Italian artist Alighiero e Boetti was a conceptual artist associated with the Arte Povera movement of the 1970s, with its exuberant humour and anti-industrial poetry of the commonplace. He participated in the Venice Biennale several times, and was the subject of a posthumous tribute at the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001.Read More
Boetti was passionate about non-western cultures, and he loved to travel to such places as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Guatemala, and Ethiopia.
In the 1970s Alighiero e Boetti's conceptually focused practice moved from low-key humorous actions to an interest in global issues. The nature of time was another preoccupation: its inevitability and how it changed perception of an artwork's meaning.
In 1971 Boetti started making his 'Mappa' (1971—1994) series of wall-sized woven maps of the world using Afghan and Pakistani craftspeople. The works had commentaries in the margins particular to the location of the production site, and the flags within each country's shape reflected that unique global-political moment in time. He made 150 over 23 years, with the cartographic designs varying in proportion and continental shape.
Boetti liked to generate a wide range of complex projects, often subcontracting manual 'craft' tasks to chosen communities and allowing them some decision making. He would put the rudimentary structures in place, such as 10 x 10 grids for kilim rugs, and let those he employed fill in the processual detail.
Linked to the flags demarcating political entities—as another example of his interest in time and chance—is the Twelve Forms from June 1967 (1967—1971), a suite of 12 copper sheets. Each is etched with the shape of a country engaged in war, so that at the time the political finality of the contours could not be guaranteed. Libya, Israel, and Ireland were included.
A related example is the 1000-page book he published in 1973 entitled Classifying the Thousand Longest Rivers in the World. The planet has radically changed over the 50 years since, and Boetti's sequencing via river length is likely to be questioned, for that was intended. It was never planned to be seen as an objective declaration of geographic data, but an examination of global change.
Sometimes his collaborations were made with unwitting partners—such as postal authorities—when postcards or envelopes bearing travel itineraries were sent to friends at fictitious addresses, but then subsequently returned by post to the artist, who then photocopied and resent them to the next (false) stop on the holiday route, and so on—working his way sequentially through the list of aberrant destinations. One example of this pioneer artform is Postal Voyages (1969—1970).
Alighiero e Boetti has been featured globally in numerous important institutional solo and group exhibitions.
Significant solo exhibitions include Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan, Museum of Modern Art, New York, travelled to Tate Modern, London (2012); Alighiero e Boetti, Gagosian, New York (2001); Alighiero e Boetti, Whitechapel, London (1999); Alighiero Boetti: Mettere al mondo il mondo, Museum fϋr Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (1998); and Alighiero Boetti 1965—1994, Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Turin (1996).
Significant group exhibitions include Venice Biennale, 2001; Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s—1980s, Queens Museum of Art (1999); Contemporary Sculpture Projects, Westfälisches Landesmuseum, Munster (1997); Documenta 7, Kassel (1982); Conceptual Art, Arte Povera, Land Art, Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Turin (1970); Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form: Works-Concepts-Processes-Situations-Information, Kunsthalle Bern (1969); and Arte Povera e Im spazio, Galleria La Bertesca, Genoa (1967).
His work is collected in the Archivio Boetti, Rome.
Alighiero e Boetti's website can be found here.
John Hurrell | Ocula | 2021