piero manzoni: for the discovery of a zone of images

142256-29merda d'artista, 1961

For the Discovery of a Zone of Images.
A common vice among artists – or rather bad artists – is certain kind of mental cowardice because of which they refuse to take any position whatsoever, invoking a mis-understood notion of the freedom of art, or other equally crass common- places.
142256-27socle du monde, 1961

Since they have an extremely vague idea of art the result is generally that they finish up by confusing art with vagueness itself.It’s therefore necessary to clarify as far as possible what we mean by art, so that we can find a guideline along which to work and make judgements.
The work of art has its origin in an unconscious impulse that springs from a collective  substrata of universal values common for all men, from which all men draw their gestures, and from which the artist derives the “archai” of organic existence. Every man of his own accord extracts the human element from this base, without realising it, and in an elementary and immediate way. Where the artists is concerned it is a question of conscious immersion in himself through which, once he has got beyond the individual and contingent level, he can probe deep down to reach the living germ of total humanity. Everything that is humanly communicable is derived from this, and it is through the discovery of the psychic substrata that all men have in common that the relationship of author-work-spectator is made possible. In this way the work of art has the totemic value of living myth, without symbolic or descriptive dispersion: it is a primary and direct expression.

142256-31line 12,40m, 1959

The foundation of the universal value of art are given to us now by psychology. This is the common base that enables art to sink its roots to the origins before man and to discover the primary myths of humanity.
The artist must confront these myths and reduce them, by means of amorphous and confused materials, to clear images.
Since these are atavistic forces that have their origins in the subconscious, the work of art takes on a magical significance.
On the other hand, art has always had a religious value, from the first artist-sorcerer to the pagan and Christian myth, etc.
The key point today is to establish the universal validity of individual mythology. The artistic moment is therefore that in which the discovery of preconscious   universal myths comes about, and in the reduction of these into the form of images.

142256-32piero manzoni, line, 1959

It is clear that if the artist is to be able to bring to light zones of myth that are authentic and virginal he must have both an extreme degree of self-awareness and gifts of iron precision and logic.
To arrive at such a discovery, fruit of a long and precious education, involves a whole field of precise technique. The artist must immerse himself in his own anxiety, dredging up everything that is alien, imposed or personal in the derogatory sense, in order to arrive at the authentic zone of values.
So its obvious that at first glance there would seem to be a paradox: the more we immerse ourselves in ourselves, the more open we become, since the closer we get to the germ of our totality the closer we are to the germ of totality of all men.We can therefore say that subjective invention is the only means of discovering objective reality, the only means that gives us the possibility of communication between men.

142256-33magic base, 1961

There comes a point where individual mythology and universal mythology are identical.
In this context it is clear that there can be no concern with symbolism and description, memories, misty impressions, of childhood, pictoricism, sentimentalism: all this must be absolutely excluded.

the consumption of dynamic art, performance, 1960

So must every hedonistic repetition of arguments that have already been exhausted, since the man who continues to trifle with myths that have already been discovered is an aesthete, and worse.
Abstractions and references must be totally avoided. In our freedom of invention we must succeed in a constructing a world that can be measured only in its own terms.
We absolutely cannot consider the picture as a space on to which to project our mental scenography. It is the area of freedom in which we search for the discovery of our first images.
Images which are as absolute as possible, which cannot be valued for that which they record, explain and express, but only for that which they are: to be.   
Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)  142256-30achrome, 1961-'62


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