TEXTS OF PIERO MANZONI
The emergence of new conditions and the appearance of new problems leads, along with the need for new solutions, to new methods and new measures: one does not leave the ground by running or jumping; one needs wings; modifications are not enough: the transformation must be complete.
For this reason I cannot understand those painters who, while claiming to be interested in modern problems, still today consider a painting as if it were a surface to be filled with colour and shapes, in accordance with a taste that can be more or less appreciated, more or less learnt. They trace a mark, take a step back, observe their work inclining their head and narrowing an eye, then they leap forwards again to add another mark, another colour from the palette and continue with this frenetic gymnastics until they have filled the picture and covered the canvas: the picture is finished: a surface of unlimited possibilities is now reduced to a kind of recipient into which unnatural colours and artificial significance are forced and compressed. Why not empty this recipient instead? Why not liberate this surface? Why not attempt to discover the limitless significance of a total space, of a pure and absolute light?
Allusion, expression and representation are non-existent problems today (I wrote about this some years ago), whether one is dealing with the representation of an object, a fact, an idea, a dynamic phenomenon or otherwise: a painting has value only in as much as it is, a totality: there is no need to say anything: just be. Two harmonious colours or two tones of the same colour already constitute a relationship extraneous to the significance of the surface, unique, limitless, absolutely dynamic: the infinitability is rigorously monochromatic, or better of no colour (in the end, in the absence of any relationship of colour, does a monochrome not itself become colourless too?).
The artistic problem that draws on composition, on form loses all value here: in the total space form, colour and dimensions have no sense, the artist has conquered his complete freedom: pure matter becomes pure energy; the obstacles of space, the slaveries of the subjective vice have been overthrown: the whole artistic problem has been overcome.
For me it is therefore incomprehensible today for an artist to rigorously establish the limits of a surface on which to place forms and colours in an exact ratio, in a rigorous equilibrium: why worry about how to place a line within a space? Why delimit a space, why such limitations? All problems such as composition of form, forms in space, and spatial depth are extraneous to us: a line can only be traced without limits of length, to infinity, above and beyond any question of composition or dimension: dimensions do not exist in total space.
All problems of colour are also irrelevant here, all questions of chromatic relations (even if they are only modulations of tone). We can only lay a single colour, or rather extend a single, uninterrupted and continuous surface (from which every superfluous intervention, every interpretative possibility is excluded): it is not a case of “painting” blue in blue or white on white (both in the sense of composition and that of expression), quite the contrary: the issue for me is to provide an integrally white surface (integrally colourless, neutral in fact) completely unrelated to any pictorial phenomenon, to any intervention extraneous to the surface value: a white that is not a polar landscape, an evocative or beautiful material, a sensation or a symbol or anything else: a white surface that is a white surface and nothing more (a colourless surface that is a colourless surface), better still that just is: to be (and total being is pure becoming).
This undefined (and uniquely living) surface, which in the material contingency of the work cannot be infinite, can on the other hand be infinitable, infinitely repeatable, without a solution of continuity; this appears even more clearly in the “Lines”; here there is not even the possible ambiguity of the picture; the line develops only in length, it stretches infinitely; its only dimension is time. It goes without saying that a “line” is neither a horizon nor a symbol, and has value not in that it is more or less beautiful, but in that it is more or less line: in that it is (just a blotch has value in as much as it is more or less a blotch, and not more or less beautiful or evocative; but in this case the surface still only has value as a medium). The same may also be said for the “bodies of air” (pneumatic sculptures), reducible and extendible from a minimum to a maximum (from nothing to the infinite), absolutely indeterminate spheroids as any attempt to give them (an even formless) form is illegitimate and illogical.
It is not a question of forming, not of articulating messages (and nor can one turn to extraneous interventions such as para-scientific complexity, psychoanalytical intimacies, graphic composition, ethnographical fantasies and so on… every discipline carries within itself its elements of solution). Are not expression, fanaticism, and abstraction empty fictions? There is nothing to be said: there is only to be, there is only to live.
Azimuth (Milan) no. 2, 1960, p. 18
Azimuth (Milan) no. 2, 1960, p. 20