Gianfranco Baruchello

Since the early sixties Gianfranco Baruchello (Livorno, 1924) has developed one of the most experimental art practices on the Italian scene, by exploring painting, installation, assemblages, film, photography and sound and expanding his visual research well beyond the traditional linguistic areas, working with the implements of agriculture, anthropology, and economics as a form of critical analysis of the consumer society.
Gianfranco Baruchello: il mio cinema (“Gianfranco Baruchello: My Cinema”) is the title of an exhibition project that will be organized as multiple events over the span of a year and will present the artist’s relationship with the moving image, the world of cinema and television. Each of these events will investigate a particular aspect of Baruchello’s film productions, highlighting themes and formal methods. The second presentation (following the first presented as part of Per_forming a collection #1) is devoted to the analysis of the relationship between power and the media, through a series of works, all produced in 1968, in the midst of the crisis of the Vietnam war and the season of youth protests. These short films, which the artist declared were born from the desire to “communicate to third parties the bad feeling I have about the way things are around me,” investigate with critical irony the way the media determine the overall perception of conflicts.
Una settantina di idee, 1964-1970 (“Seventy Ideas”, 2013) is the only work present from the first installation of this project and is the only one that will remain in view until its completion: it is a kind of ideal repository in the form of a wall text, consisting of a long list of ideas, cues and subjects for possible movies, some of which have been created while others remain on paper. This work establishes a fundamental axis of the whole Per_forming a collection project: the work of art as “a possibility,” a hypothesis considered in its becoming, as a form of a process that is not only a document of the past but also an opportunity for the present and a projection into the future.
Each of the film works in this second chapter of Gianfranco Baruchello: il mio cinema is marked by surreal or even grotesque tones, staging acts of violence, some of which appear gratuitous and obscure while others are due to the logic of war and domination: the mock crucifixion of a hand, the ritual that precedes an execution, the butchering and burial of a turkey, the drowning of a bag filled with dolls. If some sequences allude to the process of repression of traumatic events from the collective consciousness and historical memory (in the final of Complemento di colpa, “Complement of Guilt”, for example, we see a child throw some detergent on the place that has just been the scene of a massacre), but other narratives refer to the consumption of other people’s pain through the spectacle offered by the media. A constant theme is that of the loss of innocence, not only associated with the image of childhood violated – the sound track of Perforce is made up of children’s voices recorded during an air raid in Vietnam – but more generally as the degradation of the moral and ethical sentiment of a culture that treats death as a form of consumerism and fails to discriminate between integrity and mediocrity, between the conscience and its loss.
The progressive weakening of the distinction between values and contrasting states of mind is brought out by the visual equivalence established between things: a doll is like a dead body and a rock song is like a military hymn. This brings out Baruchello’s closeness to a series of experiments such as Dadaist collage and John Heartfield’s political and social protests, the use of caricatures in George Grosz’s polemical works, and the violence of the Fluxus assemblages by Wolf Vostell and the use of film montage by Jean-Luc Godard.