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Aestheticised Violence: From Pasolini to Cattelan, a Dialogue Through Time



In 1963, Pier Paolo Pasolini presented his film 'La Rabbia' stating: "Why is our life dominated by

discontent, anguish, fear of war, war? To answer this question, the Poet of Casarsa declared he

wrote this film without following a chronological or perhaps even a logical thread, but only his

own political reasons and poetic sentiment."

Today, 61 years later, the trio Gagosian, Cattelan, and Bonami present a monumental work in

New York that questions violence and its desensitisation, aestheticising it through the irreverent

filter of the Padovan artist.

Pasolini and Cattelan, both raised Catholic but not of faith, convinced enemies of the

bourgeoisie, perhaps masochists, always immersed in the creation of their next work. Both have,

at different stages of their careers, reflected on violence and its normalisation. While Pasolini tackled the subject through cinema and writing, and later through his own body

and demise, Cattelan’s latest work uses 64 stainless steel panels plated with 24-karat gold, shot

by professionals at a Brooklyn shooting range, with over 20,000 bullets. The event was given a

touch of glamour, organised before a select audience including Jeff Koons.


Buying an assault weapon is possible, but if you urinate in public, you risk a fine or even arrest.

This is America, as Francesco Bonami comments, but it could also be a barbershop tale. This is

also the most didactic and crude way to present a work that immediately joined the most striking

ones created by Maurizio Cattelan, conveying an aura more devastated than devastating, a nudity

that shoots at the visitor's heart, reminding one of Vito Acconci's words: it’s not the bullet that

kills you, but its hole.


The technique used to create the work provided an opportunity to recount how many artists have

incorporated shooting into their creative process, using firearms as tools to create art. Here are

some notable examples:

Niki de Saint Phalle: A Franco-American artist known for her "Shooting

Paintings" (Tirs), where she shot at canvases with attached paint bags, causing the

contents to explode and create abstract compositions.

Günther Uecker: A German artist and member of the ZERO group, who used nails and

firearms to create his works, shooting nails into canvases and wooden surfaces, resulting

in textured and often violent-looking pieces. Chris Burden: An American performance artist, Burden's work often involved personal

danger. In his 1971 performance "Shoot," he had a friend shoot him in the arm with a .22

caliber rifle, a piece that explored themes of violence and vulnerability. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: While not using traditional firearms, his interactive

installations sometimes involved the concept of shooting as a metaphor. For example, in

"33 Questions Per Minute," participants used a modified machine gun to shoot words

onto a screen.

William S. Burroughs: Primarily known as a writer, Burroughs also experimented with

shooting as an art form, shooting spray paint cans placed in front of canvases to create

spontaneous and unpredictable splatter patterns.

Among contemporaries, Anthony James also exhibited similar works at Opera Gallery on the

same day in New York. Both featured shiny metal sheets marked by bullet holes, inaugurated on

the same day in the same city.


"The comedy is wonderful," says Schaunard repeatedly in Puccini's immortal "La Bohème." And

who knows if the marble work titled "November," reluctantly witnessing this 5-meter tall and 20-

meter wide monument, will find its place in immortality. Interestingly, the attention and debate

generated by the shot panels has relentlessly diverted attention away from the monument

dedicated to neglect: a man collapsed on a bench, indulging in an indecent and copious urination.

The sculpture represents a defeated, derelict, and helpless being with minimal vital force. In a

society where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, it seems the only choice for those left

on the margins is a final act of rebellion against their fate by shooting at a golden rubber wall that

has rejected them all their lives, or to give up, letting themselves go definitively, regressing to

less human forms.

On violence, but especially on its desensitization, Cattelan marks his definitive return with an

exhibition composed of two works, leaving us full of questions about the aggressiveness of

contemporary society and its trivialisation. One wonders what Pier Paolo Pasolini would have

thought if he had visited this exhibition amidst the echo of gunshots and the candid sound of a

distracted, yet obstinately eternal, urination.


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