"Sublimating matters: Piero Manzoni’s Ephemeral Bodies"
Thursday, December 14 // 16.45h // JGU Fakultätssaal Philosophicum
Piero Manzoni’s (1933-1963) pneumatic sculptures ‘Bodies of Air’ (1960) are forty-five kits
containing a white balloon, a tripod and a mouthpiece. The buyer is free to choose whether to leave
these tools enclosed in the wooden box or to inflate the balloon and put it on the tripod following
the instructions left by the artist. For the price of 200 lire per litre, the balloon could be blown up by
the artist himself. In the same year the artist realises sixteen examples of ‘Artist’s Breath’: a balloon
inflated with Manzoni’s own breath and attached to a wooden support with a string and two lead
seals; the support also bears a metal plaque with the artist’s name and the title of the work. Having
the breath dissolved over the years, what remains today is the deflated shell of the balloon, now
stuck on base underneath.
Both series prompt further reflections: on the one hand, the use of a volatile element such as
breath jeopardises both the possibility of preserving the work as well as its authenticity, blurring the
boundaries between reproduction and originality; on the other the presence of pneumatic sculptures
to be assembled by the buyer increases the audience’s agency and consequently problematizes the
role of the artist.
Following on from these premises, this paper aims to discuss the use of the ephemeral trace of
the artist - his breath - in relation to ideas of authorship and sovereignty, the role of the public, and
the interplay between authenticity and serial reproduction.
Lara Demori has completed her Ph.D. in History of Art the University of Edinburgh, under the
supervision of Prof. Neil Cox and Dr. Catherine Spencer. Her doctoral dissertation examines artists
Hélio Oiticica (1937-1980) and Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) and the historiographical appraisal of
their projects. Discussing the emergence of post-modern art practices from a transnational
perspective, it investigates the shift from representation to performance in between the sixties and
the seventies. Lara is currently a Goethe-Institut fellow at the Haus der Kunst (Munich) where she
works on a project on Postcolonial Art in between 1955 and 1980. In 2015 Lara organised the
international conference ‘Possibilities of Exchange: Experiments in Modern and Contemporary
Latin American Art’ in partnership with the Fruitmarket Gallery. Lara has taken part to several
national and international conferences and has recently published the article “Hélio Oiticica’s
Parangolé capes: an anti-art will to cultural zero,” L’Uomo Nero 13 (2016): 131-142.