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Art-book ATLAS OF THE WORLD- the map of power
80 pages, 74 colour images, cm 19 x 28. Lupetti Editore, Milan 2006.
Graziella Longoni

Earth thus shatters every attempt to penetrate
into it. It causes every merely calculating
importunity upon it to turn into destruction.
This destruction may herald itself under the
appearance of mastery and of progress in the
form of technical-scientific objectivation of
nature, but this mastery nevertheless remains
an impotence of will.
M. Heidegger

1. The cancellation of Earth in the name of the World
The Atlas composed by Libera Mazzoleni is disorienting; it apparently follows the canons of topography. The observer recognizes Earth, in the precise and sinuous lines of its borders, that face the daunting liquid masses of the oceans, and the shapes of the continents that circumscribe our living space, but before long he is lost, disoriented, by a dense network of signs that continuously lead the eye to others, canceling any systematic organization in regions and landscapes; the blue path of the rivers, the yellow stains of the deserts, the brown of the mountains, the bright green of the forests and the softer one of the fertile plains, featured by the countries as we know them, subdivided in governmental entities, disappear.
The World, kingdom of utility, of mass-produced and standardized living spaces, covers Earth and suffocates it, and the result is bewildering.
The artist seems to evoke the conceptual duality of Earth/World, already expounded by Heidegger, to create an Atlas that is not just a collection of geographic maps, or description of national states, but a photography of a tension that has consumed itself through the violation and prevarication of the one on the other. Through this violation, Earth has been reduced to a “ground”, ready for use, abuse and consumption on the part of the Promethean dream of Man intent of dominating it, superimposing the World, that marks the beginning of the historical dimension of existence, and represents time as the stage of civilization, nurtured by the myths of unlimited progress, guaranteed by technology that turn everything that exists into something usable, into a means to an end, only seeing it as a way to obtain gratification.
“The World is founded on Earth, and Earth emerges through the World. But the World, being built on Earth, aspires to dominate it” and yet “the World cannot detach itself from Earth; as a region and path of every essential destiny, it must be based on something certain”.
With her Atlas Libera Mazzoleni presents a World that, separating itself from Earth, abandons the relationship where each evoked the other, with their differences, a World hovering on the abyss of a possible annihilation, and the place where our existence unfolds, the stage of our lives, a World that has subjected Earth to its logic, misunderstanding its alterity, dissolving every relationship of responsibility, making it suffer the consequences of its economic decisions, thwarting and disfiguring it like an inert territory open to exploitation and manipulation.
Evoking the outline of Earth, conserved in its physical form but with its innermost sense, that identifies it as the dimension of the origin of things and its custodian, disfigured, the artist traces the Atlas of the globalized World, revealing the chaotic and ungovernable excesses of a reality that has been invaded by innumerable objects whose sole identity depends on their function, something that makes them precarious and eternal at the same time, as they may be replaced at any time. The Atlas tells us that the globalized World does not permit Earth to exist, because it perceives it as something that resists its impetuous presence, denying any relationship with it, like a terrible and infinite struggle to force it to abandon its “hidden” ways, and to reveal its secret. Concepts of hospitality, care, safekeeping intrinsic in living spaces and in Earth disappear, to be replaced by the cold dominion of pure instrumental and destructive calculation that rules the World, making every living being sink into the instability and anguish of an incurable insecurity.
This seems to be the result of the development accomplished by the West on Earth, a development that has created a violent, predatory civilization, where progress is synonymous with the unrestrained consumption of everything, and with a systematic destruction of ancient ecological equilibria, where peaceful coexistence degenerates into the mortal dominion of the powerful on those who fail to be seduced by its lies, where time is reduced to a punctiform present, without depth or prospects, and where an insatiable desire swallows everything, turning alterity into nothingness, making Earth “mundane”; and Earth, forced to adapt to the artificial order introduced by calculating reason, ceases to be an evocation of the sense of limit and measure, fading into the great machine of the mathematic universe created by techno-science.

2. The violent standardization of the globalized World
In her Atlas Libera Mazzoleni exposes the globalization undergone by the World, where every entity appears in the light of utility, identified as a means bound for manipulation, where what happens is the sum of events captured by the information technology network, that cancels distances and abolishes borders, creating a horizon of surfaces where news provided in real time scroll, a horizon that makes every comment obsolete because real time exists in the moment, and does not allow one to stop to think, to question the mass of images and words, to wonder about the sense and direction of events, of economic and political choices, to try to understand why hunger, waste, war, the obsessive creation of an enemy, the sophisticated weapons that contaminate our everyday life, continuing to kill even when the battle is over, the rape of defenseless bodies of women, children and prisoners, the killing of thousands of innocents, the constant sabotage of peacemaking attempts can be told with the indifference of those who transform horror, inflicted in the name and defense of a superior civilization, into necessity.
The continents of the globalized World refer to one another, mutually, in the same way as objects that lend fictitious identities to their owners, created and maintained within a conformist standardization, impose a neutral and impersonal “yes” elevated to sole Subject, mocking every attempt to be different.
“No shepherd, and one herd! Everyone wants the same; everyone is the same: he who has other sentiments goes voluntarily into the madhouse” - said Nietzsche, tracing the profile of the “last Man”, the democratic man, who is proud of his science, of his freedom, of the happiness achieved through wealth, of the force of his instruments and his poisons that allow him to eliminate fear, to sleep without nightmares, to continue to float in emotional indifference, refusing all responsibility towards his fellow.
Dissemination of light and heavy weapons, conventional and strategic, proliferation of objects-symbols created by multinationals to standardize taste, turning human beings into indolent replicants intent on consuming; cellular phones in continuous evolution, to make it easier and easier for others to reach us, and for us to reach those we cannot see, in the hope of controlling everyone and to be present everywhere, armored cars in which to hide, seek protection and from which to attack; a world full of “things” to kill, to consist, to feel omnipotent, a world that founders under the weight of superfluity, so unsettling and sinister that it takes our breath away.
In this world of objects, apparently solid and indestructible, death triumphs, a death inflicted with unbounded violence, that above all lets itself loose against the body of women, on which the male warrior finds outlet for his hate, his rage, his frustrations and his misery, in an attempt to humiliate the enemy, to which the woman “belongs”, leaving within her the mark of his appropriation, or cutting her to pieces to cancel the integrity of a body that, generating life, continuously resurrects and keeps alive the hope in another time, another world.
And where no war rages, the bed with straps to immobilize those who are sentenced to death, reminds us that the power to inflict death may be exercised at any time, in the name of justice.
In the imagery of Libera Mazzoleni, Power is represented by a toad king with a crown on his head, squatting on a stairs, above two guards that look like the outcome of a genetic engineering experiment; their bodies, partly human, are dominated by bird heads with large eyes and predatory beaks.
The toad evokes the slippery and absorbing slime of the swamp, often concealed by a dense canebrake, the bird the immensity of the sky that looks down on the earth; Power, unfolding itself between the sky and the earth, reaches the muddy depths and the expanses of space above; nothing escapes it, it can reproduce itself with any means and infiltrate any space, its pervading effect is uncontrollable and inescapable.
Moloch and fetish, this Power, so closely related to death, reverberates like the diseased soul of the globalized World, that stands like a god on the ruins of Earth, asking submission in exchange for happiness and safety.
Nietzsche’s reflection on the State, incarnation of Force and Power, is significant in this context:
“A state? What is that? (…) State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly it lies; and this lie slips from its mouth: “I, the state, am the people.” (…) there is nothing greater than I: I am the governing hand of God.”- thus roars the monster. And not only the long-eared and short-sighted fall upon their knees! (…) It will give everything to you, if you worship it (…) The state, I call it, where all drink poison, the good and the bad: the state, where all lose themselves, the good and the bad: the state, where the slow suicide of all - is called “life.”
Behold the superfluous! (…) They seek power, and the lever of power, much money- these impotent ones!
See them clamber, these nimble apes! They clamber over one another, and thus pull each other into the mud and the abyss.
They all strive for the throne: this is their madness- as if happiness sat on the throne! Often filth sits on the throne.- and often also the throne on filth.”
Apes that clamber one on top of the other, this is the true nature of those who strive for Power; and also those who court Power, out-of-tune megaphones that live in the shade of the powerful and reproduce their gestures, speeches and lies are apes; and so are the subjects that imitate the tones and manners of their masters, mistaking their servitude for the happy privilege of being part of the court of those who decide the fates of the world, playing with the dreams and needs of humans.
Even Leonardo’s man, who decides, from the center of the world, the form and measure of a universe wholly subjected to his power, becomes a deformed mask of humanity with his ungraceful, deformed, bloated and ugly body. Covered by a revolting nudity that flaunts a truly sinister metamorphosis of the lower limbs, that man, today’s artificer of the globalized world, looks like the product of a nightmare.

3. Anamorphic aesthetics of the perturbing
With her female and artistic sensibility Libera Mazzoleni focuses her lucid and pained eye within the “heart of darkness” that beats threatening in the recesses of the World conceived, wanted, produced by the male, fascinated by the myths of scientific dominion and warrior force.
With a symbolic operation that evokes and concretizes what appears, on today’s horizon, as obscured and canceled by the blinding light of immediacy, the artist provokes reality, making it emerge, unveiling and restoring it in the name of the “perturbing”.
Accepting Freud’s invitation to abandon aesthetics as “theory of beauty” in order to create an aesthetics understood as “theory of the quality of our feelings”, the artist builds an Atlas that gives form and figure to the ambivalence constituting the “perturbing”, to what normally remains concealed in the known and the familiar and that, when it suddenly appears, upsets the usual equilibrium of things, causing disturbance and disorientation.
The aesthetic of anamorphism, as Lacan calls it in his 11th Seminary.
Anamorphosis is a process of superimposition of one form on another, a grafting that deconstructs the foregone, recomposing it in an unusual way, allowing us to perceive images and contexts that would otherwise escape our glance.
By reproducing the borders and body of Earth, thus retracing the known surface of the geographic atlas, Libera Mazzoleni changes topography, designing figures on that very surface, that reveals an unexpected world. The effect is truly alienating.
It is therefore not just a matter of a mere mimesis, but of a different encounter with reality, made possible by a different feeling that changes the habitual perception of the image-world.
The Atlas of the globalized world could therefore be read as an anamorphic object, an object born from a perturbing break with the familiar, to make us see something else. And so another path, another story is created, telling us about what is unspeakable, unimaginable, decreeing the end of the tension between Earth and World, protected by caring gestures, declaring that the World has suffocated Earth, that any entity may exist solely by virtue of its functionality, as a means for consumption. With its excessive repetition of details, distributed on a disfigured surface, it cuts a rift in the compact, logical and reassuring tale of the path of civilization, victoriously followed by the West.
And with its instantaneous pace, in terms of consumption and information, provided in a present that becomes eternal, the Atlas of the globalized World invites us to stop, to linger, to gather our thoughts and ask ourselves, once more, what is the sense of our way to live on Earth, and our way to be in the World with others, with things.

M. Heidegger, The origin of the work of art, lectures of 1935-36
F. Nietzsche, Thus spake Zarathustra, 1878, translation by T. Common, Project Gutenberg
S. Freud, The perturbant, in Works, edited by C. Musatti, IX. L’Io e l’Es e altri scritti, Turin 1977
M. Recalcati, The three aesthetics of Lacan, in Aut Aut, n° 326, 2005, Il Saggiatore,


Milan Thoughts on Art, on a Bike
Libera Mazzoleni

Today I feel somewhat confused, in my maniacal reflections on art.
In the village where my friend lives, not far from my city, I am pedaling on an old dilapidated bicycle, grazing shiny green leaves.
Unstable and disorderly images suddenly appear in my mind.

I wonder whether the eyes of a woman impaired by an Afghan veil could ever appreciate the monumental, austere, plastic forms of the Buddha of Baghram before the entire wall and its gigantic statues imploded before the immobile eyes of the Talibans. And I ask myself whether the thousands of women who today, in a “liberated” Afghanistan, burn themselves alive to escape the horror of an increasingly inhuman life, have every been able to reflect on aesthetic questions.
Together with an infinite anguish for these women who live in the same world as I do, and that I emphatically feel so close to, I feel a sense of gratitude for my day, for the clear air, for my superfluous and occasional thoughts.

Certainly, I am no lover of religions and metaphysical beliefs, protective shields for “apes”, subordinate men, messengers of those who rule, who are able to inflict so much pain, walking cheerfully on the edge of the abyss that has swallowed their ice-cold hearts. Still, religions and empires have also offered exceptional opportunities to art and knowledge, in their different forms. Could it be a matter of a “heterogenesis of purposes”?
Could it be that the “Might” of beauty and wisdom, just for once, ends up with triumphing on the brutality of “Power”?

We must pay more attention to the Path.

When I was a girl, I was fascinated by the metaphor of innovation and freedom that the language of art seemed to keep in store.
But today the world has become gloomy and freedom is perhaps just a mirage invented by the insistent propaganda of the multinationals that deal in free time and consumption.
The omnipresent freedom to buy!

And so, what is left of art? “…it is just an action that is crystallized in an object, the “work” is far from everything that really matters: the creative itinerary that, with its uncertainties and determinations that have made it what it is, and that never manifests itself?…” (1)
Or, to quote Bachmann: “…As matters stand at present, we, by dint of consent, have by now reached the point that Hermann Broch censured with his wrathful sentence. But be that as it may, it means that we have arrived. ‘Moral is moral, business is businss, war is war and art is art’…”. (2)
Or worse: “…the artist is someone to whom everything is permitted, because he lives in a non-place, the ghetto of omnipotence, caricature of the possessed visited by God! But today it is no longer a matter of a loss of divinity, but a loss of respect for the human being…” (3)
These reflections are truly impossible for my thought, and not just because I am pedaling a bicycle.
At night, while staying at my friend’s comfortable house, I have sought to escape the dissatisfaction, aimlessness, and anguish provoked by all the answers I cannot provide. In search for an evasion, I have leafed through an atlas, exploring images of the world in its magic pages: in the blue immense expanse of the oceans, stars mirrored by the waves, I have felt the icy wind from the north, I have grazed the craggy profile of the Rocky Mountains with my fingers, I have imagined the scalding heat of the Sahara and wished for a cool night with a starry sky.

Reliving the emotions of that day, I have wanted to retrace and reproduce the magic of those images. My aim was to move with playful, thoughtless, cheerful gestures in order to hide all my wounds.
I didn’t succeed.
Dissonant voices that live in the world and make it distressing surface in my work.

“Atlas” is perhaps not a wholly accomplished work, but it owes its vitality to its disorderly contents, to its neo-pop form and its unfashionable appearance. It is a work that lives on its error, on uncertainty, on the determination of a design itinerary, on a vision that represents an antithesis to the idealistic and metaphysical glance that, adapting to the concept of “art for art’s sake” has preannounced the “non-place” of an art that has been uprooted from real life, a condition that is today all too frequent and recognizable in many works and discourses.


(1) H. Arendt, What is freedom?, in Between Past and Future, 1961
(2) I. Bachmann, “Questions and pseudo-questions, in Literature as utopia, Frankfurt lessons,  Adelphi Edizioni, Milan1993
(3) P. Virilio, The information technology bomb, Raffaello Cortina Editore, Milan 2000