Maurizio Mochetti

Studio Marconi

If when we think of technology what comes to mind are interminable video works, new and unusual art materials, or aggressive sound and light demonstrations that assault our audiovisual organs, well then, there is nothing of this in the calm and gentle realm of Maurizio Mochetti’s art. Mochetti uses technology in his work, but without any pretentiousness or grand effects; rather, he makes it seem completely natural. He is convinced that if modern artists can adopt anything at all as a material for art, then they can also adopt the technological. And yet, the typical reaction to this show, as to each of his shows, is: “Beautiful, despite the technology.”

Because Mochetti explores a broad range of subtle qualities within this passage from the artificial to the natural, a simple description of any of his works does not really suffice to convey the experience of that work—especially the ones in which the viewer’s presence forms an integral part of it. Those who attended this exhibition, which included a variety of works executed between 1970 and 1987, were shown a good selection of that range. In a work from 1970, Mochetti used electromagnetism to link two identical objects, each one of which had a lever, so that when a viewer pulled the lever on one, the lever on the other moved simultaneously. In another work from 1970, he placed two 3-inch cubes within a 40-inch space and monitored their distance electronically; if the cubes drifted apart more than that, they would be automatically destroyed. From 1980 there was a digital counter hanging on the wall at eye level, which continuously indicated the changing distance between the viewer and the wall. One of Mochetti’s most precisely constructed works, a piece from 1983, is also the lightest, consisting of a twisted steel wire suspended from the ceiling parallel to its shadow on the wall, with the shadow traced in pencil. Where the wire and its shadow end, there is a dot of light made by a laser that seems to have the function of announcing the existence of the work; otherwise, one would hardly have noticed it, like a piece of a spiderweb.

The most recent works amplify the use of lasers. In a work from 1985, Mochetti projected a ray of light parallel to a wall at a quartz sphere that was mounted at the other end of the wall; the material of the sphere infinitely refracted and reflected the light on its interior, becoming the sum of the ray’s rebounds. Then there was the work that was first shown at the 1986 Venice Biennale, in which he had laser beams emerge from both ends of a model airplane (a Bachem Natter rocket) placed on the floor; the thin beams of concentrated light, when they reached the walls or were interrupted by obstacles that crossed their paths (i.e., people), appeared as pinpoints of light on the surface of the solid objects. The most recent work, from 1987, was a sphere just over an inch in diameter, which Mochetti caused to vibrate with an oscillatory, pseudo-perpetual motion.

The crossing of a room by a ray of light is perhaps the oldest of his ideas, one that he used in a 1965 piece based on the solar clock. Indeed, each of the works described is a variant of preceding works or a further exploration of a particular area of Mochetti’s interest. Mochetti makes art using technology, but his art is really about perception and experience.

Reviewed by Jole de Sanna.

Translated from the Italian by Meg Shore.