Happy Turtle

Invited to show at the documenta in Kassel in 1992, Pistoletto went to check the place out in July 1991 and chose as his exhibition space a disused store opposite the entrance to the Museum Fridericianum, the event’s main venue. He then decided to give the name Happy Turtle [Tartaruga felice] to the whole of his artistic activity over the following year. A “continent of time” made up of the thirty locations into which he would gradually, and metaphorically, move his home like a turtle. The show in Kassel brought this process to a conclusion with an installation that underscored the intertwining of public and private dimensions in his work. In his exhibition space, clearly visible from the outside through the store’s two windows, Self-Portrait through My Father (1933-73) and a sofa were placed on one side of the room, while his daughter Cristina, seated at a table on the other side, executed a performance of her own, Mouthpiece, in which she sang passages from a newspaper while eating a dish of rice. The room was cut in two by a stone structure resembling an ancient Roman road, which stretched all the way from the open front door to the back of the store, where The Etruscan (1976), a copy of the bronze statue known as The Orator, stood with its arm reaching forward to touch a mirror that reflected the image of the statue and, in this case, the Fridericianum.
For a description of the entire Happy Turtle project, see the volume edited by Cecilia Casorati in collaboration with Giovanni Iovane and published by Carte d’Arte (Messina, 1992).

“After the opening of the reflecting passage that reveals an alternative to time-honored perspective, art needs to raise an arm and use its index finger to point, in the mirror, at the road that leads past the wall against which human individuality is crashing: a very high wall where the progressive quality of modern media is mixed with old beliefs, antiquated and aberrant associative methods and disastrous rules. An arm’s length is already the first distance that can be taken from the tragic point of final impact. This is in the work that I presented, at the end and beginning of a road, at documenta IX in Kassel.”
(M. Pistoletto, La distanza senza ritardo, in Fama & Fortune Bullettin, P&S, Vienna 1993)

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Documenta IX, 1992
The Etruscan and the Roman road, 1992
The Etruscan and the Roman road, 1992
Selfportrait through my father, 1973
Mouthpiece, 1992