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A small silhouette photographed from behind, from above, walking in a large grassy area measuring 3.5 m x 5.1 m: a point in the immensity, a crossing… It is a manifesto work, embodying all the dreams of emancipation of the image of the avant-garde artists of the 1970s, that we have chosen from the collection of the Fondation Louis Vuitton. A large-format photograph printed on canvas, with an eloquent title, created by one of the most eminent members of Arte Povera, featured in the exciting exhibition devoted to the transalpine movement in two Parisian venues dedicated to the visual arts.

Entrare nell’opera, «Entering the work»; it is not on the injunctive mode but on the operative mode that Giovanni Anselmo stated, in 1971, his forfeit: having been photographed running in a landscape, he declared, in his title, to have taken possession of it, to have «entered the work.» He thus caught the image in its own trap: he had entered the work since the work was the photograph of the landscape that he had trodden with his own feet… Like Alice in Wonderland a century earlier,1 the artist himself went through the looking glass… 

© Giovanni Anselmo © fondation Louis Vuitton

In the same way that Pistoletto in the 1960s with his Tableaux-miroirs had «[violated] the space of the painting by bringing the spectator into the painting, «2 Anselmo was breaking with the «pictorial autonomy of the work,» disturbed by this intrusion of the artist’s figure into the very heart of his work. The stake was of size, because it was a question for the partisans of «the poor art,» that is to say of the art reduced to its simplest elements, to «make enter the life in the art,» to break with the fictive fixity, the lie of the image, but also to deconstruct its language, to free itself from «the rhetoric of the icons» to imagine new plastic possibilities.

Rid of its function of recording reality, photography will be considered as a medium in its own right, and the artists of the Italian avant-garde will make it one of their favorite tools of experimentation and investigation. Participating in a sort of re-enchantment of the landscape and, even more, in a re-appropriation of this landscape, reduced for centuries to a purely pictorial two-dimensionality, Giovanni Anselmo operates in this oversized photograph (with regard to the usual dimensions of photographic prints) a real reversal of the gaze: leaving the static position of the viewer fixing the image through his lens to leap into the void of the previously framed landscape, he takes physical possession of the space, becomes one with nature. A fusion magnified, dramatized by the large format of the work «[abolishing] any real measure of space and time..

© Marc Domage
  1. Les Aventures d’Alice au pays des merveilles de Lewis Carroll furent publiées en 1865.
  2. Quentin Bajac, directeur du Jeu de Paume, co-commissaire de l’exposition « Renverser ses yeux – Autour de l’Arte povera ».