Gilberto Zorio

Giorgio Persano Torino

The five-pointed star has been a recurring image in Gilberto Zorio’s work since the early ’70s, and recently it has taken the form of a tower with a star-shaped plan. This show featured (and took its name from) La tolda silenziosa (Silent Deck; all works 2005), a pair of such towers made from white cement blocks, which completely modified the viewer’s perception of the space, suggesting an imaginary universe where celestial bodies become “habitable buildings.” One tower had a staircase leading to the roof, from which one could admire the spectacle that unfolded below. And it was a true spectacle. Two sculptures were installed between the towers. One, Stella X/Y (Star X/Y), made from tubular iron sections, periodically emitted hissing sounds (another recurring feature of Zorio’s work); in the other, Stella che gira (Turning Star), aluminum segments rotated with the help of a motor. Looking down from one of the towers as if from a spaceship traveling through the cosmos, one could see the entire space and the other tower’s interior, covered in phosphorescent colors. The room was illuminated principally by strobe lights; when they were dark, the sculptures became silent—the architectural outline of the second tower disappeared and the luminous design of the star emerged, created by the phosphorescent colors painted on its interior “heart.” At that moment, while a projection of a pentagram appeared on the back wall, the tune of the “Internationale” invaded the room.

Among its many connotations, the five-pointed star is a symbol of the October Revolution, to which the music also alludes. It is interesting that at this point Zorio felt the need to reconstruct the symbolic relationship between the five-pointed star and the foremost revolutionary anthem of the past century. In the early ’70s, the association between the “red star” and the song would have registered immediately to his audience—the star and the anthem were reciprocally evocative—and there would have been no need to represent them together. Today, Zorio reminds us that ideas do not die; they can change, but their story continues to live, even when it is not vapparent. His evocation of socialist political consciousness gives rise to a critical reflection that is based not on revisionism but on an empathy that accompanies social, intellectual, and creative relationships. No new red star shines in the sky of the present, nor does one often hear the strains of the “Internationale.” The injustices that Marxist revolution was meant to cure remain to be addressed. The autonomy of art lies in its recollection and discussion of this problem and not in its repression. The fact that Zorio has given a new form to recurring figures in his work indicates a revolution that is perhaps more personal than collective. Instead of ideological stasis, the recurrence of Zorio’s star indicates his coherence in the wake of life’s changes, and his relevance to the revival of political content in the art of the past decade.

Francesca Pasini

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.