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Sarenco. Word, image, behaviour  
Giuseppe Carrubba
ISSN 1127-4883     BTA - Telematic Bulletin of Art, 2th December 2004, n. 382

During the past century art has become more and more of a specialized discipline, it has been intellectualized, and as every other discipline has demanded a knowledge, a language that had to be strongly representative, a language for experts full of technical terms.

The use of an avant-garde work depends on the spectator's particular aptitude for estrangement, on his exquisite ability to pick a non-rhetorical language, a language able to become an instrument for the transformation of mankind and of all mechanisms of perception and social life.

The contemporary society of the spectacle has imposed the "dictatorship of the spectator" that has brought about a levelling of attitudes and critical approach, particularly in comparison with the strong communicative power belonging to aesthetic languages.

The artist has a total role today; he is a poet, a musician, a painter, an expert in images. The artist asserts himself as the one who manipulates images, words, thoughts, by using every technological, visual and audio means beyond the traditional techniques. The concept behind any art form becomes actual when it is expressed in a dynamic sign, in relation to a complex reality, to the multiplicity of languages and of communicative processes. Art helps to become aware of oneself and of any misrepresentation of social, political and economic facts; it adopts irony on its own attitude and cultural products, and becomes tautologically an icon of the present day, a challenge, a ready-made, a theme for debate, subject to complexity. The practice of questioning has unveiled false myths and certainties attached to a conventional language (as in the art of the past), becoming an action of the mind against stereotypes and cultural authority, which, in its more egoistic and repetitive shapes has produced ignorance and injustice at all levels of communication.

The foundation of a new artistic research based on the analysis of communication systems has highlighted the issue of exposing social hypocrisy and the alienation of the modern man.

The challenge set to an historical, institutionalized and reiterated language produces a poetic language, and establishes a new order and a new awareness of time and history. It has also strenghtened the notion that art goes beyond, poetry goes beyond.the borders, beyond time and space.

Sarenco provocatively asserts that «all art of the past is a comic strip. The relationship with the past must necessarily be bad, and the cultural ability to destroy the ruins is in the brightness and quality of contemporary thought. The relationship with the past must be critical and ironic - he goes on - the past is heavy, and it was to take revenge on such beauty that I moved to Africa».

The art that breaks with the past has a particular strength, allowing it to rejoin with the source and energy of a universal language. The art of the present can't do without interacting with the obsession of technological power and mass culture, it uses the avant-garde weapons and it breaks with the past, it makes multicultural forms effective in the multitude of schools, styles and tendencies. Artists keep art alive, they make it relevant in its problematic nature, going beyond the idea of beauty and of work as mausoleum: in the art of Sarenco the artistic operation is first of all a perceptive, sensory and cerebral fact.

In the installation Le O di Giotto at the exhibition space Casa di Giotto (Vespignano- Vicchio-Firenze ) the artist has developed a personal idea, and re-contextualized modern myths. This installation plays ironically on Giotto's Os, on the idea of the perfect circle, and of all the perfect circles in present time: they are icon-objects, with homages to the idea of time from Futurism to Duchamp (the clock, the wheel.).

In the other exhibition centre -the Galleria Kore Arte Contemporanea Vicchio, Firenze - there are more recent works marked by personal memories, literary quotations and by the display of the official system of art, politics and economy.

In Sarenco's exhibition there is something obsessive behind the objects, the images, the words: it is the approach to making art that aims at the distortion of truth, through a kind of slothful pain which doesn't seem affected even by the liveliness of conceptual operation.

The word, allusion and illusion of reality, becomes a linguistic and poetic game, a syllogism - like in some visual poems of the seventies. It refers to image and colour (the word as sign / signifier), but it also has a double value of sign with a cultural and literary reference (the red and the black one): ironic and cultured game, ready-made, "exquisite corpse" of the personal and collective memory.

The gesture of making art turns itself into an attitude that becomes action, sign, word, image, object; it is in the attitude that the intellectual tension and revolutionary potentials of contemporary art lay.

In Sarenco's opinion art must generate shapes which can be turned into attitude. Before being action the attitude is intellectual and therefore it digresses. The arts that are mainly able to cause digression are cinema and poetry; they are important to appreciate his work, because they have a a particular relation with the artist's training.

The artist's visual and linguistic research remains within these coordinates, in a sensory and intellectual aspect that defines the construction of the work, inside an ethical and aesthetic vision.

Exhibition private view and interview with the artist, Casa di Giotto, Vespignano - Vicchio, Firenze, 10th october 2004.

I would like to thank Sarenco for his availability and for giving his permission to reproduce some images of the exhibition as iconographic documentation.


EGIDIO MUCCI, Povera arte !, Exhibition catalogue (Aubertini, Miccini, Mondino and Sarenco), Galleria Centro, Brescia, 1974.

EUGENIO MICCINI, Franco Verdi, Liber, Pratica internazionale del libro d'artista, (Catalogue), Assessorato alla cultura, Biblioteca Comunale "A. Lazzerini", Comune di Prato, 1980.

LINO DI LALLO, La Parola Giocata, Catalogo della quinta edizione del Festival di Poesia dell'Associazione "Ottovolante", Firenze, 1988.

ENRICO MASCELLONI, Il fascino dell'oggetto, Catalogo della mostra, Direttore artistico e curatore Carlo Palli, Museo Pecci, Prato, 1996.

G. CORTENOVA, M. MOZZO, Dadaismo Dadaismi: da Duchamp a Warhol, Catalogo mostra a cura di Giorgio Cortenova, Palazzo Forti, Verona, Electa, 1997.

ENRICO MASCELLONI, Sarenco, Guerra & Arte, Juliet n. 94, Trieste, ottobre 1999.

ACHILLE BONITO OLIVA, Sarenco l'Africano 1945, La Biennale di Venezia, 49^ Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte, Direttore Harald Szeemann, Venezia 2001.


Sarenco (Isaia Mabellini) was born in Volbarno (Brescia) in 1945.
He lives and works between Verona (Italia) and Malindi (Kenia).
He studied Philosophy at "Università Statale di Milano".
In 1961 he started writing his first linear poems. In 1963 he made his first visual poems.
In 1965 he began his exhibition activity. He has worked on about fifty individual exhibitions and about a thousand group exhibitions so far.
He published forty books and shooted fifteen films. He founded several art galleries and publishing companies. He is considered one of the most highly rated among the international specialists of African art and photography.
He founded and edited the "Amodulo" magazine and editions in 1968, the magazine "Lotta poetica" with Paul De Vree between 1971 and 1986 , the "Sarmic" edition with Eugenio Miccini in 1972.
Since 1982 he has been travelling to Africa (Kenia, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zimbawe, Mozambique, South Africa, Senegal, Ghana, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon) and to Asia.
He took part in a large number of International Festivals dedicated to sound poetry, action poetry and performance, together with his friends Julien Blaine and Jean - Francois Bory.
In 1985 he was invited to the "XLII Mostra del Cinema di Venezia" as a film-maker with his first full-length film "Collage". Some retrospectives of his work were held as part of film festivals in Trento, in Montecatini Terme and at the "Festival Intervention" in Quebec.

Among his most significant exhibitions:

1966 - Galleria Zen, Brescia.
1970 - Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.
1971 - Studio Santandrea, Milan.
1972 - Biennale di Venezia, Il libro come luogo di ricerca.
1972 - Documenta V, Distel's Schubladen Museum, Kassel.
1973 - Finch Museum, New York.
1973 - Museo d'Arte Moderna, Turin.
1974 - Contemporanea, Rome.
1986 - La Biennale di Venezia, Arte e Alchimia.
1989 - Mercato del Sale, Milan.
1995 - Galleria La Giarina, Verona.
1997 - Salle Priveè, Casiṇ di Malindi.
2001 - Galleria Farsetti, Prato.
2001 - La Biennale di Venezia, La Platea dell'Umanità.
2004 - Galleria S.B.A.C. - Studio Brescia Arte Contemporanea, "B.I.S.": (Blaine, Innocente, Sarenco), Brescia.

October 2004 -Sarenco, together with Maurizio Cattelan and Eva Marisaldi, was invited to the First International Biennial Art Exhibition in Seville, curated by Harald Szeemann.

Amongst his books in preparation: Lettere dall'Africa and Tutte le poesie.

The artist Pierre Garnier said about him: Sarenco is a very vigorous poet, who knows the value of feelings and loves life tremendously.


SARENCO 10th October - 5th December 2004


Vespignano - Vicchio, Florence

Via Martiri di Campo di Marte, 1/c
50039 Vicchio, Florence

The exhibition space Kore in Vicchio is set up as part of a project developed by Associazione Nomya with the aim to promote and spread culture and art in the Mugello area.

The Gallery, directed by Rossella Tesi, is integrated in the whole map of the system of public and private contemporary art in Tuscany within a polycentric structure in connection with the regional project TRA ART.

The project TRA ART, established in 2002, was born with the idea to create a regional net system to "make" contemporary art so as to involve a strong assistance from the government to support and strenghten the pre-existent system of art, including the private one.

Therefore the regional net system project for contemporary art has guaranteed structures and instruments supported by the national and local administrations in favour of contemporary art and of artists from all generations in Tuscany, giving right of expression to every form of art.

Galleria Kore Arte Contemporanea has hosted art events that involved the Assessorato al Turismo e alla Cultura della Comunità Montana del Mugello, Comune di Vicchio, the cultural association Nomya, Regione Toscana, the Castello di Cafaggio, Villa Campestri and Monsignor della Casa Country Resort.

Alessandro Marchi, Assessore al Turismo e alla Cultura (councillor for tourism and culture) has emphasized that the Comunità Montana, in accordance with the policies regarding the cultural programme of Regione Toscana, is present to put into operation a more extensive "Progetto area" to promote and foster practices and languages of modern and contemporary art.

Translation by Anna Maria Nave (from Italian into English).


Invitation to the exhibition
fig. 1
Sarenco, Invitation to the exhibition

La religione è l'oppio dei popoli
fig. 2
Sarenco, La religione è l'oppio dei popoli
Casa di Giotto,
Vespignano-Vicchio (Firenze)

Le O di Giotto
fig. 3
Sarenco, Le O di Giotto
Installazione 2004.
Site specific for Casa di Giotto
Vespignano-Vicchio (Firenze)

fig. 4
Sarenco, ET LE NOIR?
(Le doute de Stendhal)

Galleria Kore Arte Contemporanea,
Vicchio (Firenze)

fig. 5
Sarenco, RED I MADE
(for Marcel D.)

Galleria Kore Arte Contemporanea,
Vicchio (Firenze)

Let my mountains play 2001
fig. 6
Sarenco, Let my mountains play 2001
Galleria Kore Arte Contemporanea,
Vicchio (Firenze)

Ground Zero
fig. 7
Sarenco, Ground Zero
Galleria Kore Arte Contemporanea,
Vicchio (Firenze)

Photos courtesy of Giuseppe Carrubba.



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