Milan

Francesco Vezzoli

Fondazione Prada

The enormous space of the new Fondazione Prada headquarters was divided in two, longitudinally, by a large red curtain. On one side was a movie theater with 120 Mackintosh chairs organized in rows in front of a large white screen edged in black at top and bottom. Two spotlights illuminated the word FINE (“end”) printed on the screen; at its bottom right Francesco Vezzoli had embroidered the signature of Pier Paolo Pasolini. Vezzoli’s exhibition was conceived entirely in relationship to Pasolini and two of his films, the documentary Comizi d’amore (Love Meetings, 1965) and Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1976). Embellishing the chairs’ seats were portraits of the characters in Comizi d’amore, a series of interviews with both ordinary people and famous intellectuals about love and sexuality; to these portraits Vezzoli has added embroidered tears. Salò, an extreme work based on a novel by the Marquis de Sade, amounts to a disavowal of any optimistic or liberatory view of sexuality. Vezzoli has superimposed these two contrary faces of the writer and director, and in a certain sense he has sought a synthesis between the terms of the contradiction, in the form of a reality show representing today’s prevailing sensibility regarding the aforementioned themes.

The reality is horrifying, and Vezzoli’s reality show, entitled Comizi di non amore (Non-love Meetings), 2004, is disturbing precisely because it so faithfully mirrors this reality. The video takes place in a second space, a darkened room where 120 more movie chairs are placed in front of a large screen. Non-love Meetings is structured as a “blind date” involving four women from the entertainment world—Catherine Deneuve, Antonella Lualdi (an actress who appears in Comizi d’amore), Marianne Faithfull, and Italian television performer Terry Schiavo. The director of the spectacle is also an Italian television star, Ela Weber. Each woman meets three people who try to seduce her—often by means of a striptease. The candidates include not only male strippers but a drag queen, a gay woman, a man of a certain age who sings (extremely well), and a boy-next-door. At the conclusion of each match, one candidate is vetoed by the audience, and the guest must choose one of the other two.

The would-be seducers drown the poor women in a sea of banalities, and the audience erupts in little psychodramas, shouting and assailing each other, saying horrible things. Non-love Meetings is our Salò: the pitiless representation of the death of desire, sex, and corporeality in the spectacle of mass alienation. Pasolini foresaw all this, in his writings as well as in his films, and Vezzoli need only exchange Pasolini’s polemical verve or rage for self-irony. His exhibition is entitled “Trilogia della morte” (Trilogy of Death), but there is a cathartic finale. At the end of the program, the winning couple undergoes a mock wedding and withdraws to a circular nuptial bed. Then, when the stage has been deserted, there is a true coup de théâtre. We hear the voice of an old woman humming and commenting, and then we see her, joined by three strippers who’ve been waiting to conjure their pathetic scenes of seduction. But she stops them and invites all three to dinner. The old woman is Jeanne Moreau, dressed in jeans and a fur coat. Thank you, Jeanne. We have never loved you more.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.