6 September - Centre Pompidou, Paris
Creative R'Evolution 50 Years of Fluxus from the Archivio Bonotto
Barcelona, 21st – 23rd January 2009
«Tous est art, mais il faut des artistes pour le faire comprendre aux gens».
On occasion of Bread&Butter, Archivio Bonotto is presenting over 150 works to cover the history, starting from its origins, of the most revolutionary artistic avant-garde movement ever.
Tous est art, mais il faut des artistes pour le faire comprendre aux gens…(Ben Vautier)
A cloak of yellow leaves, similar to a large monochrome carpet, covers the entrance.
“A gingko biloba, a living fossil”, he smiles as he greets me.
It is raining and sale the noise coming from the bare pebble rock surface is increasing.
It seems like entering an old country farmhouse.
Under the big porch a wooden frame.
“It was the first object that inspired me to weaving fabric and leather. My story starts from here, from the sixties.”
We enter. Hidden between a large work by Nam June Paik and a wall with at least thirty works by Ben Vautier, there’s the reception. A young lady greets kindly with a big poster behind reading “Sentieri Interrotti” (disrupted paths), a large exhibition on the Fluxus movement of the year 2000 in Bassano del Grappa.
We are at the entrance Bonotto Spa. A firm. “How curious”. I turn around and see what I believe is the administration office hidden behind a long striped curtain. “ Ah, another artwork...”.
I pass by a small gold mosaic pyramid. It reminds me of the Culture and Industry Guggenheim award.
“As a matter of fact we won it ten years ago, in those days nobody talked about culture and industry. It was a start for Italy. Today it is only done to sell purses and clothes.”
Let’s try to understand. But we are only at the beginning of our story. We go up the stairs. Rooms and offices are flung open. Artwork is everywhere.
The walls are covered by artworks. Everywhere. Hundreds, thousands. Here and there. Hanged on walls. Spoerri, Rot, Patterson, Metzger, Maciunas, Chiari, Forti, Friendman, Beuys, Cunningham, Brecht, AYo ... “ What can I say, they have a right to live, we who are in the middle of everyday life. Let managers and workers walk by them. Let them have a look at the works. Without any form of imposition.” We find ourselves talking in a reunion room. A big crystal table covers an enormous work by Milan Knizak where with use of colours, objects of everyday life turn into fossils.
“He has visited us so many times. It has been a long friendship. He was the Minister of Culture with Havel.” The room is small and surrounded by patches of fabric. Those for which Bonotto is known in the fashion world as one of the great “creative thinkers” and innovators. He opens a toy theatre by John Cage. It’s standing there, between samples. As the most normal thing in the world. Without arrogance or haughtiness. With the extraordinary normality of arte. With the selfsame normality as when someone picks up one any of these samples and reads: “In our fabric there are a series of stratifications and sedimentations. We must then cut, corrode, modify. We let it vibrate. The material must be felt. It must emerge. It must be strong. Unique. It must have history, deep roots, on which to invent a new contemporary project. We want all our products to have this identity and visionary power. We must transmit the culture inside of them. Its soul. This is what fabric is for us. And art, especially Fluxus, has influenced our way of thinking and guides every action we do. It has become part of everything and also determines the processes.”
I listen. I hear a strong passion inside each word. Not the usual marketing oriented small talk. Not the usual phrases of the collector or patron of the arts who look for approval or an extra editorial. Now I’m starting to understand why Armani and Prada, Margiela and Paul Smith, Boss and Diesel choose Bonotto, made in Italy, in Molvena, in the province of Vicenza, in the Veneto region!
Some years have passed from that first encounter.
We are in the beginning of December. It’s evening. Dinner time. I’m with Luigi Bonotto in his home in Bassano del Grappa to talk about the exhibition. That is the reason why I’m writing this article. I find him in his retiring place. A capsule where he can be at peace with Fluxus.
Un big table is full of reams of printed paper with small icons with part of the thousands of works by the Archivio Bonotto.
And with regard to these, Luigi is evaluating them daily and sharpening his curator skills that will give life to the exhibition: “Creative R'evolution – 50 anni di Fluxus nell'Archivio Bonotto” (50 years of Fluxus in the Archivio Bonotto.
Luigi is always a river ready to flood. Notwithstanding his humbleness and discretion. He’s like opening a living work of art. But one full of life. Because this is what Fluxus is all about and Bonotto too. Thirty years of life together. Not only a collection. But mutual love and esteem. Of collaboration. The room is obsessed with works. Everywhere. From the doors to the windows, on the walls. From the shelves of the kitchen. Everywhere there are traces, signs, a strong presence. “What can I say. They dropped by. We’d stay here. They’d stop for a while. We made projects of works and events. We lived together. And we’d give life to projects. Of all sorts.”
Even Luigi is an artist. He did the Academy of the Arts. He was Vedova’s pupil. Nothing comes from nothing.
“But the encounter with Fluxus opened my eyes and prospective. And I live in the dimension of continuous invention of Fluxus. And I never left it because it was my life. I have certainly dedicated myself with fabric that then became an industry, but that experience is inside of me. And from then on it never left me.”
He puts on the table a few boxes by Maciunas. The mythical ones. “Just think that one time I was returning from a trip by plane and at the borders they stopped me with my series of boxes. Try explaining to the border official that it is art! They thought there were drugs. Strange things. In the end they told me: Go, move on. I’ve met a lot of strange people but not quite like you…”
By Maciunas, he’s really got a lot. The little inventions pop out continuously from the boxes on the table.
“Ah look here the first poster by Fluxus, I have the one that was later corrected by Beuys, look at the first book, look, look...”
He shows me the first publication of the group made up of envelopes. We stop when reaching Yoko Ono. He laughs.
It is written Self-Portrait. “Open it”. A small mirror...Luigi organized an exhibition by Yoko Ono in Treviso, Italy in 2007. A special relationship that’s been going on for many years. Made up of collaborations, correspondences, productions. To see them together is fun. Luigi is imposing. Tall, with thick white hair and deep eyes. She’s very small. Apparently defenceless. Very thin.
Luigi is full of anecdotes and stories. Of people met and encountered. He has the eyes of someone who has lived a lot. We go under the “vault.” The works are on the floor.
“I made a few choices for Barcelona that are even strong ones. For example that’s the work that caused a lot of political embarrassment for Fluxus and which also determined a form of segregation. Because it was frightening. You’ll see it at the exhibition in Barça!”
The room is full of works. It’s like moving inside the storerooms of a big museum. Each work is catalogued by two archivists especially hired to follow the Archive. Before leaving through the garage, there’s another room. “Here I keep the works I’m the most fond of. I even put in this armoured door. But I never close it anyway! Who wants to take away any of this stuff?” He laughs happily.
Even the garage is full of works. Everywhere. “Do you see those chairs?
I made one for each artist who passed by or who is staying with us...” We get in the car and drive towards a trattoria. We didn’t even look at the other work present in the house. Visual poetry.
Another theme. It’ll be for next time.
Luck has it that we can’t find anything open. Tuesday evening. So we circle around the hillside telling each other stories.
Luigi is leaving tomorrow for the house in Nizza belonging to Ben Vautier.
“I’m taking him in this car all the clothes on which he will write something for the exhibition in Barcelona. There will be hundreds of mannequins. He’s also happy about the exhibition. Just think, he’s got a very colourful house with the external walls full of his works, therefore full of writings. With him... ”
Luigi Bonotto can give us with his work a great lesson, quite useful in these times of crisis. And when everyone is inventing something for the sole purpose of selling an extra shirt.
The sponsorships that aren’t felt are useless.
The relationship art - industry doesn’t exist when there is simply a logo under a leaflet. Or bought with a cheque. The continual plethora of invitations and events made by the fashion world industry are in most cases just show-windows for their clothes. And that is the reason why after a little while they die down. The consumer doesn’t recognize them.
To work with art and for art, you must enact daily processes linked to lives of the people. Made for the people.
“The picture on top of the boss’s desk doesn’t serve any purpose to anybody. I started loving Fluxus because it is a state of the mind. A spirit. A way of reading into something and seeing reality. And this has helped me in every moment of my life. Especially in my work.
Every time I’m with an artist it’s like opening up new horizons as if I understood a few things better. What was cloudy now becomes serene.”
This is the reason why Luigi is Fluxus and has built up an atypical archive-collection.
I can see the desire in Luigi’s eyes to leave and meet Vautier. To meet up once more the flux. An interminable flux. Which has the fortune to continue with a second generation and carry on with one of the largest collections in the world. Over ten thousand archived works and documents. An international reference point for the most revolutionary artistic movement belonging to the second half of the past century.
Passions and experiences that cannot be transmitted.
But in this particular case, there are the conditions so that the Archivio Bonotto may find in Giovanni e Lorenzo Bonotto the continuators of this extraordinary life. In particular, Giovanni is almost a brother to me. The Flux has been transmitted. I guarantee you that.