Critics’ Picks

View of “The Severed Language,” 2019.

View of “The Severed Language,” 2019.


“The Severed Language”

Laura Bulian Gallery
Via G. B. Piranesi, 10
April 4–July 6, 2019

This group exhibition, spanning five decades, surveys the rupture and fragmentation of contemporary language through the output of three leading Italian artists who, since the 1960s, have examined the ever-mutating codes of verbal-visual communication. Nanni Balestrini, Gianni Pettena, and Gianni Emilio Simonetti deconstruct hypervisible language, pitting its rhetoric and authority against itself. They extract phrases and words from the universe of mass media—newspapers and cartoons, advertising spots and institutional announcements—fragmenting syntax and working to subvert stereotypes: See Balestrini’s suite of collaged newspaper headlines floating amid splatters of black ink and Simonetti’s bizarre, repurposed instruction diagrams and comic-book strips, which tease out social anxieties. Curator Manuela Gandini also includes documentation of Pettena’s intermedia Carabinieri, 1968, in which the anarchitetto erected big cardboard letters spelling out the title, a term for Italy’s military police, in the courtyard of Novara’s city hall. Rain eventually disintegrated the installation—a fitting metaphor for a show so concerned with social breakdown. Undoubtedly, this trio’s analog practices assume a renewed urgency in the post-digital age of the politics of mass distraction, the profusion of fake news, and increasingly routine virtuality spilling over into social networks. Within the current horizon of rapid information and permanent inattention, these images convey a language deprived of its communicative potential and possessed of a new significance: a concrete syntax that aims to intuit and translate the collapse of communication that connotes our era of hypermedia.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.