Vettor Pisani

Vettor Pisani, Il coniglio non ama Joseph Beuys, 1976. Collezione Maria Teresa Incisetto, Napoli. In comodato a Madre · museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, Napoli. Foto © Amedeo Benestante. | Vettor Pisani, Il coniglio non ama Joseph Beuys / The rabbit does not love Joseph Beuys, 1976. Maria Teresa Incisetto collection, Naples. On loan to Madre · museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, Napoli. Photo © Amedeo Benestante.

The namesake of a fourteenthcentury Venetian commander, Vettor Pisani (Bari, 1934 – Rome, 2011), whose father’s family was originally from Ischia, liked to say he was the son of a naval officer and a strip-tease dancer. In this way he presented himself, already in this partly real and partly fictional biography, “artfully” rewritten, as one of the most provocative and visionary artists of his generation, who combined conceptual investigation with irony, disguise with the quest for truth, History with chronicle, the absolute with the mundane, the sacred with the profane, the art of the past with the lacerations of the present.
His irreducibly eclectic research can be considered, on the whole, as essentially “performative”, the expression of a genuine “work in action” which, based on a narrative matrix and theatrical syntax, emerges from the continuous oscillation between reality and story-telling. In a continuous game of (self-) citations – suspended between myth, (art) history, philosophy, literature, psychoanalysis, sexuality, religion, science (including the occult sciences) – he reuses and hybridizes different media and modular elements that can be endlessly varied as veritable stage props.
Pisani saw performance as between ritual and theater, since “the theater is the outward, mundane form, of the ritual which is substance and knowledge itself that sinks deeply into the mystery of Being and the Absolute” (Pisani). The theater thus becomes the place of initiation and a foundational metaphor, a total and labyrinthine architecture constructed to express arcane symbols, inverted enigmas, indecipherable riddles, immersed in a historical yet timeless present capable of synthesizing centuries of Western history and restoring our compromised contemporary identity.

In the “R.C. Theatrum”, or Rosicrucian Theater, a name given by the artist to this ideal theater that comprised all his research, converge archetypes of the collective imagination, allegorical, alchemical, hermetic and, of course, Rosicrucian references, which in their turn embody Pisani’s personal “solar triad”: Joseph Beuys, Yves Klein and Marcel Duchamp. His self-entry as the fourth element – Duchamp (air), Beuys (earth), Klein (fire), Pisani (water) – amplified and completed this scheme by elevating it from a trinitarian model to a quaternary symbolism: the cross was divided into two semicrosses, on which was structured the mobile architecture of R.C. Theatrum, which therefore referred to the four artists and four elements, as well as the four cardinal points and the four phases of the organic cycle and alchemy, by which Pisani found the final structure to launch his “Great Work” (textual and audio, theatrical and musical) made up of the union of these references.

The work in the Madre’s collection refers to one of Pisani’s most representative actions, produced for the first time in 1975 at the Galleria Sperone in Rome, where the artist presented a performance titled Il Coniglio non ama Joseph Beuys (“The Rabbit does not like Joseph Beuys”), so ironically reversing the German artist’s famous action How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare (Schmela Galerie, Dusseldorf, 1965). The same action was again presented by Pisani at the Venice Biennale, in which he participated for the first time in 1976, and later in Bologna as part of the Settimana internazionale della performance (GAM, 1977).
In ll coniglio non ama Joseph Beuys, or La Natura non ama l’Uomo (“Nature Does Not Like Man”), standing next to two semi-crosses, a woman of the Aryan race was the German artist’s immediate reference to Eurasia (a syncretic indication of the dual polarity of Europe and Asia, understood as the destiny of a race and a people). Presented doubled, the two semi-crosses evoked the Christian cross, the meeting point of the vertical axis and the horizontal plane, an expression of the transition from the monad to the dyad, the linkage of the Universal or Androgynous Man, the depiction of a swastika.

The work produced in this version at Nicola Incisetto’s Framart Studio, was presented at the Madre on the occasion of the first major retrospective devoted to the artist (Eroica/Antieroica), and on that occasion it was the pivot of the representation, on February 7th, 2014, of the original performance as part of a “reperformance” program presented to be the object of direct experience on the part of a public who never generationally had the opportunity to see it. Consequently, the work entered the museum’s collection as a synthesis between the object and the impulse to perform it, namely to enact the work, which animates all Pisani’s intimately performative and transformative works. The video of the reperformance of Il coniglio non ama Joseph Beuys can be watched at the museum library on the first floor.

EV