To Dream, to Collect

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Givin visual form to existing ideas, system, and structures is a central component of Alighiero Boetti. Born in Turin in 1940, Boetti came of age in postwar industrial Italy, and though he is sometimes associated with Arte Povera, his practices expanded to far more idiosyncratic media and activities. 

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Boetti was fascinated by geography and non-Western practices and spent time travelling in far-flung part of the world at a time when few artists embraced an international or nomadic lifestyle. In 1969, Boetti began tracing maps of conflict zones and collaborating with his then-wife, Annemarie Sauzeau, who would embroider the shapes of these regions as well as the dates corresponding to each map, tethering each seemingly abstract form to the specific historical moment. That same year, Boetti also stumbled upon a set of blank world maps. In one of these, Planisfero politico [Political Planisphere 1969), he coloured each country's geographic territory with the design of its national flag, creating a prototype for his embroidered Mappe (Maps, 1971 -1994). 

 

Alighiero e Boetti, Mappa del mondo, 1978.

 

Boetti's Mappe (Maps) developed throughout the 1970s in tandem with his recurring travel to Kabul, Afghanistan, where-deliberately negating a romantic idea of artistic virtuosity or originality - he commissioned local craftswoman to make the large-scale embroidered maps that compose his work in this iconic series. Because of many variables in their production, the Mappe took on unusual variations - some have pink, yellow, or red oceans - but Boetti relished these flaws and took interest in how the weaver's interpretations and political context affected their appearance. Spanning two decades, Boettti's Mappe trace fluctuations in global politics and national boundaries, but their very mode of production seems to foreground a global and transcultural mode of production. Often engaging these very themes, the borders of Boetti's Mappe are emblazoned with texts in farsi, English, and Italian that speak to both unity and fragmentation, and Boetti's prized sense of "order and disorder", an oppositional tension that transcends the boundaries of physical and political borders drawn on maps. One of the largest in the series, the map exhibited was produced by Afghans, fled soviet war in Afghanistan throughout the 1980s. In the margins of this map, Boetti poignantly registers both time and place - " Pakistan in the fall of (nineteen) ninety-two" - and the detrimental effects of war - "this new unstable world even more rationed (and) pulverized."

Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994) – or Alighiero and Boetti as signed in 1971 – was born in Turin where he made his debut in the Arte Povera in January 1967. Alighiero Boetti has exhibited in the most emblematic exhibitions of his generation, from When attitudes become form (1969) to Contemporanea (1973), from Identité italienne (1981) to The Italian Metamorphosis 1943-1968 (1994). He is several times present at the Venice Biennale, with a personal room in the 1990 edition, a posthume tribute in 2001 and a large exhibition at the Cini Foundation in the recent edition of 2017. Among the most signifcant exhibitions of the last few years the great Game Plan retrospective has been realized in three prestigious locations (MOMA in New York, Tate in London, Reina Sofa in Madrid). Of the ample corpus of works, many Italian and international museums are kept, including the Center Pompidou in Paris, Stedelijk Museum, the MOCA in Los Angeles, etc.). (From Alighiero Boetti Archive)

Most of part of this text is from the catalogue The Restless Earth, Fondazione La Triennale di Milano, Electa, 2017.

Cover image: Alighiero Boetti, 1988 -89, embroidery on canvas, cm 120 X 220. Courtesy Archivio Alighiero Boetti

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