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La Biennale di Venezia 57: Part VII Michelangelo Pistoletto

“La Biennale di Venezia 57: Three 'Reflective’ Collateral Events in Venice”

Now through November 26th, 2017

Part VII - Michelangelo Pistoletto at the Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore ‘One and One makes Three,’ Curated by Lorenzo Fiaschi


Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore and Officina dell'Arte Spirituale, Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore, Venezia, 2017

The Abbey of San Giorgio Maggiore was the first stop upon my initial arrival in Venice. Starting with a collateral event just a boat’s ride from the mega-exhibition at the Giardini and Arsenale has its unspoiled benefits, freshly opened. I had the opportunity to enter the sublime space whereby Michelangelo Pistoletto, a major figure in the development of conceptual art and the Arte Povera movement in Italy, has positioned arguably his most important work to date in the heart of the Basilica entitled “Suspended Perimeter – Love Difference,” an installation of “suspended” mirrors, forming a ritualistic circle, seemingly an opposite order to altar on the far end. The mirrors, fluctuating between the visible and the invisible, gave me the feeling that my perspective was evolved to a higher sensibility, “expanding the features of the eye and the capacity of the mind, to the point of offering us a view of totality.” On the exterior of the circle, the phrase “Love Difference” is embossed onto every hovering mirror in various colors, varying languages representing several religions and cultures. We look into the mirrors, from the interior of the circle and see ourselves with, for example, Chinese or Arabic writing on the opposite side, and a direct impression of ourselves is identified within the realm of that religion or culture. The translation of “Love Difference” is in effect, a transcontinental ice breaker.

The show is essentially a mini-retrospective in arguably one of the most significant sites for an exhibition of this genre. Pistoletto’s works are about reflection, given his constant use of mirrors. The surrounding waters of Venice, also reflecting light, patterns and the built up environment around, all perturbed by boating activity and the “reflection” is distorted. Pistoletto’s mirrors are often “distorted” by the people looking at themselves or perhaps with performances such as “Respect” (2016, Galerie VNH Paris), whereby the breaking of the framed mirrors that reveal lucid colors, the translated word “Respect” set off by the noise of smashing and falling glass. The notion that reflection of (and on) the self can lead to cultural or social change, but changing the self, for the better, to accept differences, to thrive on humanity’s differences is indeed a path to understanding and the ultimate premise of Pistoletto’s oeuvre.

In and out of the 15 or so rooms, Pistoletto’s works further device the message of love towards one another, peace on earth and within ourselves, the development of a “non-competitive” human relationship, or a connection with art and life. Is this the “idealistic” life of an artist (that is of a practicing one)? Can the everyday experience in politics, social systems, and religion be evolved to such principles? Can war end? These questions are optimistically answered with Pistoletto’s installation. His world is built on mirrors, the fourth dimension and the dimension of the self: a timeless, ever-present spiritual space as suggested in works like “La mela della concordia” (2014),“Tavolo Divisio” (1975) or “Con tatto,” (2007).

In a most recent series of mirror paintings, dedicated to Cuban society, the people are daily life dwellers in the context of a shifting society. Pistoletto believes that “Cuba is the groundbreaking chance to achieve a new political system in an unprecedented way.” I appreciate his hopeful or aspired approach to new “fertile ground for experimentation; innovation is change” an idea to stand by.

Courtesy: the artist and GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Habana; Galerie VNH, Paris

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