Vettor Pisani defines his work as “a philosophical and cognitive theater of the modern history of Europe.” According to the artist, art allows one to experience the complexity of reality that otherwise is presented as pure surface image. A tool of knowledge, art enables one to arrive at an awareness that, for Pisani, is never unambiguous but rather is fragmented and multiple, as is characteristic of the experience of modernity.
For Pisani the work of the artist can have neither unity nor coherence, but is based on the idea of metamorphosis and emerges from “digression,” understood as the rambling that produces a continuous shift in meaning. Attracted by the language of symbols, Pisani draws on the history of art and culture, bringing together in his works complex references to esotericism, alchemical science, Rosacrucian symbology, and Freemasonry. He has worked in performance and installation art and has created a large-scale project in Serre di Rapolano, near Siena, where he has identified the site and symbols of his artistic universe in an abandoned stone quarry.
Playing down his own role, the artist calls himself “a creator and decoder of puzzles.” The installation Virginia Art Theatrum, 1997–99, conceived for the Castello di Rivoli, contains many symbolic elements typical of the artist’s work. At the center of the room is a baby grand piano, the geometry of which recalls the form of the triangle. The same geometric shape, rich in symbolic implications that allude to both the human and the divine, can also be found in the small overturned pyramid hung on one wall.
Crouching at the foot of the piano is a cast of a cat, an animal in which the artist sees the image of the Sphinx, in yet another Egyptian reference. Other elements of the installation refer to the figure of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, seen by the artist as a mystic in search of the simplicity of evidence, even while aware of its unattainability. Plucking from Wittgenstein’s biography the moment when he dedicated himself with near-maniacal obsessive zeal to the design of a house for his sister Margarete in Vienna, Pisani inserts into the piano a miniature of this house. The original house, which was built under the philosopher’s watchful supervision, becomes in reality a sort of mirror of his personality. At the piano’s feet rests a cast of a hand. This is another reference to Wittgenstein’s life, as his brother was a skilled pianist who lost a hand during World War II. The single-chord phrasing of Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, which Maurice Ravel composed for him might eventually emanate from the piano and sound throughout the room. As an organizing element, the hand in the installation is also associated with the theme of birth and creation, in opposition to the theme of virginity indicated in the writing on the wall “Virginia Art Theatrum – La Vergine ha l’utero infantile” (The Virgin has a baby womb).