Germano Celant

  • Mario Merz

    IF I CLOSE MY EYES, I can still envision my first encounter with Mario Merz in 1966 at his studio in Turin, which marked the beginning of my long friendship and collaboration with him as a fellow nomad and adventurer, a journey unbroken until his death on November 9, 2003. In the series of rooms where he worked, the artist’s triangular structures projected out from the walls and floors. Made of fabric and woven bamboo, they brought to mind the shaped canvases being produced at the time by Frank Stella and others and were splashed with red paint (as well as scorched with burn holes), evoking the

  • Robert Mapplethorpe’s Man in Polyester Suit

    EROS RULES THE world, and Robert Mapplethorpe celebrates eros. But rather than locating eros in a single, unambiguous sex, whether male or female, his photographs honor it for the multiplicity of its expressions, for its variety, for the confusions of identity it creates. For Mapplethorpe there is no passion that eros excludes, no boundaries it knows. His is a satisfied, inclusive eros, always reaching out for new life. It is inexhaustible. And it is totally without guilt over the desire to love and to be loved, without limit.

    Mapplethorpe’s work has emotional tenderness as well as sex. Desire

  • Marisa’s Swing

    Art is an effort at healing, a shield against a reality of intolerable human and social conflict. A system of rituals, tactics, methods, and projects of thought and behavior, a network of motions and actions, clamors and silences, art offers the only possible truths, the only viable rescues from the existential shipwreck. Art is less flexible, more resistant, than the “scientific” forms of knowledge, which can always be contradicted by reality and subsumed in it. Art approaches experience but is not distorted by it—it keeps a distance. Art operates in protected territory, it makes itself a lair.


    IN DESIGN AND FASHION as in war, to apply camouflage and makeup to an object or living body is to put its identity in play. There is an ambiguity: the thing is confused with its context, and attention is deflected from its true character. A clothed or made-up body can confuse the distinction between the sexes, just as a wrapped or painted object can become indecipherable, can deceive one as to its nature. Made up or masked, the man becomes a mannequin and the object becomes a machine. The female and the male, the technological and the natural, the functional and the decorative, abandon their



    A work is initiated with the following collaborator:

    a person who has an age of several hours or days.


    The joinery used in this work can continue into the formation of a city.

    Every element is joined with the others,

    so that none is separate or apart. The building of the new

    city is possible with the cooperation of at least three persons.

    Every element that is disengaged appears separately in

    another time and another place. (Unpredetermined by


    Every element will stay near to every other one, without

    touching the others directly.


    The performances of sacrificial rites and the erection or nomination of sacred places are one of the prime occupations of man. Directly obvious or camouflaged, they help to constitute life. Some civilizations today have lost their capacity e.g. for death rites. It is a sign of loss of capacity for living.

    —Hans Hollein

    FOR HANS HOLLEIN, architecture is a metaphysical instance of community rather than the result of some moment of intellectual grace. Designing and building are conditions ritual and magical, rooted in the fabric of a collective belief. Referring to an “elsewhere” apart from ordinary


    ACCORDING TO LUCIANO FABRO, sculpture is a metaphor and allegory for sculpting. The artist, then, rather than cultivating his or her own identity, must pay attention to art’s identity: must face the immensity of a flood of “things"; must question everything that seems to have been already thought out; must be willing to travel from rhetoric to linguistics to reveal the process of creativity itself. The art that emerges from such explorations will win out over any motif, found or invented; for it will serve, as Fabro puts it, as “consciousness in movement, . . . an invention that disturbs the


    The following conversation is an excerpt from the editorial discussion that explored some of the reasons for doing this issue. It preceded our meetings with our guests in this project.

    Ingrid Sischy, 35: I think the place for us to start, just so we get our ground, is to try to roughly sketch out why we want to take on these three letters a g e in the first place.

    Thomas McEvilley, 48: Well right away we’d better talk about the problem of using the word “age.” I mean for one thing, when you bring this up to someone and you say We’d like to have a conversation with you about age, they immediately

  • Haim Steinbach's Wild Wild West

    THE ELEMENTS THAT HAIM STEINBACH chooses for incorporation in his art most often come from the field of the mass-produced object, a flat field in which very little distinguishes itself from anything else and even less has a permanent place. Destined to vanish, these objects are the mysterious sphinxes of our culture. Steinbach has found them in the mazes and seas of stuff that constitute the supermarket, in the wild landscapes of the antique shop, the forests of the flea market. Following the Duchampian tradition, he individuates elements with his gaze, extracting them from the magmatic mass of


    SINCE THE RENAISSANCE, THERE HAVE been museum architects who have cherished the symbolic and mythic aspect of art, with the particular myth in question being that of the good, the beautiful, the pure world set apart from the impure present. These architects have imagined the site of art as a nonplace (ou-topos), a happy place (eu-topos). Whether controlled by the prince, the church, the merchant, or the state, the museum has been designed metaphorically as a city of the sun, a Civitas Dei, the cathedrallike cocoon of a better world, a place of pilgrimage to which the faithful can rush in their


    ARCHITECTURE IS OFTEN SEEN as inflexible, a branch of creativity that performs the functions and services we need it to yet also petrifies spaces and materials, fixing the order of things as they are. To view architecture this way is to deny its dynamic nature. A discipline simultaneously scientific and imaginative, architecture, no less than art, is capable of a constant reconstruction and reopening of history. Though it is innately more imbricated with function and finance than art, architects no less than artists can admit into their work their dreams and their fears, their rational ambitions


    IN THE WEST TODAY, one of the few kinds of faith in immortality that remains vital is faith in art. Despite the view of certain artists and art movements as phantoms of significance, as the emperor’s new clothes, art is generally viewed as something of great cultural value that will still be here when things contemporaneous with it are gone. This is not to disparage other sorts of artifacts, but rather to speak of art as a deliberate choice of a vision whose life is lived not only through whatever renown it achieves or does not achieve when new, but long after its creator and its original context


    OVER THE LAST TEN YEARS Ettore Spalletti has elaborated an art that stimulates the senses without showing preference for any one of them. His paintings, architectural fragments, and sensitively designed installations of monochrome objects all have the feeling of a Japanese garden, one in which the rocks have been polished smooth and colored in soft, tenuous tones, while the gravel is a layer of stone ground to sand, or, rather, to a dust of pure color, and the trees are compact, even-surfaced columns covered with powdered pigments of azure and gray The space where his work appears becomes still;

  • The Red and the Black: A Note on Alighiero Boetti

    FOR ALIGHIERO BOETTI, to be an artist is to travel through opposites, to move in a terrain mapped by the discrepant coordinates of desire and necessity—to lead a double life. The left hand doesn’t need to know what the right hand is doing. In all his work, spanning from 1966 to the present, Boetti has sought to transmit two views of himself. Difference and diversity are manifest not only in his art but in his person: calling himself Alighiero e Boetti (or, in English, Alighiero and Boetti), or creating, for example, a composite photograph in which he appears twice, as if with a twin brother, he


    SINCE 1979 REINHARD MUCHA has been exhibiting “processions” of objects, ordered assemblages of furniture (movable furniture; in the sense of the French mobilier)—chairs, tables, cabinets, vitrines, ladders, stools, wall panels, electric fans, carts. Mucha usually finds these pieces in the locales where he goes to work and to exhibit. At first glance, it is difficult to define what one sees. One can only say that the totality of these standard industrial products, unused arid inanimate, forms an entity of “something else.” Regrouped, the “mobilized” components form a larger object, and participate


    MATT MULLICAN’S ART acts as his consciousness, and he employs it to trace the possible coordinates and potential laws underlying the great scheme of things. His is a comprehensive, idealistic, mystical view of life; using anthropology to imply a whole network of values, representations, and behaviors, he offers an all-encompassing vision of reality, a synthesis whose every aspect is integrated within an articulated and structured visual system. Mullican wants to bring diverse planes of experience together in art, to address nothing less than the meaning of the universe. His work tries to operate


    BERTRAND LAVIER'S WORK IS MARKED by a search for a mixed state in which art becomes both painting and everyday object. While the separate identity and autonomy of each category are maintained and reinforced, they are also amended by the reciprocal dynamic that Lavier establishes between the two modes. All this French artist’s “sculptures” stem from an osmosis between the object as solid and color as fluid. Often, a uniform, loosely brushed thickness of clear or colored paint covers the skin of the object, whether a piano, a mirror, a refrigerator, a window, or a camera, transforming it into a

  • Sculpture and painting in Emilio Vedova’s studio in Venice.

    THE STUDIO OF EMILIO VEDOVA lies in a sizeable Renaissance building in Venice that was used for centuries as a works for boats and barges. Its history, then, is that of a place through which the signs of construction and motion have passed quickly, deeply, and smoothly, in an intense flux of movement and material, emptiness and division, light and structure, that still makes itself felt in Vedova’s large paintings. This Italian artist, who began working in 1935 and whose art became a reference point often returned to in European painting after 1950, foreshadowed much of recent informalism and


    WITH THE WORK OF Rebecca Horn one must pay attention to the references to the conditions of her own life without losing sight of the symbolic role of such visual communication. Her strength lies in her recognition of both the primacy of experience and the interdependence between a relationship with the self and a relationship with the world. She demonstrates that art needs to be understood not only in terms of formal and historical structures, but also in terms of the subject matter itself. Such a subjective dimension, which goes beyond most “abstractions” (usually revealed as mystifying and


    In 1957 Pier Paolo Pasolini published Le ceneri di Gramsci (Ashes of Gramsci), an anthology of poems that reflects the dramatic search of a generation reaching out to assume the role of the intellectual—that entity suspended between the tension of social problems and the aspiration of personal identity. The next year Jannis Kounellis made his first urban icons, followed by his letter works in 1959. His conflict between internal questioning and outer, social projection was full of implications: considering the relentless involution of visceral and gestural discourses—in neodecadent literature as