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Friday, November 13, 2015

With Pasolini, it's all about the Body

The setting.  Dianne says the Institute's logo is adapted from
Italian Futurism.  That claim lacks confirmation.

Pier Paolo Pasolini is justly celebrated  in Rome and elsewhere as a poet, novelist, and filmmaker-- the cultural trifecta, if you will.  Yet as we learned in a brilliant exchange between LA-based artist Nicola Verlato and USC professor Gian Maria Annovi at the Italian Cultural Institute in Los Angeles, the collective memory of this cultural icon is of his body--indeed, his dead body--found in a field not far from the beach at Ostia and just steps from the village of Idroscalo. Murdered.

William Kentridge, Pasolini's body

This focus on Pasolini's body is unusual, even unique, Annovi argued, drawing a contrast between the frequent artistic representations of Pasolini's corpse--Milan-based artist Adrian Paci paints a near-photographic representation of his body, face down, at Ostia, and South African artist William Kentridge draws that same, face-down body--and the Italian conceptualization of Italian literary giants Gabriele D'Annunzio
Mike Kelley's casting call for a Pasolini, 1990.  
and Italo Calvino.  Though equally famous in their realms, the bodies of D'Annunzio and Calvino are not only not depicted, but are essentially irrelevant to how they are imagined. American artist Mike Kelley had his own way of suggesting Pasolini's body (left).

Verlato's Hostia.  The title encompasses the place where Pasolini died
and the sacramental bread of the Christian liturgy.  

Verlato, whose work treats iconic characters such as Michael Jackson ("all the elements of a tragic death"), was at the Institute to talk about his Hostia, a multi-story painting in the near-in Rome suburb of Tor Pignattara, home to the prominent gallery Wunderkammern and to one of the city's largest and most eclectic collections of high-quality street art.  He described his mannerist painting as an allegory, with Pasolini's dead body falling away from his enemies, including the Carabinieri and Pino Pelosi, his presumed (and convicted) killer, through a Dante-esque scene-scape.

Below, the boy Pasolini learns poetry from his mother as Petrarch--and, rather bizarrely, Ezra Pound--underline the accomplished adult poet that Pasolini (according to Verlato) so desperately wanted to be.  Later, Verlato noted the painting had been done under the auspices of Muro, an arts organization, and he felt reassured that its location, in the gated courtyard of a condominium, would help protect it from vandals.

When Annovi raised the issue of the centrality of Pasolini's body, Verlato could only agree.  Like St. Francis, Verlato said, in the collective imagination "he's a body."  Among the recent depictions of Pasolini, added Verlato, was a large paste-up of Pasolini carrying his own body.  Modeled on Michelangelo's Pietà

Ernest Pignon-Ernest: Pasolini carrying his own, Christlike, body (2015)
Verlato went on to explore Pasolini's tragic loss of faith in his true love, poetry, and to suggest that Pasolini and Pound, despite their political differences (Communist and Fascist, respectively), were in striking ways similar: both men struggled against the mainstream and both had "extreme ambition;" they wanted to be central figures in their cultures and times.

In addition, Verlato described his plan for a multi-media mausoleum, a temple of sorts, to honor Pasolini.  The neo-classical mausoleum, in the style of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. and Bramante's Tempietto, would be located in Ostia, on the ground where Pasolini died.  Annovi called the idea "insane."  We're inclined to agree, although the existing memorial is inadequate.  But crazy or not, it's all about the body.   Bill
Verlato, left, with one of his designs for a Pasolini mausoleum.  Annovi may be saying "that's insane."  

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