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Bertoli, Damiano - 2014.21.1

Damiano Bertoli

Claudio 2013
pencil on paper
119.3 x 84.2 cm (framed)
Purchased 2014

Melbourne artist Damiano Bertoli is best known for the ongoing series ‘Continuous Moment’, a multidisciplinary practice that offers a paratactic investigation of artistic experiments, social projects and theoretical legacies that inform the history of modernism and contemporary art. At the centre of much of this thought and production is a delirious pragmatism that draws on material as diverse as Pablo Picasso’s 1941 surrealist play Le Desire Attrape par la Queue (Desire Caught by the Tail), originally performed under the shadow of Nazi occupation, the aspirational practices of Superstudio (1966–78), which sought to live without architecture, and the occultism of the homicidal sect led by Charles ‘Willis’ Manson. What is decisive, in any case, is that for Bertoli the unity of this practice resides in a display methodology that echoes a number of avant-garde principles that question the backward looking gaze.

This exhibitional character is prominent in the suite of hand-drawn wall posters titled ‘Associates’ (2014). Here Bertoli provocatively fuses the visual motifs and experiments of the Milan-based design collective Memphis (1981–88) with political statements that originate with the direct-action politics of Autonomia, an extra-parliamentary mass movement prominent in Italy during the 1970s. Accordingly, the drawing titled ‘Claudio’, named after a member of the hardline Red Brigades, declares:

CONTINUOUS STRUGGLE
LOMBARDY REGIONAL CONVENTION
TAKE OVER THE CITY
LINE AND PROGRAM OF MASS STRUGGLE
MILAN 3 JULY

In recalling the language of protest, Bertoli multiplies the potential of the past to enable a mode of reading that converts politics into poetry and speech into song. To this end, the juxtaposition of art and activism blurs object and context, calls into question the commonplace that takes art and politics to be substantially and formally distinct, and expands the spectrum of Memphis’s use of the ornamental to a desire that extends to other realities.

This also means, however, that what is really at stake with this model of temporality are the heretical instincts of two discrete historical moments: on the one hand, the possibilities issued by the Memphis design collective in opposition to the functionalist principle of ‘truth to materials’; and on the other, Autonomia and its claim to a nonstatal or ‘post-political’ creativity. For Bertoli, their interrelation distinguishes a shifting assemblage of conditions that intersects with the transformed body of the activist and the artist. The fact the quest for this figure seems, today, to have almost completely disappeared, does not diminish its extra-ideological character as an avatar that locates itself on the threshold of the fantastic, the fictional, the unreal, the possible, and the utopian.

Nik Papas lives and works in Melbourne.

From the series
Bertoli, Damiano - 2014.21.2
Damiano Bertoli

Mario 2012
pencil on paper
119.0 x 84.0 cm (framed)
Purchased 2014

Bertoli, Damiano - 2014.21.3
Damiano Bertoli

Paola 2014
pencil on paper
119.3 x 84.1 cm (framed)
Purchased 2014