BONZANOS Gruppo artistico di Stefano, Elisa, Davide Bonzano
The human body and the architecture of doubt by Ivan Quaroni
"THOSE WHO ARE NOT CAPABLE OF MAKING A DISTINCTION BETWEEN THEIR INNER SELVES AND THEIR BODIES THINK OF THEMSELVES AS JUST BODIES AND CANNOT UNDERSTAND THAT THEIR INNER SELVES LIVE ON IN OTHER BODIES" (BHAGAVATA PURANA)
Much has been written and there has been much discussion about the central role of the human body in western art. However, even though Classicism provided many examples, it was only with Renaissance Humanism that it reached absolute prominence.
The crystallising moment can be identified around 1490 when Leonardo drew the famous Vitruvian Man, which is now kept in the -Gabinetto dei Disegni e delle Stampe- in the -Gallerie dell'Accademia- in Venice The drawing depicts the perfect proportions of a human body inscribed within the geometrical figures of a circle and a square. Frequenting Francesco Di Giorgio Martini at the time, Leonardo became acquainted with Vitruvius's -De Architectura- and he endeavoured to translate into that drawing a concept reflecting mathematical and "divine" har- mony. The human body thus became the epitome of natural and celestial perfection and the symbol of an anthro- pocentric vision of the cosmos but its sanctity had long been ratified by the Bible. The famous question asked by St. Paul. "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?" (1 Corinthians 6:19) - underlined the dignity of the human body and advocated respect and reverence. However, there is little to suggest that the reason for which the human body continues to be the object of the most disparate developments in Art has any link with these concepts. Indeed, it can perhaps be explained by what Hans Sedelmayr defined as -The Loss of the Centre-, i.e. the progressive deconsecration of western society and the resulting loss of a system of values based on faith.
In their own way, performance artists and body artists attempted, at times resorting to extreme measures, to redefi- ne the social and civil role of the human body but ultimately these attempts did not resolve doubts and uncertainties. The so-called mind-body problem, inherent in the question of the relationship between thought and biology, which is examined today by new scientific techniques, remains unresolved. A contemporary artist who places the human body at the centre of his work, must inevitably set out from this state of gnoseological uncertainty, i.e. from being completely lost, which is also a state that is characterised by an ardent desire for knowledge. It is precisely from here that Stefano Bonzano, artist, architect and designer begins this new phase of his artistic endeavour, making the human body and all that it contains and conceals, the principal object of his sculptures.
"What is the biological body in which I live and in which my travelling companions live?" the Artist asks himself."What do these bodies contain?". These are questions that take us back to the oldest questions about the mea- ning of life and our identity. Bonzano interprets the body as a peripheral link between the interior and exterior world, a sort of interface between an individual and the universe that conceals emotional stimuli, instinctive urges and spiritual aspirations.
With respect to these intangible realities, for the Artist the body becomes nothing more than a cage or a net con- taining collective symbols and individual memories, materialisations of psychic events or significant objects.
The idea of the body as a "cage" of the spirit recalls Medieval theology when indeed, the body was considered to be a receptacle for every form of corruption, but in Stefano Bonzano's case it is above all a structure, a functio- nal set of organised elements in which it is possible to discern the Architect's imprinting or rather the Architect's aptitude for design. Bonzano's sculptures are no longer temples of the spirit but certainly memory buildings, wrap- ped in a thickset metal mesh that give us the exact morphology of human forms. And yet, you feel that the mea- ning of the works is not so much in the mesh but rather within those bodies, in that disconcerting hollow empti- ness, crossed and almost penetrated by paradigmatic objects.
This is the case in the work entitled Pioggia di ricordi (Rain of memories) where the image of a man with an umbrel- la becomes the refuge of old postcards, topos of an ephemeral and temporary memory.
Other objects nest in Bonzano's anthropomorphic cages. For example the enigmatic hanging stones in the pair made up of Lui and Lei (Him and Her) in which the opposite chromatic shades of the minerals seem to allude to the dualism of the male and female genders. In Ballerina, on the other hand, it is the body itself, in the shape of a dancer, that is contained in a larger structure, a two dimensional female form. In this work, the artist weaves a new relationship between structure and superstructure and the human body becomes an interior "form", as in the "fanciullino" (the little boy) in the work by Giovanni Pascoli. Likewise, the small graceful statue of a virginal nude, encloses in its breast a small butterfly, a delicate metaphor of lan vital. Diogene (Diogenes) on the other hand, is a tribute to the philosopher from Sinope, who is said to have walked round in broad daylight with a lit lantern. But renouncing his passion for design, the Artist transforms the lantern into a modern lamp with wings, a copy, albeit partial, of a famous object designed by Ingo Maurer.
"Diogenes searches for man though passion, fear and memory" says Bonzano and, with this quotation, it is as if the Artist were introducing us to the most introspective part of his endeavours, the part that is dedicated to self-analysis. Indeed, the work entitled I volti della mia vita (Faces in my life) seems to contemplate the internal segmentation of an individual, a fragmentation that recalls Uno, nessuno e centomila (One, No one and One Hundred Thousand) by
Luigi Pirandello. But the painted plaster masks that are upheld (and contained) by the self-portrait of the artist, are also the masks of members of his family, images that are at the same time real and symbolic that enrich the individual's identity. This possibility is even contemplated by noetic science, by measuring the actual cellular and chemical exchange between organisms that live in a state of physical and emotional proximity.
Bonzano therefore seems to suggest the possibility that personality is ultimately the result of accumulation or a sort of psychic aggregation. In some ways, it is a similar perspective to that of the Armenian mystic George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, who asserted the co-existence of a multitude of contrasting personalities within an individual. The works that are coherent with this line of thought are those that stem from the interaction between the scul- ptures in welded copper wire and the reflecting surfaces that generate the impression of three-dimensional volu- metric continuity in the virtual reflected dimension. These are mainly the athletic figures of trapeze artists enga- ged in difficult exercises, longitudinal cross sections of anatomies that, thanks to the reflection in the mirror, appe- ar integral and complete.
Precisely in the light of what has been said above, the introduction of mirrors acquires even a symbolic value. There is a strong link between mirrors and the soul in popular belief and folklore. A mirror is believed to duplica- te not only phenomenal reality but also the spiritual dimension. It is no coincidence that demonic creatures like vampires are not reflected in mirrors and that for monsters like the Basilisk, mirrors are deadly. A symbol of truth but also of illusion and vanitas (bear in mind Oscar Wilde's novel), a mirror lends itself to many symbolic interpre- tations. In the same way, Bonzano's sculptures trigger different explanations, precisely because they question uni- versal order. And so, while the hermeneutic effort is delegated to the sensitivity and culture of the observer, the way in which such issues are presented remains the prerogative of the artist.
Bonzano constructs the human body like an architectural structure, like a rational grid, and he does this because it belongs to the operational domain of what is visible, and of what can be understood and described by the force of reason. But when it is a question of giving form to the invisible and the unspeakable, be it the chthonic of the psyche or the hyperuranium of the spirit, his approach changes. Memory, emotions, urges, conflicts and interior aspirations can only be described indirectly, using the enigmatic language of allusion and metaphor. It is here, in the interior of this anatomical architecture, in this hollow emptiness where a different compositional grammar applies, that we find a plethora of epiphanic objects, recovered from the immense reservoir of reality. They are significant, transitive objects, awaiting meaning. Once again, these are questions beckoning answers. Ultimately, perhaps interrogation is the true objective of artistic endeavour?