet disorient us, all the more so if the place where we see them is a gallery or exhibition space. The educated spectator knows that these places institutionally guarantee the already planned anti-institutionality of the ready-made, since a neutral space, dedicated exclusively to the visual experience, enables the out-of-context placement of an object that in our experience could be encountered elsewhere. The ready-made in the original Duchampian sense should, as Marco Senaldi writes, “serve as a test of our ability to escape the traps of perception […] and teach us to apply at least visual effective scepticism on every occasion and before every object”. [6] From this perspective, a new ideal category could arguably be applied to define the works of Bertozzi & Casoni, that are characterised by a sort of realist vertigo. Even if conceptual analysis does not seem central to the artists’ poetics, the refined executive process and technical complexities their works spring from can lead us to read them as a sort of anti-ready-made, which is not neither the classical Dadaist sampling of a portion of reality nor the mimetic realism of classical art, but by the dismissal of reality in a strictly fictional way. Therefore, in this process realism is only a method, not the goal, because the ideology pursued is that of subverting its very status.

Strategies of approach
Overabundance is the main feature that stylistically characterises the works of Bertozzi & Casoni. The unbridled profusion of details, enpowered by the virtuosity with which they work with ceramics, allows the observer to grasp cognitive aspects that had previously escaped notice. For example, their flowers and animals display details (of physiology, shape and colour) that the observer would almost certainly have ignored had they encountered them in person. We could say, in fact, that their works intensify reality, urging us to recognise that which is usually overlooked. This process pushes the viewers to increase their visual awareness of what they observe. It makes the apparently latent intelligible. Furthermore, the exciting overabundance of stimuli full of vital energy somehow enlivens the very experience of seeing.
It is important to note how ceramics abound compared to references from art history, design or popular culture, that “lurk as parasites, citations, and perceptive traps […], a sort of sidenotes, illustrations of an encyclopaedia composed of forms and images”. [7] The artists operate within this structured method in absolute anarchy: “toppling iconographic conventions, overturning observational data, freely mixing the most diverse reference sources, constantly contradicting basic assumptions; and, above all, carefully avoiding any banally soothing and determinative hypothesis”. [8] In its careful styling, sophisticated composition that never cedes to loveliness, and detailed references, their excess serves to make the internal logic of reality visible/discussable through the creation of a subversive, altered version, “out of its mind”. The strategy they employ parallels that which Achille Bonito Oliva identifies in the Mannerists, for whom “deviation is a subversive tactic applied to a coded language that simulates a now modified, unrecognisable reality”. [9] Bertozzi & Casoni analyse/describe critically the world by breaking it down and recomposing it with another material. There is a forward-moving rejection in their oeuvre, enabled by an absolute technique in which hyperrealistic tension leads, ad absurdum, to the betrayal of reality through the creation of another version of it. They enact “a strategy for approaching life that resolves its missing reality, that is, the daily and purely chronological one, by asserting a surreality built on imagination, dreams, the madness that everyday life can only suspect”. [10]

Subjects and melancholy
Ceramics is at once the medium of slowness and waiting, aspects that correspond in Bertozzi & Casoni’s expressive language to the complex phases of research, modelling, drying and the anxious calm of suspension, characteristic of firing. The choice of subject and construction of the work instead follow extremely freewheeling process, in which the artists’ imagination, a certain degree of emotional warmth and planning needs must negotiate to find a feasible form. In a conversation Jolanda Silvestrini held with the artists, Giampaolo Bertozzi described how the decision-making processes that lead the artists to imagine and then create the sculptures “are triggered by the things around us: the closest, most everyday ones, rediscovered by a gaze intent on seeking a link between the aesthetic form we are observing and the mood that drove the search”. [11] Contrary to what one might imagine at first glance, the emotional component in their work is strong. As Stefano del Monte Casoni explained immediately afterwards, it manifests itself in a continuous “short-circuit of dissonances between pleasure and horror, attraction and repulsion, illness and voluptuousness, bulimia and renunciation, acceptance and forgiveness, suspension of judgement in favour of appearance”. [12] In this prolonged wandering, the choice of subjects and their iconographic variables comes from the inexhaustible debate between personal sentiment, art history, symbolism, bibliographic research, pop references, new technical solutions and the limits of the materials: all this in a state of uncertainty in which “since the world is unlivable, the artist overcharges the metaphor of his work until it overflows with tension and contortion”. [13]
Representations of living subjects from the vegetable and animal kingdoms (flowers, fruit, greens, plants, anthropomorphic monkeys with menacing details) recur in the artists’ work. As with food, in particular end-of-meal leftovers, and that which we are anthropologically accustomed to removing from our sight, and is perhaps even more desirable for this reason: rubbish. Nor are chaotic situations involving everyday objects lacking. These are often employed in compositions that oscillate conceptually between emphatic objective realism and unnatural Mannerist construction. While one might, upon first glance at the subjects and situations represented, perceive echoes of the nouveaux réalistes in the love for popular and trivial objects, in the small snatches that display the world for what it truly is, nothing could be further from the truth. Their approach, as Letizia Ragaglia points out, is in fact the opposite: “while Neo-Dadaist assemblages are composed of several objets trouvés, the ceramics of Bertozzi & Casoni are ex novo creations, the result of scrupulous and complex research”. [14] Overall, the sculptures with fewer elements are more lyrical, open and conciliatory, while the more complicated ones are endowed with greater surreal tension due to their material emphasis and three-dimensional development of volume. Iconographically they deal with the still life and vanitas genres, producing in the viewer the warring sentiments of teeming vitality and heart-rending sadness, like unseasonable postmodern memento mori.
Animated by apocalyptic energy that crackles with the meticulous richness of the compositions, the ceramics ontologically cross the boundaries of possibility – even though stylistically realistic. They stage, as Tiziano Scarpa writes, “an endless, abusive consumption, a devastating consummation. The meal has been devoured, the environment ransacked and destroyed, a table groans with leftovers scattered in small mini-orgiastic heaps, post-orgiastic stacks of dishes. There are ordinary types of comfort and unlikely leftovers; there is fruit left to rot that feeds insects and storks that have serenely nested on top of car batteries”. [15] On the other hand, the works seem to aptly prove the principle that “art does not directly depict the world, but only its feasible and deviated references”. [16] After observing the works of Bertozzi & Casoni in their heady details, once the orgasm of the gaze has passed and sight gives way to other senses, one is progressively enveloped in a silence that remove every noise. A feeling of post-coitus emptiness that generates a sense of fidgety loneliness, of melancholy that smells of death. But also of life that smoulders in secret under the ashes.

[1] R. Arnheim, Art and visual perception, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2008, p. 140.
[2] Plato, The Republic, 599a, trans. D. Lee, London: Penguin 2007, e-book.
[3] Plato, The Republic, 373b, trans. D. Lee, London: Penguin 2007, e-book.
[4] S. Sontag, On photography, New York: Rosetta Books, 2005, p. 6.
[5] J.L. Borges, On Exactitude in Science, in Collected fictions, London: Penguin, 2004, p. 144.
[6] M. Senaldi, Duchamp. La scienza dell’arte, Milan: Meltemi, 2019, e-book, ch. 3.4.3.
[7] M. Senaldi, Bertozzi & Casoni. Coincidentia Oppositorum, in Bertozzi & Casoni. Minimi avanzi, exhibition catalogue (Ascoli Piceno, Pinacoteca Civica, 25 March – 24 September 2017), Camerino: Artelito, 2017, p. 23.
[8] F. Bertoni, Regeneration, in Bertozzi & Casoni. Regeneration, exhibition catalogue (London, All Visual Arts Gallery, 13 October – 10 November 2012), Edizioni Danilo Montanari, Ravenna 2012, p. 4.
[9] A. Bonito Oliva, L’ideologia del traditore. Arte, maniera, manierismo, Turin: Electa, 2012, p. 28.
[10] A. Bonito Oliva, L’ideologia del traditore. Arte, maniera, manierismo, Turin: Electa, 2012, p. 49.
[11] J. Silvestrini, In conversazione con Bertozzi & Casoni, in Bertozzi & Casoni. Dove Come Quando, exhibition catalogue (Mantua, Palazzo Te, 7 June – 7 September 2014), ed. M. Tonelli, Turin: Allemandi, 2014, p. 25-34.
[12] J. Silvestrini, In conversazione con Bertozzi & Casoni, in Bertozzi & Casoni. Dove Come Quando, exhibition catalogue (Mantua, Palazzo Te, 7 June – 7 September 2014), ed. M. Tonelli, Turin: Allemandi, 2014, p. 25-34.
[13] A. Bonito Oliva, L’ideologia del traditore. Arte, maniera, manierismo, Turin: Electa, 2012, p. 27.
[14] L. Ragaglia, Il re è nudo. La smaliziata reinterpretazione di alcuni cliché artistici nella pratica di Bertozzi & Casoni, in Bertozzi & Casoni, exhibition catalogue (Trento, Studio d’Arte Raffaelli, December 2003 – February 2004), Trento, 2003, p. 14.
[15] T. Scarpa, La delicatezza della devastazione, in Bertozzi & Casoni. Le bugie dell’arte, exhibition catalogue (Venice, Galleria Internazionale di Arte Moderna Ca’ Pesaro, 6 June – 2 September 2007), ed. M. Caldirola, D. Sorrentino, Bologna: Damiani, 2007, p. 27.
[16] A. Bonito Oliva, L’ideologia del traditore. Arte, maniera, manierismo, Turin: Electa, 2012, p. 27.

Jacopo Mazzonelli. In the affectionate memory of Eng

Jacopo Mazzonelli
In Affectionate Memory Of

Trento (I), Fondazione Galleria Civica
March ― May 2011

Music as Method
Daniele Capra

A work of art, therefore, is a complete and closed form in its uniqueness as a balanced organic whole, while at the same time constituting an open product on account of its susceptibility to countless different interpretations which do not impinge on its unadulterable specificity. Hence, every reception of a work of art is both an interpretation and a performance of it, because in every reception the work takes on a fresh perspective for itself. [1]

A Forty years after its publication, the analysis carried out by Umberto Eco in The Open Work still appears crucial, as it emphasizes one of the most intriguing aspects of our being at once spectators and interpreters: the work (it is a matter of complete indifference whether it is of music, visual art or literature) is the result of a sum of stimuli on which our interpretations are based. Or, to borrow from the theories of mathematics, we could say that the work is the set of input values (the domain) of all those elements that find their home in the spectator (the codomain). The function –the rule that permits each element of the first set to correspond with one in the target set – is principally fruit of the labor of the language and the medium used. The inverse function – i.e. the one that allows us to go back to the original set, to the work itself – is instead the result of our interpretation. [2] Out of this continual movement that sees the spectator subject to the friction of being simultaneously receiver and sender comes the dynamism which opens and liberates the work, freeing it from enslavement to hermeneutics, technicalities and overly erudite disquisitions (which can too easily get bogged down in the aporias of thought or in unbounded onanistic intellectualization [3]).

Thus one of the main differences between works that are open and those that are not lies in the possibility or impossibility of creating a dialogic relationship with the consumer: the more a work is open the more it lends itself to being not so much manipulated as receptive to the impressions, wonder, disgust or appreciation of the person looking at it. Which obviously does not mean that all interpretations are correct or have the same value. Rather it indicates the fact that the spectator feels himself to be playing an active part and able to hold a conversation, even if at times it is with an interlocutor who is alienating, embarrassing or unexpectedly substantial. In this sense the multiplicity of levels of interpretation plays a fundamental role as it permits the viewer to take the liberties that suit him, that he is personally capable of measuring.

This is the key to many of the works of Jacopo Mazzonelli, an artist who has pursued a line of research that at the same time investigates the broad territory on the frontier between visual art and music. His approach is not that of sound art in the common sense of the term – used to refer to that «kind of sound work with the aim of non-time-based plastic arts, rather than the aims of music» [4] – rather than the methodological
one, by constructive derivation and design influence. The audible aspect of sound that sometimes accompanies his works stems in fact from a musical connective tissue, a sort of breeding ground (the artist has a solid background in piano studies at the conservatoire), but it is rare for one of his works to have sound as its subject, even in its plastic or kinetic potentialities: what is important for him is in fact to place the spectator in an active condition in which he can set the senses going or bring an expectation to bear.

Let us take for example Camera Inversa / Reverse Room, an installation made up of a mirror (whose reflective surface vaguely recalls Alviani’s steel disks) that appears alternatively concave or convex and a chair on whose seat moves a spring that seems to have been placed there by chance. If the sight of the mirror puts the viewer in an exploratory state, looking for what lies behind it, only afterward does he manage to pay attention to the intermittent noise coming from the chair. That is to say a sense of astonishment is prepared at the right moment with devices that feed expectation, a dynamic frequently found in music (or in the theater): it is an updated form of the doctrine of the affections, the Affektenlehre developed by German musical theorists in the baroque period which regarded music as an organized set of sounds animated by intentions and moods. [5] The affections, or – in more modern language – emotional states, are produced according to an intentionality that the spectator, placing his trust in the artist, grasps only in an unconscious form. Thus Mazzonelli on the one hand demonstrates that he knows his public and on the other shows how to take it by the hand, gauging the effects of his own action, in essentially the same way as a musician who performs in public.

Respiro / Breath (a sheet of paper hung on the wall from which its projected image suddenly “falls,” as if it had come unpinned) brings into question, in a play of allusions, the concept of two- and three-dimensionality by comparing the sculptural potentialities of a flat surface, such as a sheet of paper, with the generally absent ones of a video projection. Thus the intersection between the medium of paper and the video becomes essentially a work on the borderline, in which the object and its projected representation coexist, at least until the latter slips off. So the event of the “fall” (which in some ways recalls Pirandello’s tear in the paper ceiling of the puppet theater [6]), carefully constructed by making the viewer wait, is what dissolves the tension after a climax built up in the absence of action. That metaphysical vacuum and the subsequent occurrence have an exact equivalent in the field of music in the procedure, typical of Beethoven,[7] of making a pianissimo follow a long and intense crescendo. And in the same way the installation Organico (Organic, created by taking a piano to pieces and revealing the dynamic potentialities of the instrument after being struck vigorously with a hammer), after the resounding start with the anxiety-inducing element of the repeated noise, has a measured evolution that allows the tangle of threads launched at the unwitting spectator to be sorted out.

Works like Mensa (a record player whose arm has a fork mounted on it, producing a noise akin to the clashing of tableware) or Listening (created out of the union of two stethoscopes) spring instead from the need to invest objects with new meanings, i.e. to give them a form and a use distant from the original ones, to introduce them to a new life. In other words Mazzonelli produces a variation or an improvisation on the given theme, by taking to different places – with different aims – samples of reality collected at whim. In this he seems to be giving voice to the need to always have the possibility of a different interpretation, one that is free and remote from the parameters considered standard and acceptable by common sense. (I Play) Lonely Everyday can also be seen as the application of musical methodologies, in particular in the layering of several voices – polyphony – in which different layouts are brought into relation, finding meaning and justification in the interweaving of their own line with other elements. The installation is created out of parquet blocks assembled to make a floor; underneath it are set loudspeakers from which the sharp noise of the bounce of a tennis ball can be heard, alternatively from the right and left. The floor is divided by a window, fixed on the wall, which provides a sense of scale and acts a bit like an anomalous element that disrupts vision. The observer sees, listens, and is involuntarily driven to move along the line traced by the parquet in order to perceive the spatiality of the sound, but also to inadvertently interact with the stratifications with which he is faced; and at that point, all that he can do is identify himself existentially – shunning complications of interpretation – with the person (the artist) who, every day, plays by himself. The frame of mind, at times, is simply a question of shifts in position.

[1] U. Eco, Opera Aperta [1962]. English ed., The Open Work, trans. by A. Cancogni. Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press, 1989, p. 4.
[2] To keep things simple the example does not take into account the fact that each element of the domain must have only one correspondence in the target set.
[3] This is a tendency, although I am expressing a wholly personal opinion, common to many critics and insiders, with the result that interpretation sometimes assumes a role that is excessively more important than the work. Rancière’s ironic interpretation of the question is interesting: “I am aware that of all this it might be said: words, yet more words, and nothing but words. I shall not take it as an insult. We have heard so many orators passing off their words as more than words […]; we see so many installations and spectacles transformed into religious mysteries that it is not necessarily scandalous to hear it said that words are merely words” (J. Rancière, The Emancipated Spectator. London: Verso, 2009, pp. 22-3).
[4] A. Licht, Sound Art. Beyond Music, Between Categories. New York: Rizzoli International, 2007, p. 14.
[5] «The doctrine of the affections, also known as the doctrine of affects, or by the German term Affektenlehre (after the German Affekt; plural Affekten) was a theory in musical aesthetics popular in the Baroque era (1600-1750). It derived from ancient theories of rhetoric, and was widely accepted by late-Baroque theorists and composers. The essential idea is that just one unified and ‘rationalized’ Affekt should be aimed at by any single piece or movement of music, and that to attempt more was to risk confusion and disorder. According to the “doctrine of the affections” there are three pairs of opposing emotions that make six affects all together: love/hate, joy/sorrow, wonder/desire», Wikipedia, Doctrine of the affections, consulted in March 2012.
[6] L. Pirandello, Il fu Mattia Pascal [1904]. English ed., The Late Mattia Pascal, trans. by W. Weaver, chap. XII. Garden City (NY): Doubleday, 1964.
[7] See D. Huron, Crescendo/Diminuendo. Asymmetries in Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, in Music Perception Journal, vol. 7. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.