l’a.: A series of print-on-demand artists’ books, 2021

Mauro Maffezzoni
Indagine su Piero Manzoni

originally published in the series “la c.” in May 2019
first edition, January 2021 (LA-01)
Lingua : Italiano
paperback, 80 pagine
ISBN: 979-8-5941-4468-2
Dimensioni : 12.85 x 0.48 x 19.84 cm

“Indagine su Piero Manzoni” è una tesi di laurea discussa all’Accademia di Belle Arti di Milano nel 1986, con successive integrazioni compilate nel 2013 e nel 2019. Corredato da fotografie originali in bianco e nero, il testo riporta le trascrizioni di interviste realizzate dall’autore, allora studente a Brera, con amici e familiari di Manzoni: Giuseppe Meroni, Elena Manzoni, Giuseppe Manzoni, Luciano Fabro, Davide Boriani, Rina Majoli, Nanda Vigo, Agostino Bonalumi, Eva Sørensen e Dadamaino.

«Mi sono diplomato all’Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in pittura, era il 1986, ne sono uscito con una tesi su Piero Manzoni. A quanto pare la mia era la prima tesi su di lui, cosa strana perché Manzoni era già un grande, era presente in tutti i più importanti musei del mondo ed era scomparso più di vent’anni prima. Quando dissi al mio professore che intendevo fare la tesi su Piero Manzoni lui ne era felice e mi chiese il perché di una simile scelta.
La risposta per me era talmente ovvia che al momento mi ero trovato spiazzato: “Perché Manzoni?”. “Perché sì, perché non è possibile che non esista ancora una tesi su di lui, perché è un grande, perché dopo Fontana c’è lui.” Così andai a cercare nel mio inconscio una ragione in più e quella che mi saltò fuori fu che era nato a Soncino in provincia di Cremona e quando andavi nei musei, come mi era capitato al Beaubourg, si leggeva “Piero Manzoni, nato a Soncino (CR)”.»

disponibile qui

I graduated with a degree in painting from the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milano. It was 1986, and I wrote my thesis on Piero Manzoni. It seemed that my thesis was the first one about him, which was strange because Manzoni was already a famous artist; he was already represented in the most important museums in the world and he passed away more than twenty years before. When I told my professor that I intended to write a thesis on Piero Manzoni he was pleased about it and asked me the reason for my choice. The answer for me was so totally obvious that I was caught off guard: “why Manzoni?” “Because yes, because it isn’t possible that there hasn’t been a thesis written about him already, because he’s so great, because after Fontana there’s Manzoni.”

So this is why I started looking in my unconscious for more reasons, and what came out was that he was born in Soncino in the province of Cremona and when I went to museums, like in Beaubourg, I would read “Piero Manzoni born in Soncino, Cremona.” Since I was also from Cremona, the thing that struck me was why and how in the world it would be possible, except some rare and brief exceptions, small provincial cities are decades behind in the culture of contemporary art, while Manzoni was ahead of his time.
After getting a ‘yes’ from my professor I left for Soncino and put an article in “La Provincia,” Cremona’s daily paper. Of course my relationship with Manzoni wasn’t always so idyllic. The first time I heard about him was many years before art school, when I was still in high school and, since I was already interested in art and hoped to develop it as a hobby, I came across his piece “Merda d’artista [Artist’s Shit]”. I also remember a young Beppe Grillo in one of his TV shows inveighing against Manzoni and his shit, as only he knows how to do even today against some political shift. For the detractors of contemporary art Manzoni’s work offered a lot of ammunition and my reaction to his works was similar to those who have a very marginal or classical art education: they’re scandalized; indignantly dismiss the white wall, the line, little boxes and balloons. But all that intrigued me, despite my pure and superficial ideals about art. I asked myself why, what was behind these works, and probably my curiosity and desire to know was one of the reasons that brought me to art school.

There’s already been a lot written about Piero Manzoni, all his works have been analyzed, discussed, and criticized. I never intended to be an art critic and won’t be writing critical lines here because I’d just be repetitive and my work wouldn’t be useful. Instead, I’ve decided to develop my thesis on a series of interviews, insisting above all on biographical aspects in the period in which Manzoni worked, and on little episodes that could better define his character and personality.
I wanted to know and understand Manzoni through stories of those people who were close to him and with whom he had brief but intense experiences. I based my work on meetings and interviews and tried to cover all the categories of people who had something to do with him: family members, artist friends, acquaintances, artists who came after him, those who knew him in other countries, gallerists, his fiancée. I should have talked to other important people, but I stopped once the information I was getting started to become repetitive. 

Other than the first two, I recorded all the interviews in dialogue form and recorded them on one of those old analog tape recorders that should certainly be part of a museum collection by now. I tried to respect as much as possible words and expressions and also information that was obviously incorrect or contradictory. I wanted to leave it to the reader to resolve the ambiguities and the memories that had been altered by the passage of time.
As a whole, going through the pages, the information about the character and life stories of Manzoni, the times in which he lived, and the importance of his works assume a certain consistency and a truth (though perhaps Pirandellian) in which every interviewed subject tells his own truth.
The interview section is preceded by two short chapters that describe the first artistic steps by Manzoni that serve as an introduction to the more important works.
(translated by Jenny Perlin)