Francesco Vezzoli

Francesco Vezzoli “writes” a very specific history of feelings, from which there emerges a tie between personal emptiness and the need to dramatize one's inner life. Through the lens of movie-star fandom, this artist based in Milan and Rome reinterprets certain great stars of the twentieth century—among them have been Joan Crawford, Audrey Hepbum, Anna Magnani, and Edith Piaf—in such a way that they partially lose their femme fatale qualities in favor of a feminine aura that is, in a broad sense, maternal. This is structured within a theater of sentiments that refers both to film narratives and to the quotidian events behind the movie stars' apparently rustproof images. Vezzoli stresses the everyday side of these figures, creating narratives in which they appear not as they were on the silver screen but at the age they are, or would be, now. Vezzoli pushes both viewers and actors to search for their own “things past,” their own stream of consciousness.

La fine della voce umana (The end of the human voice), 2001, is a sort of countermelody to a dialogue between Cocteau and Rossellini, who brought Cocteau's text La voix humaine (1930) to the big screen under the title Amore (1948), starring Anna Magnani. Vezzoli has created two DVD projections that can be watched simultaneously in separate yet connected spaces. In one, Bianca Jagger plays the role of a woman closed off in a bedroom, who is on, the phone, pleading with her faithless lover. The latter, played by Vezzoli in the second projection, appears stretched out, half-asleep, suffused in a pearly reddish light. The telephone receiver lies neglected on his chest, and his eyes seem abnormal (indeed, Cocteau's substituted for his own). Vezzoli pursues his investigation of the French artist and writer in the installation Stanza de 'Le livre blanc' (Room of 'The white book'), 2002, where he reinterprets ten of the erotic drawings that Cocteau made to illustrate one of his books. Vezzoli has drawn the figures directly onto embroidery cloth and, using needle and metallic thread, added a furtive tear here, a gilded eyebrow there. Through embroidery, Proustian remembrances are interwoven in another exchange between anonymity and femininity—all the more so, perhaps,when the stitching is the handiwork of a man. It is undertaken as a practice of interior language, not simply as a craft.

There is a similarity between the “après Cocteau” faces and that of Vezzoli himself in the video, as if his study of the poet had left its mark not only on his mind but on his body as well. In contrast, the Bianca Jagger sequence, shot in black and white on a set from the '50s, brings to mind the era of Italian Neorealist cinema. The image of perfection unaltered by time, typical of the star system, is thus projected into a present reality where time passes; our imagination is forced to reconstruct what has been lost and sift through the residue that still affects every person's psychological and emotional structure.

Francesca Pasini

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.