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Author: Associazione Giovanni Testori

120578

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This work,expressly made for Casa Testori, has deep roots, in fact it rises from an idea for a lightbox entitled My Birthday that I presented in Ginevra a couple of years ago, during an unfortunate trip with Zizi and Eugenia. The work was representing myself, with a gun in my hand, shooting skyward and thus redrawing, with the back light, the precise position of the constellations that could be seen from Bergamo the 12th May 1978, my birthday. During the several inspections at Casa Testori, I was always pointed out the importance of the big room upstairs, where Testori was conceived, born, where both his parents passed away and where, after his mather’s death, he moved. It seemed natural to me to think to repropose that concept of birth, but extending it to the whole room and at the same time making it global and intimate, through the videoprojection in two separate rooms. In the room next to that big patriarchal room, in the dark, here I am (video projected and animated) repeatedly shooting to the opposite wall, the one next to the big room where, as the shots go on, and thus drawing on the ceiling that precise position of constellations that could – indeed – be seen from Lombardy the day of my birth. This goes well, I thought. But I needed something more, and so I started to plick fleas off young Testori’s pictures, until I looked up the biography and read: Giovanni Testori (Novate Milanese, 12th May 1923 – Milano, 16th March 1993). Astonished, I realized that I no longer have to look for anything, we were born in the same day.

Appunti per una guerriglia

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In this room are collected three works (two videos and one installation) that continue backwards the walk of Testori family until Testori’s birth, alternating the levels of narration from my story to his one.
This is the children room.
Appunti per una guerriglia, made just with plastic tacks for children and with polystyrene, is a clear cross-reference, explicit even in the title and in choice of matierials, to the Arte Povera and its manifesto that Celant posted on Flash Art in november of ’67: the tautology is in the children (my grandchildren and one of their friends) who try, digging in the polystyrene, to find other tacks to re-enact the “human-nature identification”, the primordial monster with a human skull, to “go back to that limited and ancillary planning, where the human was the centre and the spark of the reaserch, and not its instrument, not its vehicle”.
The work was made in 2008 for L’origine delle specie at Biagiotti Art Project in Firenze, and it was completing a seven pieces cycle, all made by plastic tacks on polystyrene.

On the wall in front of the installation there is a TV set offering two films with six years of difference between them but sharing the playful revisiting of classic tales for adults.
In Nickelodeon, the Tim Burton’s Frankweenie (about a little Frankenstein that revives his dog)  is photocopied frame by frame and reassembled by sliding, by hand, all the 10000 photocopies in front of the camera, obtaining again the original movie’s string in which both the assembly and the direction are actually entrusted to the artist’s visible hand.
In Bawitdaba two toy animals, a monkey and a pig made by plastic, through a blob movie in which every scene is reconstructed with recycled materials and the sound is exaxctly the one of the original movie, they play the myths of the great cinema, from Dr. Strangelove to Shining, from The Blair Witch Project to Nosferatu and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and so on. I always offer this video with heart: it’s the first work I showed in an actual exibition (Italian Boys at Analix Forever, in Geneva) and it was also the first one I sold for my happiness and Zizi’s (the director of the movie) one, because we got 125 euro, each!

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Family Matters

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Otto sotto un tetto (lit: eight under a roof) is the italian title for the american sit-com Family Matters.
Eight members were, indeed, composing Testori family: mother, father, two sons and four doughters. When in the evening you don’t have TV to watch, you get busy!
The represented image is taken from a photo, the only one I found with the whole family posing in front of one of the big trees of the house.
The work is directly made by carving the wall and thus unearthing, time after time, all the layers of painting, the plasters, the cement and the bricks: I used this technique just once, for The Pindemonte in Geneve.
I remember it, it was Christmas. When it’s Christmas I always get new ideas, I don’t know why. I was in the toilet – like Freddie Mercury composing Crazy little thing called love, but he was in the bath, instead I was exactly on the toilet bowl – glancing at a Cuneo’s CesaC catalogue. Suddenly it’s presented in front of me a picture of William Anastasi’s work. A streak of a wall carved by pickaxes, and all the rubbles left there, precisely under the streak, as a god had passed there to engrave the rock with his litte finger. Enlightening, I thought. So I wrote an e-mail to Barbara, who was asking me a new idea for the planned May exibition at Analix. I thought of these figures, these carved-in-wall “guardians” and of their ashes, contained in the polls below. I clearly remember that on those walls had painted a lot of artists, from Julian Opie  to Martin Creed, from Matt Collishaw to Alex Cecchetti and Luca Francesconi, from Jessica Diamond until myself, a couple of time, and I thought that gradually, with a crop and a bunch of patience, all the layers of painting could be found, rebuilding the archaeological history of the gallery just by unearthing all those colours.
Step by step the idea became concrete and trasformed itself in Pindemonte, a sort of funny danse macabre where eighteen characters, jumping, playing and shagging, they run straightly into death’s arms. And their ashes are contained in eighteen small polls, as a little cemetery of painting. I remember that, for the first time in my life, once I ended the work after having passed sleepless nights scratching tens of square meters with the crop, I cried for the emotion.
So here as well, at Casa Testori, I let the wall speak: as they were soaked of photosensitive substances, they give back to us the images of the people who lived here in the passed years, presences that still soak (believe me, I passed a lot of nights in here), kindly, all the twenty rooms.

Gesù di Bergamo

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Gesù di Bergamo born in summer 2010, when the guys of Cantieri d’Arte in Viterbo asked me a project for an art book, Drawing a New Memory, where every artist was asked to read back the past, and to reinvent it. It was a long time that i was looking for an opportunity to put an old project down in writing, or the draft of a screenplay for a movie about the finding of Christ’s body.
I remember that still in 2007 I went on purpose at Chi vuole essere Milionario to collect the 300-500.000 euro I needed to start the movie’s production, and actually I was doing pretty well shooting random answers, but then Gerry Scotti made me get wrong the 70.000 euro question. Damn it…
This was the starting idea but then, you know, when you start writing, as Verga said, the novel seems to be written by itself. And so this Gesù di Bergamo came out, half true story and half second reading – summarized and easygoing – of the Gospels, whose events are replaced, just for the occasion, not in Palestine but in the charming Bergamo, proposing a tipical Testori’s modus operandi, who rewrote Hamlet, Macbeth and Oedipus Rex setting them in his dear lands of the milanese region.
The room with the 500 copies of the Gesù di Bergamo – available, for free, for the onlookers – stands as an ideal beginning for the first floor: as it’s known, the religious faith was the founding principle around which the family core of Testori was formed, and from here starts as well a small five rooms cycle, dedicated to it.

Protocollages

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These collages are heralding good and bad personal memories. Good because, after all, they are the first collages I have made in my life. It was summer, more precisely June of 2003, and I was looking for a solution that would have allowed me to leave the areosol bombs I was using in that period – they were too cold and stiff – and I realized that the solution was exactly in front of me: instead of throwing away the paper masks I used to create my aerosol painting, I tried to use directly those masks, sticking one upon the other. Slowly I started to notice that they were – in formal terms – perfect, and they gave me that freedom that I had always experienced in printing from linocuts or in engraving. Well, I’d say that the actual starting point for my collages has been Munch’s and Hokusai’s xylography and Picasso’s linoleum, and of course  Schifano’s anaemic landscapes and Nolde’s watercolours, concerning informal backgrounds. Since then I’ve always kept on this kind of work through the years, side by side with all the other works, as it was a leitmotiv that flows under everything I do, following here as well Emil Nolde’s example, who made all his very simple watercolour paintings in a lifetime, while his mainstream work was proceding always in different directions. Until today, I modified my collages with passing of time, reinterpreting them white on white, sobstituting paper and glue to tissue paper and pins, reinventing them digging in paperboard or nailing papers on walls, but alway representing a cathartic moment – as for my drawings – where I can stop and make the point of the sitiation.
Ah, as I was saying at the beginning: bad memories. I spent a week, between 3th and 10th June, locked in my home, in my own garage, cutting paper without talking to anybody, barely eating, and I never saw the sunshine for the anger and the annoyance I had. The theme of all these collages, the war, come out from these feelings. It was summer and we had just recided in second league after the famous play-off against Reggina. What a disappointment. Unfortunately I still remember clearly everything, from Natali’s illusive goal to Taibi’s bullshit to all the curses and – overall – the aftermatch fights. Hours and hours of fighting. Those are the base of these collages of mine, that feeling of useless defeat. Of course telling it could seem banal, but try to live it.

Johnny

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Johnny takes hold from Dalton Trumbo novel Johnny got his gun (1939), from the homonymous movie directed by the novel’s autor himself in 1971 and from the piece inspired by it One, recorded by Metallica in their album …And justice for all, and it merges the three languages of literature, music and movies in one single multimedia work, with real actors made of paper and light, made with nothing, like Testori theatre of Gli Scarozzanti.
Johnny’s story is simple and terrible: a young american, in the end of the first world war is been sent at the european front where, shot by a grenade, he loses his legs, his arms, his face, his ears and all of his senses but the touch. Considering his state, he is believed incapable of discernment, and he is artificially kept alive year after year just for scientifical reasons, in a small bed in a dark closet. Actually, even if he is unable to communicate, his mind is perfectly awake and aware of the terrible situation, and his thoughts, his fears and his hopes – vain – over the years cross that obscure boundary between life and death, making him unaccepted, the only dead among the alive, the only alive among the dead. I’ve always considered this story as fundamental to me. Certainly because since I was young my family events led me to have a daily realtionship with the deasese. And certainly because I think it could be so extreme, and so unbeareble and so terribly true. Johnny extends his death almost endlessly, living and living again thousands of times the transition from life to death, that passage that none of us could know, the one that in Trumbo’s movie nobody, not even Christ, could understand or just stand. In this frame Johnny seems to me like a Christ armless and legless, who can’t be given not even of a cross – necessary croassroad to the redemption – and thus who can’t be given of salvation.
The only relief he can find is around a sweet nurse next to his bedside, to carry him in his endless transition. While I was reading again an interview to Lucia, Testori’s sister, I noticed how necessary was, in this house, to carry oneself beloved towards the afterlife.
Testori used to sleep in that bed where his parents passed away, keeping physically alive the flame of their presence. Parents who, right here, in this room where the living/dying Johnny rests in his hospital bed, were presented for the last time to the love of their dear ones. “Now the world is gone, I’m just one”.

Easy come, easy go

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While I am walking with Julia through the rooms of Casa Testori, during the first inspection for the exhibition, we find ourselves in the big hall, the biggest room of the house. I check the measures, i make a couple of calculations and I realize that, right there, Johnny is perfectly fitting. So I try to lower the shutters to estimate the darkness’ degree of the room, thinking of the video-projection.
As I’m lowering them, I notice a particular drawing created by the extierior light between the holes in the shutter itself. I ask Pietro, who’s right there, what is that, and he explains me that it’s the shadow of the decorated bars in front of  the windows. I turn around looking at the three big windows of the apsidal porch, and I immediately picture me plugging some of the shutters’ holes with scotch tape.
The principle is easy; is the chinese shadow’s one, the principle of the end of 18 century’s theatre: a shape and a back-projected light.
Inquiring about the several room’s function, I find out that was exactly in the porch where the beloved deads’ bodies where brought to the last goodbye: so, on these three big shutters, I portray a Christ’s Deposition and Transport, using as the three crosses, the central wooden axis of the french door and putting in open dialogue this work with the opposite Velazquez’s Crucifixion reported and divided in Johnny’s video-installation.
The semantic link between these two works is also enhanced by the itself experience of Johnny the soldier who – as represented down on the right in the installation – is shot and mutileted by a granade while carrying a dead body toward the trench.
The ironical title of this work, Easy come, easy go (that it’s actually the title of the whole exhibition), underlines the precariousness of the human condition and even of the divine one, both by representing the empty cross and by the utilized technical support (the half-lowered shutter): as the Saviour arrives, he’s already gone.

Dracula / Chirotteri

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Dracula has been accomplished for the first time in 2008 at Nickelodeon’s exibition at Milano’s 1000events: Bram Stoker’s Dracula is among the novels which have had the biggest number of film adaptations, we can count approximately 650 out of it. In this work I show the video-screening of eight movies based on transylvanian Count’s history (from 1922 Murnau’s Nosferatu to Herzog one, up to Coppola Bram Stoker’s Dracula, touching 1931 Tod Browning Universal’s versions and 1958 Terence Fisher’s Hammer) made on book backs of about 60 different editions of the novel itself. This work, besides emphasizing the unavoidable differences of interpretation both at a direction level and at a novel translation one, takes hold from the copyright’s concept about the transposition of any given literary work towards film: indeed Nosferatu has been the first acknowledged case of plagiarism made by a director against a novel. Even if Murnau changed the title and the names of the characters, he entirely resumed Stoker’s book plot. The writer’s widow sued the director for plagiarism and she won, forcing the director to destroy the movie. Just by chance a couple of copies has been rescued, allowing us to still admire this masterpiece. This case created a judicial precedent and since then the copyright was enlarged to any film transposition of literary works, too.

On the ceiling, Dracula is completed by Chirotteri’s installation, approximately 200 books about bats, cut and fixed with screws side by side. This work clearly takes hold from Enciclopedia dei fiori da giardino and was born in a 2009 October’s night: I was in New York and I was actualizing, with my assistants, the Non ci resta che piangere ship, the installation for the Museum of Art ahd Design. In the night, after having worked for 12/14 hours, I often walked by Strand Books, this huge bookshop beetween 12th street and the Broadway, where every time i used to look for new ideas for new works, and so I ran into this amazing volum exclusively about bats, the kind of stuff I’ve never seen in Italy. Immediately started the idea of covering a whole ceiling with books of that genre. That was the primitive core of The Island of Dr. Mastrovito’s installation at Governors Island in 2010, that besides the bats on the ceiling, it contemplated hundreds of books about butterflies on walls and volums about every animal’s species – life-size represented – on the floor.
This room, exactely located where was one of Testori’s libraries, close the cycle of the three rooms books dedicated, room that Testori himself dedicated to books’ and works’ study.

Libraries are not made, they grow

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In my work I’ve often resorted to photocopy. After I had photocopied the whole Analix Forever gallery in 2007, the very next year I found myself in New York, at the Italian Academy at Columbia University. They had in here a wonderful (aesthetically) library, huge, warm, comfortable: it invited you to lie down on big couches and read books all day long, if only all the volumes weren’t disposed randomly and an index or a catalogation weren’t missing. All that because, as it seems, the whole Italian Academy’s big books collection was been sold (I think to the Columbia) and the italian Government had thought only after many years to send tens of boxes containing thousands of loose books, from the litterature ones to the art history ones. Disposed like that, the volumes looked actually beautiful and new (some of them were still wrapped up, but they were basically unusable. I’ve been really impressed by the concept of “frontside”, were the book became a piece of furnishing (the fact that the libraries of the Academy were empty, back in time, it had sicken several Columbia’s professors, that notice them while taking a walk on the Amsterdam Avenue), and because of that I decided to create by myself the books index, just by photocopying the whole library, volum after volum, and re-installing the photocopies on the actual books. In the meantime, to facilitate the usage of the new photocopied library, I binded two different copies of all the approximately 1360 images used in two big catalogues of two volumes each. The metonymy as far achieved, the container for the content (the library INSIDE the books), allowed the visitator to leaf quickly through every back of the library’s books and find thus, in an easier way, the wanted volum.
The idea of rebuilding this “travelling” library at Casa Testori starts from here: the original images’ files are been readapted to the measures of the room that was Giovanni Testori and his nephews’ studio, and these files cover now the walls simulating  the presence of books and shelves. The fact that this library is, for its own nature and from the beginning, easy come, easy go, makes it especially suitable to the walls of Casa Testori, where Giovanni used to have his real library, or his collection’s pictures that, after having been studied and eviscerated, they were straightaway replaced with new paintings by different authors.

Enciclopedia dei fiori da giardino – Pampurzini

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I got the idea of these “gardens of books” in a two years ago evening, while I was arranging the studio. Zizi, my fraternal brother, came to ask me to make, at once, necessarily, a little work for a girl he had to seduce, a dancer. So, after an ungentle discussion, to make it fast, I decided to take one of the Degas’ books I had on my shelves. I open the book on a riproduction of two ballerinas and I cut them on three of their four sides, letting them attacked to the page by their feet. Once they were bent perpendicular to the page, seen from the side, they seem actually dancing on the book. Zizi grabbed the volum, he gave it to the dancer, and thanks to the power of Art, they are now living together in a nice house next to the Serio river. Reaching the Enciclopedia dei fiori da giardino was an easy step from there: I noticed the naturalness and the immediacy of that work, but I needed something to give it strenght and verity. So I thought of flowers: strenght, because from the flower arises the fruit, from the fruit the tree, from the tree the paper and from the paper the book, that in my work was coming back as a flower, closing the circle going back to the starting point of the cycle. Verity because flowers on handbooks are usually in 1:1 scale, in their real dimensions, thus likely to see. In Casa Testori I show this flowerbed reproducing the exact shape of the trompe l’oeil painted on the ceiling above, becoming itslef a trompe l’oeil. Specular to the fresco also in the placement of the doves between flowers, the flowerbed find its raison d’être in its central heart, represented by the “pampurzini”, the cyclamens, the flowers that Giovanni Testori used to prefer, he that, after a heavy nervous breakdown, painted them in a famous ten-small-paintings cycle that he gave to his familiy, as a gratitude sign for having been next to him during that desease.