Piero Manzoni, Living Sculptures, 1961

Lecture: Piero Manzoni and Umberto Eco’s "The Open Work"

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Lecture in English
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Piero Manzoni and Umberto Eco’s The Open Work: Between bodily Reification and the Spectacle.

Lecture by Lara Demori, Goethe-Institut Postdoctoral Fellow at Haus der Kunst; researcher on the discursive-exhibition chapter "Postcolonial: 1955–1980"

The work [of art] is something more than its year of birth, its antecedents or interpretations made of it. And how it is ‘something more’ is usually explained when it comes to a crucial ‘opening’ or ‘ambiguity’ or ‘pluri-signNess’ of the work – meaning that the work of art is a matter of communication that asks to be interpreted and then completed and supplemented by the ratio of the user. U. Eco

In 1962, semiotician and writer Umberto Eco (Alessandria, 1932 – Milan, 2016) published the pivotal book The Open Work, intellectualising a hermeneutical model that frames a new understanding of the art object and unfolding pioneering perspectives on participatory art from both an aesthetical and a historical point of view. Concurrently, artist Piero Manzoni (Soncino, 1933 – Milan, 1963) declared spectators works of art by placing his signature on their bodies or making them stand on ‘magic’ pedestals. In doing so, the artist forged a new, problematic, interactive dimension between the author and its audience. 

The aim of this lecture is to adopt Eco’s aesthetic paradigm to discuss Piero Manzoni’s Living Sculptures and Magic Bases (both 1961). The reading of Manzoni’s works through the lenses of Eco’s semiological model unfolds the paradoxical nature that pertains to both series of works, since the effective participation of the audience is undermined by issues of reification of the body and the spectacle. The adoption of Eco’s theory therefore reveals the dystopian – but constructive – sarcastic raison d’ être that affects Manzoni’s practice.

Dr. Lara Demori, Goethe-Institut fellow at Haus der Kunst, was awarded a Ph.D. in History of Art from the University of Edinburgh with a thesis on artists Hélio Oiticica and Piero Manzoni, which investigates the emergence of postmodern art practices from a transnational perspective and discusses the shift from representation to performance at the turn of the sixties. Lara Demori has published articles and book chapters and participated in numerous international conferences.

Piero Manzoni, Living Sculptures, 1961
Piero Manzoni, Living Sculptures, 1961

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