In the artistic practice of Gina Pane (Biarritz, 1939 – Paris, 1990), her works constantly tend to be the expression of a disquiet, a statement of existential difference. Down to 1967, the artist created geometric paintings and Structures affirmées. In the period 1968-70, Pane intervened in the natural environment: emblematic of these years was Situation idéale: Terre – Artiste – Ciel (1969). From 1971 to 1979 the artist developed a series of Azioni (“Actions”) – perhaps the best-known segment of her output – which consecrated her as among the first and finest exponents of Body Art. Blood was featured prominently in them and the photographic documentation of these works was highly detailed. In the early 1980s she produced Partitions, in which the body was replaced by its metaphor, celebrating its absence: a production that accompanied Pane until her untimely death in 1990, and whose subjects were often the martyrs, drawn from various sources including art history. Besides the signs of a contemporary martyrology, the artist created a veritable “sacred” art, an expression of contemporary spirituality, secular and meta-historical.
In her historical performances, always devised through careful preparation, Pane acted directly on her body, subjecting it to tests of resistance and minor injuries. Breakage, injury, were the artist’s only path of access to the Other: “Injury is a sign of the state of extreme frailty of the body, a sign of pain, a sign that reveals the situation of external aggression, of violence, to which we are exposed.” Addressed to an exclusively female audience, in her famous Azione Sentimentale (“Sentimental Action,” Galleria Diaframma, Milan, 1973) the rose thorns stuck in Pane’s forearms and the stigmata self-inflicted with a razorblade became symbols of a female condition analyzed in its most intimate and universal parts. Azione Teorica (“Theoretical Action,” 1977) was the second performance the artist presented in the space of the Studio Morra – the first Azione Melanconica 2x2x2 (“Melancholy Action 2x2x2”) dates from 1974 – and was linked thematically to Azione Sentimentale: “My problem is to establish a language through this wound that becomes a sign,” declared the artist. “Another important point for me it is to convey the loss of energy through the wound. And in this context, physical suffering is not only a personal problem but a problem of language. […] I use metaphor, narrative time, malleable and imaginative. Building an action starts with the concept of a space-form, colored signs, a wound, objects” (G. Pane).
Like other works she produced in the same year, Azione Teorica sought to bring out the frailty and yet the vital energy, the spirit grasped in the materiality of the body, which dissents from the image of individual forged by society to reappropriate it controversially, through a process that the artist stages in public, carving it into her own flesh. The action is presented in full in the collection, not only in its installational valence but also in the documentary. Besides, as the artist always said, “the body, which is project / material / performer of an artistic practice, finds its logical support in the image, through the medium of photography,” an essential technological prosthesis in constructing the artist’s actions, minutely recorded through “photographic observations,” conceived as veritable storyboards of the performances.