"A WALK ALONG BRENTA RIVER IN BASSANO DEL GRAPPA"

From the catalogue: "Joseph Beuys. Defence of the nature". Silvana publisher

语 指南

Enrico Pedrini:
The work of Marcel Duchamp was quite fundamental for art in the twentieth century. His artistic revolution started a new mental dimension, freeing our instincts, our ego, from the excessive rationalism of the modern world. With Duchamp the work of art stops being something to look at, to become mainly something to think about. The idea becomes the true motor of artistic research, while the aesthetic document is transformed into an object, a trace of something. His work produces therefore a breach towards a new sphere of freedom where the creative process becomes from now a superior value in every formative process. In the mid-sixties Joseph Beuys, contrarily to Duchamp, achieved a new personal conception of the human being: man becomes the guardian of a form of energy that enables him to modify the world in a moral, social and civil way. He considered creativity the means through which energy is freed out of man. To every single individual is given the possibility to free this energy that will enrich every act and each moment of his or her life. With Beuys there is the possibility that every daily activity, if driven by the force of creativity, can become an artistic statement. Which of the two personalities do you feel the closest and to which artist does your zeal better conform?

Luigi Bonotto:
I don’t prefer one to the other, because each one of these two artists has taught me something, in fact for me Duchamp was the first one to have modified the concepts regarding art. Before coming into contact with Duchamp I appreciated the visual arts: I was in the company of artists that I define “retinal.” I appreciated abstract art and I was interested in everything that was ocular. With Duchamp I started to understand the concept of the object: not only the visual aspect was important but also the content of the object exhibited. In those years, through the editions produced in Milan by Arturo Schwarz, I collected a few things by Marcel Duchamp that I later exchanged when I started associating with Fluxus artists. At the beginning, Beuys participated in some of the performances by Fluxus artists and in accordance with their view, he believed art to be something "physical-corporal," as a matter of fact their interventions were actions, events. With Beuys I started to understand and appreciate the communicative event. He gave lessons at the University of Düsseldorf, the best artwork of his entire life was "communicating." For this reason, I became very attached to his work and deeply interested in collecting his "posters" which are for me the documentation of this form of communication, of these events, which summarise the work of a lifetime.

Enrico Pedrini:
Having collected almost 200 posters of Beuys’s work is a significant act full of meaning. I would now like to ask you if you totally sympathise with some thoughts by Beuys such as "We are the Revolution," which can also be expressed in the following way: “We find in our ideas alone the only possible revolution/evolution," and if we continue: " A free man is a man who acts creatively because every daily activity, if driven by the force of creativity, can become an artistic statement." Do you not believe that your specific need to collect art surpasses, in the number of works collected, the average collection and therefore becomes an act of pure creativity? Does your collection appear to communicate a message of freedom that with its presence also wants to express an “artistic” role?

Luigi Bonotto:
Naturally, Beuys being a "Fluxer" expressed the Fluxus idea of art: art seen as performance, art seen as life activity. Therefore, any life event can be viewed as a work of art. As I said before, the total sum of the events can be considered Beuys’s complete productive output and so I have tried to collect the entire production of his posters. Each collector builds up a collection of art that together with his economic possibilities testify his culture. Such an activity becomes the collector’s best work of art.

Enrico Pedrini:
What is interesting about your work is the necessity to give to posterity the most complete testimony possible and not just a presence as most collectors do… sometimes I believe that what prevails is the necessity to express through a quantity of works the completeness of a certain path.

Luigi Bonotto:
Of all the artists that I have met, studied, and felt particularly attached to because of their work, I have always tried to collect the entire documentation that represent their thought. This is the reason why I’ve collected so many posters by Beuys. In my case, the necessity to acquire so many works is linked to the possibility of analyzing the various artistic phases of any given artist.

Enrico Pedrini:
One of your characteristics is the necessity to create an archive, something not so common amongst collectors...

Luigi Bonotto:
When I decided to collect Fluxus and concrete, visual, sonorous poetry, I was convinced that in order to have an idea of what I was acquiring, I needed documentation, and in the case of Fluxus, it was indispensable. We know that Fluxus was an ideological movement and not only a movement finalized for artistic output. Therefore, I still get more excited over a document of the sixties than a work of the nineties.

Enrico Pedrini:
You remind me of that ideological period of the movement when the Fluxus artists would send each other messages through the post. In that moment they were more interested in sending these messages than producing works…

Luigi Bonotto:
...as a matter of fact, these artists fought and worked against the art market and frequently tried to contrast art galleries and the market as intended in today’s world. They were not interested in the material and economical value of art. And this is the reason why that sometimes the documentation of their work is more important to me than the work itself. For Fluxus and Beuys, the event, the performance is more valuable than the work itself.

Enrico Pedrini:
You are a particular kind of collector because of your tendency for documentation, building up an archive…

Luigi Bonotto:
With difficulty do I have contacts with other collectors who have my selfsame passion. Normally, a collector has the notion of “accumulating” and when buying they are more interested in knowing whether the work is on canvas or marble: he is more interested in the support than in knowing the true meaning of the work itself.

Enrico Pedrini:
Can you tell me what were your motivations and opportunities that made you so intensely dedicated towards your collection? Does living creatively through your profession in producing fabric while giving up so much time collecting artworks contain the need, as in Beuys, to forge society through your relations with others in the economic, informative and educative field?

Luigi Bonotto:
In my production of fabric, I was more creative than being just a simple manufacturer in the traditional sense. I went to the homes of artists and they came to mine, because our relationship was always based on a mutual exchange of favours: they gave me the freedom of thought that I would then transfer in my work. This commitment of mine would materialize especially through the acquisition of documentation and works. My work as a collector has always been a continuous mutual exchange.

Enrico Pedrini:
I would now like to ask you, if you can answer in the most complete possible way, what opportunities did you receive to dedicate yourself so intensely to certain movements like Fluxus and Visual Poetry?

Luigi Bonotto:
I started to form my collection in the sixties. In previous years, I had collected abstract artwork that I later exchanged. Even though I loved the above movement, the first artists that really got to me were those belonging to the Fluxus movement. With the help of Francesco Conz, Rosanna Chiessi, Emily Harvey, Armin Hundertmark and Harry Ruhé I entered in contact with many operators of this group. Emmet Williams then started to talk to me about Concrete Poetry, Philip Corner of musical performances and presented me other artists. I thought that the barrier between concrete, visual, sonorous poetry and Fluxus was weak. For me the main difference was whether an artist had participated in a "Festival Fluxus" or not; he was a Fluxus artist because he had a direct contact with George Maciunas. The others were not part of it, because they had never had the opportunity to meet Maciunas and find themselves in the locations where the festivals took place. I found amongst them a correspondence of intentions and idealism. I then met other poets who felt the need to express themselves through marks, colours, and performances. I built up a network of friends and in around twenty years I found myself meeting up with most of the artists I was collecting from.

Enrico Pedrini:
Which artists were you the most fond of or remember with enthusiasm?

Luigi Bonotto:
Most of the artists present in the Archive came to visit me at my home. Before Bassano I lived in the country and I had a house with a study and annexed laboratories. The artists worked during the day and in the evening we would meet up and spend many hours speaking about art. This location, Molvena, was a place of important encounters, as it became a centre of artistic culture and it all happened in a period of around 15 years. Sometimes there were present three or four artists at a time all of whom I made diverse documentations. In my home you could meet for example Ben Patterson, Dick Higgins, Alison Knowles. One time also Philip Corner e Eric Andersen dropped by. It was a pleasure and much fun to pass the evening with them. During the day, they would work, study, and do whatever they pleased; I was happy because I could keep the photographic and soundtrack documentation of their works and projects.

Enrico Pedrini:
I would like to know your story which started in Marostica and continues in Bassano del Grappa. I would also like to know in particular whether the history of art present in these two cities has influenced you and enriched your passion for the language of art. I would also like to know if some historical figures had aroused your interest and were an example to follow and emulate.

Luigi Bonotto:
My father would talk to me about his interests and passions when I was still a young boy in short pant. He knew quite well the art present in the Veneto region between the sixteenth and seventeenth century. He talked to me about a very famous local artist, belonging to a laboratory of painters the Dal Ponte also known as the Bassano: the most important was Jacopo, who was already the son of an artist who would give birth to a dynasty of painters.
He talked to me about the sculptor Antonio Canova and not really so much about the other local artists. He made me notice the particular atmosphere of the surrounding mountains, especially mount Grappa, which can be found in their works. Other artists that have helped my cultural formation were Michelangelo Buonarroti and Vincent Van Gogh for their way of being and creativity. During my youth I cultivated a true passion for these artists, for their love of life and work. Michelangelo was the one who fascinated me the most. Then when I grew up, I had the possibility, living in Valdagno, to come into contact with a more contemporary culture. At that time Valdagno was pretty much avant-garde in Europe with the Marzotto award. Almost certainly those were the first influences of my life especially when I learned about the works of Lucio Fontana, Arman, Alberto Burri, Christo etc. I reflected, therefore, on the meaning of art of that period and then I went on to meditate on the works of Marcel Duchamp. With this French artist I had the opportunity to play a chess match, in ten moves I was dead and the answer he gave me was: "Everyone takes out of his bag what he has got inside." My friend Alberto Diramati who had a great love for the game brought me to a chess club where one could possibly meet Duchamp.

Enrico Pedrini:
A life story is very important and exemplary for others. I truly believe that your interests are certainly an invitation for others who would like to follow your path in this adventure. Generally speaking, one is influenced by the enthusiasm and feats of those preceding us. Can you now give some advise to someone who has just started cultivating and collecting today’s artwork?

Luigi Bonotto:
According to me it is very difficult to follow a method, because each era is characterized by different nuances. If I can some advise, it is important to fall in love with what you are collecting, study the history and thoughts of the artists and try to understand their work, in order to have common intents and create a feeling of mutual sympathy. The type of collector I like is someone who loves the artists and does not order stocks of works. I would advise those who only see the commercial side and is afraid of taking risks to invest in land and property rather than artwork. That is why I collected documents, recordings, and photo-documents, that is to say all the traces that the artist had left behind in their passage.

Enrico Pedrini:
Can I define you a collector of “future history,” even though Fluxus is linked to a precise historical period, since for you it is a future reality? Are you still working hard to make this project of yours real?

Luigi Bonotto:
I hope to have collected works that will one day become part of “history,” though I am convinced that history is on the side of the winners who not always take into consideration authentic “values” and “truths.” If what I have done will become a true story as those who are on the winning side, so well be it, because I will have helped preserve important documents and traces of Fluxus work and thoughts.



- This conversion between Luigi Bonotto and Enrico Pedrini is published on the catalogue: "Joseph Beuys. Defence of the nature" (Silvana publisher. 2007) realized by Lucrezia De Domizio Durini, in occasion of the homonymous event in Venezia, 10th of June - 17th of September 2007.

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