“Waiting for Venus”, when art becomes participatory
The Rebirth/Third Paradise ambassador Manuel Canelles has been curating a series of talks and workshops dedicated to Michelangelo Pistoletto’s “Venus of the Rags” in Bolzano, in order to best present the peculiarities of the work of art to the local community. The work by the artist from Biella will reach the Alto Adige region, a multi-ethnic border area, as the next stop in its artistic tour.

The “Venus of the Rags” in Trentino Alto Adige: one of the most representative and well-known of Michelangelo Pistolettos works will visit the north-eastern Italian region in the context of the initiative “Waiting for Venus”. Brennero, a municipality in the province of Bolzano, will host the sculpture as part of the Third Paradise project. The work has been on an artistic tour – starting from Lampedusa – since 2016, with the aim of raising awareness in the areas affected by issues related to geographical, mental and political borders, connecting a creating a dialogue between different and transitional marginalities. Whilst waiting for the arrival of the sculpture in Alto Adige, the Rebirth/Third Paradise ambassador Manuel Canelles has organized a series of talks and workshops dedicated to Pistoletto’s work, in order to best present the peculiarities of the work of art to the local community. Canelles is also the director of a creative documentary called “Waiting”, about the wait for and the journey of Pistoletto’s sculpture (please see a frame from the film in the cover picture).

The first instalment of the project took place on 17th April, with the event “Uno straccio, una storia, il racconto partecipato della periferia” (A rag, a story, the participatory narrative of the suburbs), curated by Officine Vispa and Unibz. Its programme was activated through graphic design and the use of printing techniques, and involved the inhabitants of the suburban neighbourhood of Casanova-Ortles, with the objective of building a participatory narrative of their way of living and inhabiting. The symbol of the rag, of a discarded object and of marginality was overturned into something positive thanks to the preciousness and the uniqueness of the words printed on recycled pieces of fabric. The rags therefore acquired dignity through the life stories of the inhabitants, assuming a redeeming value. The rag became a flag and also a claim of belonging to a suburban environment too often stigmatized. Each rag showcases a story and contributes to building a choral, positive and re-qualifying narrative.

The next event, “Introduction to Arte Povera”, is programmed for 20th April at 18.00 at Teatro Cristallo in Bolzano. The talk will be held by Danis Isaia, curator of the Mart in Rovereto, and will be centred on the artistic movement born in Italy in the second half of the 1960s. Teatro Cristallo will also host the following event, “Their red rag of hope”, on 8th May. This talk will be led by Nicola Benussi (artistic director of the teatroBlu company) and Frida Carazzato (curatorial assistant of Fondazione Museion), who will illustrate to the public other ways to see, read and perceive one of the elements composing Michelangelo Pistoletto’s installation, the rags. The definition of this term will be the starting point in a short summary of the different meanings this word has assumed in other works of art. A “regeneration of the rags”, to quote the expression Pistoletto himself used when presenting the “Venus of the Rags” in Lampedusa.

Finally, Canelles, together with the artist and teacher Nazario Zambaldi, has conceived a project involving the younger generations: Bolzano’s Artistic High School Pascoli will organize workshops on the themes of Arte Povera – like ecology and sustainability – and on the various meanings of the “Venus of the Rags”, investigating art as a practice of change. The school will also issue a call on the subject of the Third Paradise between philosophy (human and social sciences) and art, open to students from all courses of study and finalized to an exhibition of the works/projects in the gallery “Escape”, a space connecting the school and its city/neighbourhood.

Waiting for Venus – explains the curator in a press release – is taking the work to sensitive areas to raise awareness about the themes of geographical, mental and political borders and to actually connect different and transitional marginalities through the migration of the statue itself, carrying on its shoulders the weight of the journey, of individual losses and people’s fears, of rich traditions and still unknown gazes.”

The project “Waiting for Venus” was conceived by Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto and Spazio5, a place of contemporary artistic design and production and embassy of the Third Paradise, and it is curated by Teatro Cristallo, Officine Vispa and Bolzano’s Artistic High School Pascoli, with the participation of Mart, Museion, Unibz and Spazio Off. It is part of the proposal of the Platform for Contemporary Residencies and is supported by the Autonomous Province of Bolzano, the Autonomous Province of Trento and the Autonomous Region of Trentino-Alto Adige.