Gianni Pettena

Born in 1940 in Bolzano (IT)
Lives and works in Fiesole (IT)

Paper/Midwestern Ocean

Performative installation, strips of paper, wire mesh, tape
Dimensions variables
Year of Purchase: 2011

Gianni Pettena is an artist and an art theorist. He has taught in Italy, the UK, and the US. He studied architecture in Florence where he is one of the chief representatives of radical architecture——a movement established in Italy in 1965, which developed through 1975, spreading across Europe. Driven by the desire to rethink architecture in response to society, through the use of artistic experimentation as a more flexible means of elaboration than the generally accepted functionalist point of view, this subversive movement explores the porous boundaries between art, architecture, and society. Refuting the twofold division which opposes the gratuitousness of art and the functionality of architecture, the movement discerns in these two domains the same questioning of community space.
Paper is an installation first created by Gianni Pettena in 1971, on the occasion of a conference at an American university. Mocking the institutional context, Pettena filled a conference room with paper strips which the public was obliged to cut in order to clear their way. The artist has thus replaced the customary passivity of an audience removed from artistic discourse with collective experimentation at the level of the work. Art becomes a journey, an experience of space, and an engagement of the body with the tangible environment. This interaction between the public and the work, which challenges the frozen, institutional character of art, is evocative of the approaches of various contemporary artistic currents, and especially of the Situationist International.
The minimalism of the materials, underscored by the title Paper, and the mobile configuration of the work which modifies the process of cutting, break free from the architectonic form traditionally assigned to construction.
By contrasting the determinism of a fixed, massive, imposing structure, with the free wandering of an individual, this light, pliable installation offers an infinite potential of personal labyrinths created by the paths adopted by each visitor. In an elementary form, it brings together the question of how we inhabit space and the evocation of collective networks.

Alice Pfister

Note written for the catalog of the exhibition Erre, variations labyrinthiques presented at the Centre Pompidou-Metz from September 2011 to March 2012.
© Éditions du Centre Pompidou-Metz, 2011