Open Studio - Manifesto of Collaboration - The Zoo
In 1967 Pistoletto carried out several collective actions outside galleries: on March 6, The End of Pistoletto, at the Piper discotheque in Turin; on December 4, in conjunction with the group show Con-temp-l’azione, he took the Newspaper Sphere, one of the Minus Objects, for a ‘walk’ through the city streets that joined the three galleries (Sperone, Stein, Il Punto) where the show was held, involving other artists and passers-by.
In December he emptied his studio and, in a manifesto, announced he would open it to others in conjunction with his show at Sperone, which featured a single work, Mile Stone, a stone waymarker with “1967” etched in the top. In the same month he wrote and independently published an important theoretical reflection on the meaning and evolution of his work, Famous Last Words. During the last days of the Sperone show he executed a group of works in the gallery to which he referred in a later note as a “phenomenon of the cube and of light: [the] first creative act after the Mile Stone.” Maria Pioppi, Pistoletto’s life companion and an essential co-worker in his artistic activity, first came to Turin at this time. From 1957 to 1960 she had attended the Fine Arts Academy in Rome, together with Jannis Kounellis and Pino Pascali (who Pistoletto met toward the end of 1965), afterwards working in Rome at the galleries La Tartaruga and Arco D’Alibert.

“Opening up my studio was a “technical” thing. I had almost always had a relationship with young artists in Turin. As I had ‘opened’ paintings to the presence and participation of all, why not ‘open’ a physical space instead?” (Michelangelo Pistoletto, interview with M. Bandini, in NAC, Bari, November 1973).

“Many people who had read the manifesto came to the studio and this space really became something wonderful. Everyday relations with people who had things to show, to do. They started screening their films, reciting poems, and the public came to listen, so there were these continuous encounters” (Michelangelo Pistoletto, interview with Germano Celant, cit., 68).

In February 1968 Pistoletto had a one-person show at L’Attico in Rome; with ten young directors from Turin, he made ten films that were shown on the last day of the show. Offered a room of his own at the Venice Biennale, in April he published an invitation to others to work with him there. The operation was not completed because of the political protest that cropped up in the mean time—which, he felt, would have made the nature of the project equivocal.

“With this manifesto I invite all those who would like to do so, to collaborate with me at the 34th Venice Biennale. By collaboration I mean a non-competitive human relationship based on shared values of sense and perception. To give a part of myself to those who wish to give a part of themselves is the work that interests me” (Michelagelo Pistoletto, manifesto, 2 April 1968).

A group crystallized around the first collective actions and the open studio. The Zoo was made up of people from different artistic disciplines (music, literature, theater, visual arts); with them, between 1968 and 1970, Pistoletto carried out a series of theater pieces, conceived as creative collaborations and as a form of communication not mediated by objects. The Zoo performed, in Italy and in Europe, in all kinds of spaces—streets, squares, discotheques, beer halls, theaters and galleries—and collaborated on several occasions with Musica Elettronica Viva, a group formed by musicians from the United States who had settled in Rome. The Zoo’s first show, The Trained Man, took place in the streets of Vernazza, a small village on the Ligurian Riviera, near Corniglia, where Pistoletto bought a house in 1968. Area residents participated in several of Pistoletto’s theater pieces over the next few decades.

“The Zoo grew out of a quip made by Carlo Colnaghi: ‘I’m in the same position as a caged lion.’ So-called civilization had relegated every animal to its cage. The less dangerous, more docile and submissive had been placed in large commonfenced-in areas: factories, housing projects, sport stadiums…. Artists were isolated in the Venice Biennali, in theaters, museums, and organized events…. Now we know we are The Zoo. We no longer work for viewers; we ourselves are actors and viewers, makers and consumers. Among those of us who are able to work together there is a direct, clear, perceptive and instantaneous relationship…. When you see, hear and smell a piece we play out together, like that of The Zoo and Musica Elettronica Viva, what you think you understand will be just the skin, the envelope, but you will never know what happened until you become actors and viewers on this side of the bars” (Michelangelo Pistoletto, “Lo Zoo,” in Teatro, no. 1, Milan 1969, 16).

“The mirror paintings could not live without an audience. They were created and re-created according to the movement and to the interventions they reproduced. The step from the mirror paintings to theater—everything is theater—seems simply natural…. It is less a matter of involving the audience, of letting it participate, as to act on its freedom and on its imagination, to trigger similar liberation mechanisms in people. For this reason I was interested in the people who followed us in a parade from Porta Palazzo to Porta Nuova in Turin, when we did Baldachin Theater, a sort of procession with crazy costumes; just as people that stopped to look in the Vicolo dell’Atleta in Trastevere (Rome) at a sort of melodrama on how one ‘tames’ man, with placards and a narrator, a sort of ballad singer, but all freer, not didactic, fanciful. And the ones that responded were mainly children, or the simplest audience, the less conditioned one, that still knows how to let its jaw drop” (Michelangelo Pistoletto, interview with G. Boursier, in Sipario, Milan, April 1969, 17).

download the text "Famous Last Words" by Michelangelo Pistoletto (PDF)
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Pistoletto's End, 1967
Pistoletto's End, 1967
Walking Sculpture, 1967
Open Studio - Manifesto,
1967
Milestone, 1967
Exhibition at
Galleria Sperone, Turin, 1967
Painting of Electric Wires,
1967
Walking Sculpture, 1968
Cocapicco e Vestitorito, 1968
Cocapicco e Vestitorito, 1968
The Trained Man, 1968
The Trained Man, 1968
The Trained Man, 1968
The Trained Man, 1968
Canopy Theater, 1968
Canopy Theater, 1968
The Trumpets of Judgement, 1968
Labyrinth and
Trumpets of Judgement, 1969
Who are You?, 1970
Just Beautiful, 1970
Just Beautiful, 1970
Just Beautiful, 1970
Just Beautiful, 1970
Just Beautiful, 1970
 MICHELANGELO PISTOLETTO
Works