“Our Congress is like a huge and unknown chemical reaction”.
Pinot Gallizio, 1956
For an Imaginist Renewal of the World. The Alba Congress: 1956-2019
From September 21 to 22, 2019
Drafted by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev and Caterina Molteni
Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea and Fondazione CRC are organizing from 21 to 22 September 2019, For an Imaginist Renewal of the World. The Alba Congress: 1956-2019, a poetic reenactment of the First World Congress of Free Artists that took place from 2 to 8 September 1956 in Alba (Pinot Gallizio’s and Elena Verrone’s hometown), which anticipated by a year the foundation of the International Situationist in Cosio di Arroscia, hometown of the artist Piero Simondo.
With the theme “The Free Arts and Industrial Activities”, the congress gathered artists and intellectuals from eight different countries, with the participation of representatives of the International Letterism, of the Nuclear Art Movement and the dissolved CoBrA group, under the coordination of the Experimental Laboratory of the International Movement for an “Imaginist Bauhaus” (MIBI), founded by Asger Jorn, Pinot Gallizio and Piero Simondo in September 1955.
The three artists proposed a project of relationship between art and technique in contrast with the functionalist approach of the time. “Based on a subjective artistic research in favor of a democratic and collaborative vision of an art accessible to all”, states the director of Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, “their laboratories were conceived as a space of collective and experimental work, in which artistic sensitivity met the scientific and alchemic knowledge of materials (dust, resins, pigments). The interests extended to popular cultures and urban planning with the aim of realizing the idea of a “free” artist, capable of operating and developing his own research transversely in different fields of knowledge.”
In the years preceding the Congress, Asger Jorn had recently completed his experience with the CoBrA group (1948-1951) and traveled around Europe in search of a new collective vitality in the artistic production. Meanwhile, Pinot Gallizio, a central figure in the Alba socio-cultural life as city councilor, former partisan, passionate researcher of popular cultures, nomadism, botany, chemistry and archeology, had come into contact with the young artist and philosophy student Piero Simondo, who moved to Alba in 1952, where he attended his girlfriend and philosophy student Elena Verrone. Gallizio and Simondo met soon after at a conference in Alba by Simondo and Michele Lo Sacco on the theme of German Expressionism.
In Albisola in 1955, Gallizio and Simondo met Asger Jorn for the first time. The Danish artist had organised in those years the International Ceramics Meetinginvolving part of the Nuclear’s, Lucio Fontana, Karel Appel and Corneille, Emilio Scanavino and Tullio Mazzotti d’Albisola. This exhibition introduces the artists into the debate against functionalism thanks to a new exhibition organised on the occasion of the International Congress of Industrial Designof the X Triennale di Milano. In the dispute over the relationship between art and technique, in particular addressed to Max Bill’s functionalist aesthetics, the artists play a central role in ceramics. The use of this material, thanks to the element of unpredictability present in the processes of cooking and taking color, allowed to project standardized and functional design objects from a perspective based on the dynamic experience of matter.
The First Congress of Free Artists started from these assumptions and concluded with the adoption of a common theoretical platform centered on the idea, dear to the Lettrists, of a ‘unitary urbanism’: the construction of an environment that, thanks to the synthesis of art and technique, was the place of a future lifestyle.
For an Imaginist Renewal of the World. The Alba Congress: 1956-2019 will be a widespread event and will take place in the council hall of the Municipality of Alba, in the Centro Studi Beppe Fenoglio, in the “Beppe Fenoglio” Hall and the Alba Wine School “Umberto I”, spreading into the streets and alleys of the city. The program includes a series of ‘reports’ that will retrace the historical background, the development and the theoretical and artistic implications of the Congress in the present time, thanks to the contribution of art historians Maria Teresa Roberto and Giorgina Bertolino (Archivio Gallizio, Turin), of the art historian Francesca Comisso from the curatorial collective a.titolo, of art critic and curator Achille Bonito Oliva, of Lori Waxman, Senior lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, art historian and journalist, of Tom McDonough, Associate Professor of Art History Department at Binghamton University.
The 1956 Congress will also be reactivated by a series of ‘communications’ entrusted to artists and curators who will reinterpret the poetic and artistic heritage of its participants, literally taking on their roles. As short readings, projections of archive materials (es. Cinema Lettrista) and poetic actions, these communications involve: Luca Avanzini, Bernard Blistène, Ludovica Carbotta, Alex Cecchetti, Cooking Sections, Irene Dionisio, Liam Gillick, Renato Leotta, Michael Rakowitz, Gianluigi Ricuperati, Amelia Simondo, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Alice Visentin.
A third part of the Congress has been conceived by art historian Lori Waxman as a public performance program on the art of walking. This will consist of the re-performance of historical pieces of walking art, all of which will relate to the Situationist spirit either directly or indirectly.
The program foresees the participation of the public that can, following the instructions of a booklet, recreate the different works along the streets of Alba in the movements between the different venues hosting the Congress.