Saturday, September 05, 2009

Light 1

Television began to appear in the writings of Italian artist Lucio Fontana just after he returned to Italy from his wartime home in Argentina in April 1947. At first it did so incidentally, to exemplify the mutual influence of art and science, which he believed occasionally placed art ist s in ant icipation of technological developments. Indeed, from then on (and despite the fact that regular television broadcasting only recommenced in Italy seven years later, at the beginning of 1954, a full year after its German counterpart), the medium that sends light through space played a fundamental role in Fontana’s artistic conception of Spatialism, which centered on a turn from illusionist to actual space. Faced with a television medium that was still out of reach, Fontana, like Götz, turned to painting, but unlike the German painter’s largely mimetic strategy, the Italian artist’s profoundly transformed the old medium.


Moreover, the architect Luigi Moretti, in a 1953 essay that hailed Italian television as a platform for the arts, reproduced examples of RAI’s experimental transmissions up to that point, including a studio production of Macbeth, a show covering famous jewelry, and, most importantly, two “luminous images in movement” by Fontana.30 The photographs are stills of moving light being filtered, at least in one case, through one of the buchi, Fontana’s signature works initially made from paper and then from canvas, respectively pierced from front and back with a stylus to create punctured surfaces. It appears that the one buco partially visible must have been handled like a screen to animate light in space and to project it onto a wall. This surely is the “new aesthetics” of “luminous forms crossing through space” that Fontana had called for the year prior in his Technical Manifesto of Spatialism. These spots and trails of light in frozen motion are likely the remains of a flickering, abstract light show that was part of Fontana and his peers’ Spatialist transmission.

—Christine Mehring, "Television Art's Abstract Starts: Europe circa 1944-1969" (October 125)

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