Michelangelo Pistoletto and Lo Zoo

Michelangelo Pistoletto e Lo Zoo, L’uomo ammaestrato, Vernazza, 17 agosto 1968 (dettaglio: Maria Pioppi). Collezione Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella. Foto © Bruno Scagliola. In comodato a Madre · museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, Napoli. In esposizione fino a ottobre 2016. | Michelangelo Pistoletto-Lo Zoo, L’uomo ammaestrato, Vernazza, 17 agosto 1968 (detail: Maria Pioppi). Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto collection, Biella. Photo © Bruno Scagliola.

In the streets of Amalfi, in October 1968, during the exhibition event Arte povera più azioni povere, L’uomo ammaestrato (“The Trained Man”) was staged, devised by Michelangelo Pistoletto (Biella, 1933) with Lo Zoo, a group founded in 1968 through the collaboration between Pistoletto and his partner Maria Pioppi with filmmakers, musicians, poets and actors who produced numerous performances in various cities until it was disbanded in 1970.
In Pistoletto’s own words, the choice of the name of the group underscored the difference between the persons and artistic languages, just as animals are different: “emerging from the studio meant emerging from the cage.” In the wake of the changes introduced by the Living Theatre (whose work in Naples is documented in one of the previous rooms), Lo Zoo presented actions that broke down all the boundaries between disciplines (music, theater, cinema, the visual arts), symbolically opening the barriers or abandoning the stage to invade the street and so establishing a new and more direct dialogue with the public, which also played on a reversal of outlook: “Have you ever wondered who the real audience is, you on one side of the barriers or the others beyond the bars?” Pistoletto asked provocatively.
Together with the famous L’uomo ammaestrato, staged for the first time in Vernazza and then in the streets of Amalfi, other performances by Lo Zoo involved collaboration with MEV-Musica Elettronica Viva, am experimental music group active in Rome, as in Teatro baldacchino (“Canopy Theater”) and Play (Turin, December 1968).
Parallel with the street performances, Lo Zoo also appeared in private galleries: examples were the performances of Il Principe Pazzo (“The Mad Prince”) and Il Tè di Alice (“Alice’s Tea Party”), represented for the first time in Naples at the Galleria Il Centro, between February and March 1969.
Theatrical and musical improvisations, stage sets set up spontaneously using objects scavenged on the site, the use of makeshift lighting – such as car headlights – were the basis of this experimental work that tended to efface the line dividing artistic experience from everyday life, at the same time as public participation became a key word in the contemporary protest movements, which advocated the removal of social barriers and the affirmation of individual freedom and emancipation.
The photographic documentation of the interventions by Michelangelo Pistoletto and Lo Zoo in the collection entailed collaboration between photographers: Bruno Scagliola, Claudio Abate and Fabio Donato.