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“Many are the things that are terrible. None is more terrible than Man”,
In Italian/English, 102 pages, 23 colour images, cm 16 x 23; Edizioni d’Arte, Milan 2001.
By Graziella Longoni

"There are many terrible things.
None is more terrible than man"

(Sophocles, Antigone)

“Only the work of art can tell us what art is.”

M. Heidegger

“ The soul that has the longest ladder and reaches down deepest –
The most comprehensive soul, which can run and stray and roam
farthest within itself; …
The soul that, having being, dives into becoming …
The soul (…) in which all things have their sweep and countersweep and ebb and flood.”

F. Nietzsche

“How much truth can man bear?
How much truth can man dare?…
For until now only truth has been always forbidden on principle.”

F. Nietzsche

“ If it should turn out to be true that our knowledge (in the modern sense of know-how) and thought have parted company for good,
then we would indeed become the helpless slaves, not so much of our machines as of our know-how,
thoughtless creatures at the mercy of every gadget which is technically possible, no matter how murderous it is.”

H. Arendt

Perhaps Art is a threshold open to the restless wandering of the soul, where time is consolidated as duration, a precarious synthesis of a life always undoing itself in a disconcerting succession, and where becoming, in its oscillation between presence and absence, introduces itself as a disorienting paradox of meaning.Duration is a threshold too, not a stable dwelling. Its permanence is indeed a continuous unfolding, a passage, a middle place, where the horizon of occurrences always appears within the horizon of signifying, bringing to light that curve of space in time which expresses the unsuppressable mutual ownership of the world and the ego.Pausing at the threshold of duration, where events converge to be collected and rethought, the soul builds its experience, starts its journey, in the wandering and instability of meaning, which will bring it to interrogate that world which is always with it and lies in it as memory, emotion, image, perceived presence, dream.
On the threshold of art the soul will be able to tell, in the language of the poíesis, of its complex journey along the tracks of time, always happening in a definite space as an opening that establishes and discloses the world.
The artistic expression of Libera Mazzoleni suggests this metaphor of art as a threshold open to the passage of a soul which, knowing and living its unavoidable co-belonging with the world, leans out and questions Time, the place where Being speaks inside a presence constantly emerging from that background where events lie as history, as uncertain weft, which holds what has already happened of what is possible.
On the threshold of art, Libera Mazzoleni talks about the journey of her soul through the places where meaning rises and sets, inhabiting a way of thinking not able to reconcile itself with its own time, and leaving her emotions flowing into images that can find refuge only in the language of the poíesis, of that making which is not manipulative and hiding what exists, but rather revealing it.
The poíesis is in fact a "making present," challenging the violence of oblivion. It is a making that does not take its leave from memory, and it is not seduced by the eye of Epimetheus, who cannot see the distant abode in the blinding light of what is immediate.The poíesis always calls upon the Muses, who know and keep Time, binding together what was, what is, and what will be.
In the making of the poíesis, Libera Mazzoleni sketches and shapes events within which history can no longer trace a linear path. History appears in fact as an aporia, a disquieting labyrinth, a winding path running among suffocated hopes, exclusions, discards, contrasts, omissions, dismissals, annihilating recurrences, and miseries. Within history the words of Antigone resound, when, facing the laws of the City and meditating on the acts of Man, she doesn't hesitate to call him
"the most terrible" of all beings inhabiting the earth.

"There are many terrible things
None is more terrible than man"

Finally, the artist doesn't conform to history as it is narrated, but searches for it, questions it, and transcribes it, bringing to light the utopias and the idols which identify the different temporalities within which the destiny of the western world is inscribed.Her language, sometimes graphic, sometimes pictorial, sometimes realistic, is articulated through a concise language which is both strong and light, decisive and trembling, and always points to an ulterior meaning.
Color explodes, capturing the eyes which are forced to stay with a light which unveils tremendous connections, or diluted in soft tonalities tells of dream and desire , or canceled in the blackness of an abyssal night remembers the enigma of existence.The twenty three panels testify and show an interiority that doesn't retract, and doesn't escape, does not console itself playing an estheticizing game, which comes from a creativity worn out by the repetition of the same forms, which is called style.
We are indeed facing a subjectivity stubbornly rooted in the world, which gives to the strokes and to the multiple variations of their rhythm, the task of communicating the internal tension of a tragic pathos, of a multiform suffering that knows the laceration, the duplicity, the disquieting chasing one after the other of meaning and nonsense in our daily life.


The artistic journey of Libera Mazzoleni evokes a passage which, in its extremes, is an expression of two different temporalities: one celebrated by an original thought collected on the horizon traced by Alétheia, affirming Being through "Caring"; the other temporality opened by "calculating reason", which affirms Being as infinite manipulation of what exists, and unfolds itself in the immeasurable making of Téchne.
Both point to an origin which throughout time will articulate itself on one side as oblivion, and on the other side as final realization.
Wisdom, contained in the Greek word for origins, appoints Alétheia as Truth, making her coincide with the disclosing of Being, that reveals itself in the spectacle of the world.
The eye, which sees it, is full of wonder and awe.
The discourse, which speaks of it, constantly refers to Being as a welcoming womb and safe home of everything manifesting itself throughout time, which is the rhythm itself of Being in its manifestations.
The mind, which thinks of it, affirms Being as a gift to which man answers in the form of Caring, which constantly renews wonder and awe.
In the panels:
Alétheia, Méleta tò pan, Eleúthera, Libera Mazzoleni evokes this origin which will be removed in an age dominated by Téchne.
On a colored background, the letters of the Greek alphabet compose the word Alétheia, calling it back from the night of oblivion and again revealing the spectacle of the world that needs to be protected by Caring.
Inside the depth of the blue, touched by a bright yellow, the artist rewrites Periander's invitation: "Méleta tò pan," "Take care of the whole," and lets a few letters of the alphabet fall on the multicolored wings of flying butterflies.
The letters will lie down on both the flower's luminous beauty, and the corpse's cold grayness, feeding themselves with both the sweet nectar of the living flower, and with the putrescent fluid secreted by the corpse.
Take care, then, of life and death, which together beat out the temporal rhythm of each existence, making it extremely precious in its precarious unfolding.
The artist lingers among the words pronounced by Greek wisdom in order to again discover and give meaning to the appropriate human attitude for "Caring" that, in the panel titled
"Eleúthera," seems to resound as a free response to the gift of Being.
The letters, of different colors and laid upon different backgrounds, deconstruct the word in an attempt to make it vibrate with all the richness and intensity of its references.
Eleúthera, free, released from the contest, represents a way of sojourning in the world that removes the bad Eris, the sliding of Discord into the arrogant and immense violence of the Hýbris, which breaks the bonds with the Whole to impose the deadly tyranny of only one side.
Libera Mazzoleni thinks of Alétheia, Méleta tò pan, Eleúthera as sympathetic words, describing the horizon of "Caring," where that "let it be," which will allow the eye to continue looking at the multiform variety of the Whole, and will support human actions oriented towards welcoming respect, is happening.
The artist seems to want to stay longer in this seat of the soul, which depicts the enchantment and enigma of One-Whole, and for this purpose she uses the poetic gesture of a little girl.The night narrated by the Myth, custodian of origins, appears in fact in the panel
Arianna, together with a child drawing.
From the abysmal opening of Chaos, where everything lays waiting, the light of Cosmos emerges, as a word announcing the wholeness of One-Whole in its multiple articulations.
Chaos and Cosmos, in their fertile intertwining and in their continuous mirroring each other, evoke the horizon that Anánke, Necessity, traces as a safe home where Being dwells and retreats, forever rescued from the violence of Nothingness.
The stars, housed by the sky, and the spire of a fragile house, lean on the ground, are reflected within the palm of a hand of uncertain contours, a reminder not only of the condition of human beings, suspended between the sky and the earth, but also of their way of existing as the recipients of the announcement and custodian of what is manifested in it.
Sistema Decimale (Decimal System), one more hand appears with open fingers pointing out a series of signs, traced as an attempt to order the multiplicity inhabiting the world. This perhaps is a metaphor for the concept of number which, brought by the artist to its real origin, doesn't resound as an abstraction but rather as a symbol of the secret harmony impressed by Anánke on the universe, which lies on the limited space of an open hand.
Number, conceived as the matrix of the sense of the finite, symbolized by the fingers counting the multiple, defines measure as order, eternal model and paradigm for what becomes and manifests itself throughout time.
The horizon opened by number then is that of symbol, which always points to an ulterior meaning, and leads the eye beyond what is immediate. Number finally tells the secret plot of phýsis (nature) that the hand of a human being recalls.Heraclitus’ words resound: "The hidden weft is stronger than the visible one;" "One, dividing within itself, within itself rejoins.
"Playing with the letters of the Greek alphabet and rewriting the words of wisdom, with a chromatic playfulness that recalls and enlightens their deep meaning again, Libera Mazzoleni has run along the traces of original thought, relying upon the poetic gesture of a little girl, and almost reproducing it in that other hand which evokes the sensitive and perceptive aesthetic matrix of any knowledge revealing the world.
The temporality, disclosed by Alétheia, unfolds in the name of caring and measure, always referring to Anánke, Necessity, as a stable relation and law of Justice (Dyke) that binds to itself gods and human beings, and at the same time presides over the existance of the Earth, preserving it on the horizon of Being.On the contrary, the next panels allude to the immense making of Téchne, describing a lacerated, violated, contradictory, and violent world.
A different temporality appears, characterized by disenchantment, which celebrates the infinite manipulability of the existent. The Earth is now forced to manifest itself only within those relations based on calculation, which will allow its use as a "background" to be called-in-front in the name of domination.Abandoning thinking, which only survives by questioning the meaning of each thing that occurs, Western man relies on “calculating reason” in order to realize that dominion of the world which the biblical Lord, after having created man in His image and likeness, presents to him as inescapable task.
"And God said, Let us make man in our image and likeness; let him
have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”(Genesis, 1,26)
The artist recalls this origin, which inaugurated the life of human beings on Earth as a project of domination over every other living being, and brings it to light as an immense will for power, and devastating nihilism.
Nothingness, evoked by the biblical God in the act of creation, will always accompany man as extreme temptation, and will always resurrect as a risk and as a sign of power in man’s actions.Libera Mazzoleni looks inside the cold heart of that Nothingness and unveils it, bringing it to light through:
- the red color of the blood that overturns both the Statue of Liberty and the attempts of resistance expressed by esoteric residual cultures
- the atomic bomb cynically depicted by the Coca-Cola trade mark
- the toy-mines which lure and mutilate children
- the Cluster bombs which fall from the blue sky, destroying and contaminating the soil
- the cloning that reifies every "lived body, destructuring it into disanimated , infinitely reproducible, and ready to use parts
- the disconcerting confusion between real and virtual, that multiplies and overlaps seductive images of the world, making every direct experience of travelling in - nature and the inhabited places of the earth superfluous
- the bodies, reduced to puppets and artificial masks
- the women' s suffocated faces and torn limbs
- the violence and hatred emanating from wars fought to eliminate the diversity of the other
- the technical efficiency, paranoically pursued, to produce corpses at industrial rhythm
- the annihilation of that thinking in which the depth of memory and the need for future meet
- and through the subsequent imposition of the contracted temporality of the computerized web, restrained within the present, always present and always new, where the event is resolved and consumed in that same image which visualizes it.
Representing that power of Nothingness, the work of the artist becomes either realistic, almost photographic, or it melts into trembling, almost evanescent strokes, or it becomes essential in a few, decisive, and at the same time tortuous lines.The color either explodes as a shout, or shades into greenish, bluish, pinkish tonalities in the attempt to express the ambiguity and ambivalence of an alienated way of being-in-the-world, lost in a present of planetary weight and yet frozen in the "now" of the moment that always resurrects, without retaining anything because of lack of duration.
Libera Mazzoleni, with her strokes, with her colors, makes Nothingness emerge: a Nothingness which accompanies us as the outcome of a way of producing that either puts at risk the life of humanity itself, or impoverishes it inside a dry and humiliating conformism, where every freedom is destroyed, and existence sinks into a mechanical, monochord, anonymous exercise of adaptation for surviving.

The artist introduces us to the temporality identified as Téchne with two panels of transition. Uroborus (Uroboros) and Analogie (Analogies) bring together and counterpose:
- knowledge and wisdom
- calculating reason and esoteric thinking
- infinite measurability of the Whole and a magical-divinatory vision of number, where the Whole lies within the permanence of the secret relations among its parts
- freedom as dominion over the world and freedom as harmonic co-belonging of the ego and the universe.
Two antithetical worlds seem to be able to coexist initially. But the figure of Wisdom, the Uroboros, is present as a fragment, as if to indicate the precarious survival of a vision still held by a few that is on the edge of oblivion.
Then the two worlds seem to vanish, sinking in the same blood, which submerges a vacillating Statue of Liberty and sucks up the sapiential mysteries contained in an overturned, alchemical vase.
The previously tolerated otherness, present in diversity, is now melting; the different others are swept away in the shared destiny of death.
Libera Mazzoleni announces this tragic overlapping in the panel
Analogie , where Nothingness steps forward in the figure of indifferent uniformity, which takes away meaning even from the ideology that generated it, and makes it appear as a violent imposition void of any foundation.
The artist is telling us that a world that is setting out towards the domination of only one way of thinking is an artificial and therefore deadly construct.
In fact it intends to cancel the evidence that "not Man, but men live on this planet"- as underlined by Hanna Arendt - and that, for this reason, "plurality is the law of the earth."
"Uroborus" depicts that setting out towards domination, "Analogie" reveals its nihilist outcome.
Now let us recall the possible meaning of the images of wisdom, embodied in the Uroboros and in the alchemic vase.
The serpent, holding in its mouth its variegated tail, connecting the beginning and the end, is a metaphor for the eternal coming back of sameness, which always happens and manifests itself in the multiform variety of the spectacle of the world.
As a symbol of the cosmic wheel, it describes a circumscribed space, where Necessity, which governs the sky and the earth, unfolds as a rhythm and a measure which guarantees and preserves Being in its own unfolding through the time.
The identity, evoked in the eternal returning, is not nihilist uniformity but a connecting bond for many, an analogy between macro and micro-cosmos, a relation where the equal and the different constantly recall and complete each other, revealing a bond of vital solidarity.
The same analogy is expressed through the symbol of the alchemic vase.
This is the symbol of the purification process that brings to light the gold kept in the heart of human beings and of the world.
The alchemic wisdom deals with number, its sacred and divinatory meaning, in order to elicit that relationship which, bringing macro and micro-cosmos closer, reveals the secret harmony of the universe and in this way starts a process of metamorphosis of the Self, as an initiatory path searching for the philosopher’s stone.
The artist, while evoking the fading of this ancient eye, also points out the breakthrough of a new knowledge able to oust all the expressions of wisdom.
Beyond the space confined by the Uroborus, where beginning and end are joined, there is in fact another open space, with no boundaries, which is inhabited and dominated by Number which repeats and splits, absorbing the colors of the sky and the earth.
While in the cosmic wheel all the points of the universe join and weave the weft of Necessity, which lives in analogy, that is, in the familiarity of each part with the Whole, the open space announces the Whole as an abyss of the possible and as a radical contingency.
The effect of disorientation, and the anguish of sinking in the immensity of the infinite, calls for an action so powerful as to bridle a universe that runs away, to govern the threatening instability of contingency, and to dominate the imponderability of the possible.
Science is born as a practical-operational knowledge, made visible in the making of Téchne that will allow man to become the owner of the world.
Stepping away from that thinking, that questioning of the meaning of what happens, man relies upon calculating reason. This develops as a universal mathematization of reality; it resolves and dissolves reality through the mathematical function that expresses it, through the plan that precedes it, and structures it within abstract schemes and models, completely controlled by scientific practice.
In this new light, the world exists only as an abstract image of itself, and nature only as a predicted mathematical hypothesis.
The meaning of Number also changes: since it becomes an abstract object, disconnected and separated from the spatial-temporal world to which human-beings belong and where they live, Number exists in itself, as an absolute entity, with no links and further connections. It imposes itself as a new infinite that does not create anguish because it is completely manageable through calculation and completely speakable through the mathematical function, which dispossesses the existent, dematerializing it into non-sensible entities.
Number ceases to be either the sign of a limited quantity describing the essence of a particular entity perceived by its material presence, or the symbol that expresses the order of the Sacred.
Number no more expresses either limits or the order of the Sacred, because it has absorbed nature within a conceptual and abstract system, which has transformed everything into products of human subjectivity.
In the world inaugurated by calculating reason, number becomes the language and the measure imposed by man to Being that, from now on, will occur only within the parameters of infinite calculability.
Things, dissolved into the calculation expressing their function, will no more need to be named because they will exist only within the reproducibility and the interchangeability of the function, which gives them life.
What exists in the instability of contingency is transferred to a mathematically pre-calculated space, and therefore it is directed and forced towards establishing that calculating reason draws and assigns to it each time as a necessary condition for its own being.
A new eye appears blind and indifferent to the things already sunk in the boundless sea of abstraction, which covers and wraps them inside the formality of an equation or of a function, therefore predisposing them to the domination of man.
It is the eye of Techne, final realization of calculating reason, that articulates knowledge as infinite power.
Every single thing is losing meaning in this new horizon, for the essence of things is no longer connected to Being that keeps and gives meaning to them as its own manifestation. Things are now connected to a plan that brings them into being and decides, through calculations, their function.
Confronting the two panels “Uroboros” and “Analogie”, we might say that Libera Mazzoleni has evoked the power of number together with the failure of meaning, the infinite measurability and the loss of the world, the imposition of a practical, operational point of view that uniforms everything, and the vanishing of a plurality of visions that look at existence as polymorphous impetus and tension.
In particular “Analogie” brings to light the end of that path, the desert and the desolation of uniformity together with the nihilism that is hiding in the infinite making of Téchne.
Placing the emblem of the world controlled by the rhythm of technology, and the upside-down alchemic vase close to each other, and then sinking both into blood, “Analogie” expresses the folly governing our lives, the impossibility of walking on the path of wisdom, and the emptying of the word freedom, which paced the journey of modernity towards the establishment of the “regnum hominis” on the earth.
Freedom and wisdom are completely destitute of any meaning in the universe of excess, and therefore they abort, sinking in the same destiny of death.
They cannot exist in this new and single horizon, because their pursued goal is not that of practical efficiency, but an ethical value able to hold together thinking and hope.
Maybe the ruinous identity, brought to light by the artist in the panel
“Analogie,” is this impossibility of looking at meaning and corresponding to Being through the “ethic of Caring.”
Téchne spreads a veil of gray uniformity over the existent, which disappears in the freezing practice of mathematical reasoning.
This in fact subtracts from every place its properties, from each thing its colors, from each sentient body the distinctive marks of the unique story that the body carries within itself and that refers to the unique subject inhabiting it.
In the indifferent equivalence of the infinite measurability of space, “making” marks the horizon of possibilities, and creates the world as a reign cluttered with “usable-buyable;” “making” dictates the conditions to be and to live.
This is a making with no limits, which finds its justification within itself, independently from what is actually made.
Its goal and its reason for being consist in producing, which means “actualizing” what is planned by scientific reason.
“Making” introduces and imposes itself through “Efficiency,” which has no other meaning than ”ability, power to produce” everything. “Efficiency” coincides then with the principle of pure functionality, with no other reference than the perpetual making functional to production.
Through Téchne man fulfills the promise of the Serpent: “Eritis Sicut Dei.”
Having imposed himself as the measure of everything, both the things that are because they are and the things that are not because they are not, western man appointed himself as the foundation of their existence or their not-existence, and as the one who determines or rejects their occurrence.
The making of Téchne therefore sounds like an infinite power-will that makes decision not only over life and death but also over how to live and die.
The god-man breaks the ties imposed by Anánke, who gives to each entity its part within the Whole and presides over and takes care of the becoming of the Earth. Man himself continues to challenge the Earth, starting processes that jeopardize and twist the meaning of the existence of humanity itself.
As an omnipotent demiurge, evoking the power of Nothingness, already called forth by the biblical God in the act of creation, man creates his one-dimensional world where “every beauty of individuality” (Hegel) is canceled in the anonymity and in the homologizing, where “all ostentatious talking empties reason and dries the earth” (Hegel); and where subject is born in the shape of submission to a pervasive power that exalts and gives freedom only as conformism.
The artist introduces us to this world, identified by the planetary Téchne, with the panel
“Genesi” (Genesis.)
Using a rough, shaggy, penetrating mark, she draws the images of red, blood-colored mice, with deformed bodies that re-grow on themselves like horrible, fleshy excrescences, doubling, tripling, and developing more heads.
“Genesi” seems to elicit both the origin of man, characterized by the divine order to dominate over all the other living beings present on the earth, and the origin of life in the laboratory where science, faithful to that order, while cultivating guinea-pigs, celebrates the actualized dominion, which manifests itself in the invention of a life forced into relationships able to give birth to new beings or fragments of living matter to be utilized for “fixing” damaged bodies.
Creation, as a process of infinite manipulations, continues and completes on the earth the creation ex nihilo, dreaming of conquering death.
It is possible to shape and dissect bodies into parts that can be implanted in other bodies absolutely equal in their functions; it is possible to reproduce and multiply bodies by cloning, therefore making the connection with others superfluous and useless, and affirming the self-sufficiency of an artificial, self-generating process.
After having stolen the secrets of life, Téchne forces it to reproduce itself out of its natural process, and to be channeled inside the regulations of infinite manipulation. The display of Téchne is celebrated in the aseptic sanctuary of the laboratory.
The power of the artificial, which has supplanted the natural, describes an estranged and estranging world, where real and virtual are confused, where the part dominates the whole that exists in the artificial only as an assemblage of undifferentiated pieces.
The artist may die but one hand, which is either her own hand, cloned and multiplied in the laboratory, or a sophisticated prosthesis, can still move, stroking the canvas with the brush. The subject is no longer necessary; the important thing is to create the conditions that allow a specific function to exist beyond the subject.
“Genesi” and “Clones of Art” bring to light the sinister omnipotence of the violent making of Téchne, which forces the infinite variety of nature to show itself only within the two categories of “usable” and “artificial.”
Usables are spread all around the world, where they lie in the indifferent equivalence of near-at-hand objects.
In the panel
“Utilizzabili” (Usables) both the toy –bombs with butterfly wings and the candy wrapped up in colored paper invite the hand of the child. In fact, since they serve the same necessary function, in a world that pursues only efficiency, the deadly tools live on the same horizon together with daily objects.
The atomic bomb is usable too.
Recalling the name of the mother of the pilot who didn’t hesitate to use her name in baptizing his bomber filled with death, and transcribing it with the familiar characters of Coca Cola, the artist alludes to the silence of consciousness and the consequent loss of any criteria of judgment when facing the powerful charm of usables.
The womb of the bomber, which receives and carries the deadly tools, is confused and mistaken for the maternal womb that receives and generates life.
The characters of the Coca-Cola trademark mistake the atomic bomb for a daily use object, eliminating the distance that should separate them.
The firm belief that both function on behalf of a legitimate need, and therefore so appropriate and necessary as to make nonsensical the distinction between them, crosses the dozing mind.
The same principle applies to the
Cluster-bombs flying in the sky, together with the butterflies, either to explode, devastating bodies and places, or to lie down on the ground like undifferentiated objects that will be kicked by somebody like ordinary stones, or picked up without recognizing their deadly function.
The reign of usables, described by Libera Mazzoleni, refers to the rhetorical figure of the oxymoron, where the nonsensical becomes speakable.
As in the oxymoron, where terms of opposite meaning are present together within the same sentence, in the reign of usables death becomes life, war becomes peace, the explosive device becomes a toy, what is superfluous becomes necessary, what is strange becomes familiar, the object becomes subject, means become ends, the unconceivable becomes ordinary thinking.
The artist continues her exploration inside the world of “insane connections” actualized by Téchne, focusing her attention on the body, which is inhabited by the person and by which the person introduces itself, in its own singularity, to others.
The three panels,
Figure ad una dimensione (One dimensional figures), Il Violone delle comari (The Housewives Violin), The Women and the War, trace an itinerary of violence that at first separates the body from the person, transforming the body into an empty shell, and then torments and tramples its feminine manifestation, as an intolerable vehicle of a difference that must be erased and humiliated.
The body, manipulated and shaped over and over to erase the marks of time that attest to the process of becoming and the precariousness of existence, ceases to exist as a “lived body” that contains the deep mystery of a unique and unrepeatable subject.
It becomes image and loses its life and soul.
It shows itself, occupying the ephemeral space of appearance, as an artificial mask, an empty form, each time filled with the character required for the performance. As a puppet, it performs the male or female roles, following the version decided by the on-duty puppeteer, and it mistakes this other-directed movement for life.
The man and the woman, each facing the other, as one-dimensional figures needing support to stand on their own feet, cannot even see each other. Their eyes look in different directions; they don’t cross each other and therefore they don’t encounter the face of the Other, which always interrogates us, unhinging the narcissistic hýbris of Sameness.
These bodies, close and yet so infinitely distant from each other, describe the freezing distance of narcissism that, while pleased with a reflected image, affirms again Sameness, sinking and suffocating it in the desert of absence.
Libera Mazzoleni wraps these perfect bodies with the same green color that, instead of recalling blood and life pulse, freezes them as if to underline the anonymity of the empty sheath that deprives them of meaning.
The artist, reflecting on the destiny of the body, now brings to light the fundamentalist matrix of all uniform thinking as a practice of intolerance, which always strikes the Other in that uniqueness, which presents him/her to the world in his/her irreducible singularity.
Uniform thinking is always a universal falsehood, for it negates the existence of the particular, and pursues an identity that is enclosed in itself, arid, and eradicated from any relationship with the Other, and intrinsically violent, since it rejects both exchange and diversity.
Any uniforming and excluding universal is false abstraction and painful nihilism, since it is not articulated as the concrete and unavoidable coexistence of pluralities inhabiting the earth.
Any identity is a delusional solipsism if it doesn’t structure itself in relation to that diversity which opens the horizon of its own meaning.
Uniform thinking, both in its secular and religious versions, is a universal untruth, and therefore is nothing more than a sinister ideology of intolerance.
This ideology, as point zero of thinking, sinks into the blindness of a violence that celebrates death and the humiliation of Other as a necessary condition for its survival.
The artist perceives this suppressed and violated diversity in the destiny of the female body, which both the Christian occident and the Muslim orient, because of their male-chauvinist uniform thinking, have driven back into the black night of absence, shame, and marginality.
Woman, with her body, is not only living testimony to the indelible diversity of Other, and therefore radical denial of any single one-way and of any identity built within the solipsism of Sameness. Woman is also and overall, at the symbolic level, the space and place where the encounter and blending with the other occurs, together with the creation and the ongoing re-appearing of Other itself.
In the panel
Il violone delle comari (The housewives’ violin) the pillory, as a torture device to which ecclesiastic power often condemned women, so that they were forced to have on their body the mark of their exclusion and their condemnation to silence, is remembered together with the burka, with which men still hide women, concealing their bodies and their faces in an attempt to deny the presence of otherness, and to ensure that otherness will not interfere with the male world order, subverting it with its charge of newness and intelligence.
The empty eyes of the self-portrait of the artist, placed between the pillory and the burka so as to suggest a tragic continuity between the past and the present, tell the blind story of hundreds of years of denial, which have imposed on women a way of being-in-the-world characterized by absence and being forced to waste away in the darkness of uniformity that attests to the death of plurality and diversity.
In the background, a figure emerges and evokes an ancient mother goddess, through the circular symbolism of the belly and through the arabesques, with which the small lithic sculptures were adorned.
With the pillory around her neck and her sex covered with blood, the goddess underlines the ancient violence suffered by the female body through the vice gripping the throat, suffocating women’s breath and words, and through the rape that tears up and contaminates the womb, desecrating the place of origin, which always refers to Her from whom everybody comes.
The rape, which is constantly re-enacted in all wars, as they fight to eliminate any alien body seen as a threat to the self-referentiality of Sameness, is the disgusting expression of the condemnation to death of We. In fact rape not only destroys the possibility of the encounter with Other, but it appropriates woman’s body, and its power to create Others, marking it with the sign of Sameness, which continuously goes back to itself, killing that “human” of which male and female are different and complementary articulations.
This woman’s body, which is transfixed, plagued by wounds that cannot heal, rejected and condemned to live in the shame and in the anguish of a pain with no more words, testifies to the horror spread over the world when uniform thinking prevails.
In the panel
The Women and the War, the artist shows rape as an act that concludes and completes the meaning of war itself.
With a few strokes, she describes the torment of a disfigured body that a blind and hateful violence deforms and, unable to tolerate the face of the Other, bends to the ground, throwing it in the dust, in this way reaffirming male power as subject and owner of life.
Libera Mazzoleni has revisited the path that man, as omnipotent demiurge, has been walking to impose his dominion on the earth.
There are two myths that have articulated uniformity as a suffocating totalism and human failure: one is the myth of technological efficiency, which transforms nature, human beings included, into pure background to be infinitely exploited; the second one is the myth of uniform thinking, with its dowry of intolerance, war, rape, and practices for the elimination of others, as expedients to affirming and imposing an unsurpassable Sameness.
Becoming a thing to be manipulated, molded, homologated, and sacrificed, the human being predisposed itself to exist in the form of objectification and submission to a Mono-Subject System that determines its modality of being-in-the-world.
The artist also evokes the abyss of Nazism, courageously weaving again the web of memory that gives back to the present and to thinking the depth necessary to awaken the ethical feeling about life and its quality, its dignity, its meaning. As a laboratory where the denial of the human was experimented with and pursued, Nazism represented – as Jasper already pointed out – the general rehearsal of a technical apparatus serving and supporting a totalism that exalted itself as a perfect machinery for destroying the right of every human being to live a dignified life.
The artist brings to light the terrible intermingling of the uniform thinking of the superiority of one race, and the construction of a technical-bureaucratic apparatus suitable for the highly efficient extermination of Others; and from that intermingling a political system and a social organization representing the horror and the shame of the 20th century was born.
The panels
Un problema tecnico (A Technical Problem) and Zyklon B impose themselves on the eye with a cruel realism.
The artist recalls, as a mere technical problem, the search for the most efficient device for eliminating thousands of different others with the least possible waste and time. Passing from the car’s fumes to Zyklon B, which was spread inside the gas chambers, death is transformed into a fast and systematic extermination so that the problem is successfully solved.
Trebling and Auschwitz are rationally organized factories that produce corpses at industrial pace, they are places for working, distributing and manipulating human materials, and they are functioning as any other productive apparatus.
The division of work, the parceling of the production processes, the superiority and perfection of the organization, which guarantees the efficiency of the whole process, allow the transformation of a murderer into a skilled and reliable director of production or into a scrupulous worker, only responsible for the modality with which they perform their part of the work, and not for the goals that through that work the system is pursuing.
As Franz Strangle, director of the Trebling extermination camp said during an interview with Gitta Sereny: “ The work to kill by gas and burn from five to sometimes twenty thousand people in twenty-four hours, needs maximum efficiency. No useless movements, no conflicts, no complications, no accumulation. They arrived and in less than two hours they were already dead. This was the system. Wirth invented it. It was working. And since it was working, it was also irreversible.”
The artist refers to this continuity between the extermination camp and the productive-technological apparatus in the panel titled
Oswiecim , where she reproduces Auschwitz’s topographical map. The industrial complex of I.G. Farben, built not very far from the camp, is clearly visible.
The camp, organized to produce corpses, also provides workers for the Farben factory, which produces tools to make the extermination more efficient, and to improve the destructive potential of the wars fought by Nazism.
Coloring the map with tenuous and vivid acrylic colors, perhaps the artist alludes to the strategies used by the Nazis for camouflaging the death camps and concealing Nazism’s real face, or to the alienation that allows the false conscience to deny the horror in the name of a relativizing revisionism, which uniforms everything and alters the judgment.
But she also recalls, through the variety of colors, the presence, in those places, of a plurality of humanity to which the “pietas” of the memory might give back value, meaning, and dignity.

Libera Mazzoleni, through her complex journey for giving back to time the depth of duration, painfully has brought to light: the loss of thinking in which we are all involved; the failure of the subject in its ability to live in the place of limits, and therefore capable of discerning, judging, and assuming responsibility for change; the vanishing, then, of a subjectivity included in the same essence that gives form to it as a primeval opening to Being and not Nothingness.
The ego, swept away and absorbed by the impersonal “yes” of a reassuring common sense, exhausts itself; it becomes bloodless, and then is seduced by a reason used to control and dominate life, and is bewitched by an ethic celebrating efficiency and conformism as its own values. In this way the ego does not realize its being imprisoned by a totalist and intrinsically nihilist vision of the world, which brings with it the “destruction of a life worth living,” the annihilation of the tension towards an ulterior meaning, which characterizes life as a “leaning-out,” or “coming-out” from the situation where it is each time.
“What can I know, what must I do, what can I hope for, and who is man?” Kant wondered, assuming limits and finitude as measure of the human.
Our mutilated subjectivity, caged in the crowded and slippery present of real time, has forgotten those fundamental questions, precluding the way for being open to new horizons of meaning, and being cointent with living like a thing among other things.
“Je ne pense pas, donc je suis?,” the artist wonders, in the panel with the same title, overturning the Cartesian formula.
Is this oblivion of the self, this renunciation of what makes us open-minded, and thinking beings, the sacrifice that the subject has to make in order to continue to live in the one-dimensional world, fraught with fundamentalism and intolerance?
In the panel the words composing the question are broken in short dissociated syllables, presenting scattered letters of the alphabet with an inverted graphic.
Is this perhaps a way of characterizing the death of thinking: a nocturnal blind dance mistaking the steps, a convulsive movement disoriented by the illusion producing mirages, a distracted hopping among no-exit alleys leading nowhere, a dialogue vanishing in the “flatus vocis” of chatting where each word becomes deafening noise?
“Je ne pense pas, donc je suis?,” the artist wonders, and her question perhaps doesn’t only allude to the silence of the mind, which degrades existence to the level of simply living, but also resounds as an invitation to be free from the tyranny of Cartesian reasoning, which articulates thinking only as a mathematical method and quantitative vision of reality, indifferent to the meaning of being and existing.
Every liberation is overcoming the situation where we are, tracing the path leading out of the suffocating prison of the uniformity of the immediate, and the ability to imagine the future, unknotting the strings which strangle time by an asphyxiating repetition of Sameness.
Imagination is in fact stretching out over the “not-yet,” opening the horizon of the possible, making it emerge from the heart of reality itself where it lies as an often removed ulterior meaning.
Unlike fantasy, which is escape from reality, since it is a construction of parallel universes inhabited by a completely private subjectivity that having left the common world is unable to see and hear others, imagination is rooted in the sphere of what is perceived, holding past perceptions and projecting possible ones through a movement that, in the present, connects past and future.
Imagination, continuously integrating and enriching perception, creates associations that widen the limited space of the immediate and allow us to see what happens as a partial and temporary manifestation of another occurrence, as an opening to one more possibility.
Imagination reminds us that each manifestation is also concealment, since our conscience is always embodied conscience, namely located in a specific space and time, and therefore subject to a perspective limited by its own nature.
As Merleau-Ponty says, we have an eye that sees by lines and by planes, that is, through concealments and profiles.
In fact, perception offers only certain aspects that refer to other ones in order to complete their own meaning. Presence then evokes absence, and the wholeness of anything lives precisely in the link connecting what is manifested and what is possible in its different and successive manifestations. The imagination, composing everything as a unity of presence and absence, releases it from fixedness and opens it to that ulterior meaning that is kept in the shadow and always accompanies it.
Springing from the perceived reality and transcending the immediate in the possible, imagination leans out into the future that holds and prolongs the lived experience while orienting and leading it, on the thread of memory, towards its future.
Imagination leads us to the very heart of existence that is also a “leaning out,” a re-membering “coming out” from the actual situation, opening it to new opportunities, and enriching it with new meanings.
To imagine is to discover and bring to light new connections with what is closer and accompanies us in our daily life.
To imagine – Nietzsche’s Zarathustra would say – is to stimulate a thinking capable of tracing “sacred circles and boundaries,” therefore of building a different horizon where life, the earth, the world, and the plurality of human-being imposes itself as what is worthy to be fully loved and lived, with caring and respect, because it constitutes the conditions for human existence itself, our only wellness and hope for a future.
In this frame of reference, the panel “Je ne pense pas, donc je suis?” can be interpreted also as an invocation for a thinking that through remembrances, and through imagination, recalls all things from the oblivion where they were pushed by calculating reason, and composes new words, capable of welcoming, taking care, and expressing the manifestation of a multiplicity within that tension towards references which fills the heart with astonishment and awe.
Libera Mazzoleni believes that it is up to women to inhabit this kind of thinking and to begin “to trace scared circles and boundaries.”
With her being present as different, woman in fact not only testifies to the unalienable presence of Otherness, but she brings Other into the world; she
gives birth to it.
And birth, allowed by her body, is always a “beginning”- as H. Arendt would say – dependent on her caring.
As “place of origin,” with her power to create Other, woman articulates life in the tension of imagining, unveiling it as a radical need for future, which challenges the world, and calls it to be a welcoming and hospitable home for that otherness that brings with it a new eye and a new beginning.
The last panels,
Bagdad, Alfabeto (Alphabet), Gli altri colorano la nostra vita (Others Color Our Life), trace a line of continuity, which establishes a narrow link among measure, a different language, plurality.
A woman shows a unit of measure recalling and pushing war to the background, another woman speaks of her passion for the other, celebrating plurality as a gift coloring life and, between these two, the imagination of another woman, the artist, traces the letter of a different alphabet, and inserts the symbols for a different numeration, from which combination a different tale of the world, where the future announces itself as a new possibility for the living subject, might be born.
In the panel
Bagdad, the artist represents herself as in a negative, holding a Sumerian sculpture, which represents a crouching goose corresponding to an ancient unit of measure.
The delineated space has the colors of an unreal sky, crossed by glimmers charged with death; in the foreground a figure, possibly evoking all women, designated victims of every conflict, moves forward; in her hands she firmly holds the clearly delineated unit of measure.
The woman, as a fragile outline in her apparent evanescence, seems to come back from the abyss of death to oppose, with an ethical request for measure, the nihilistic violence of war, defending life and protecting the earth.
Measure compares differences and composes them in dialogue, where one is facing the other with his/her own convictions, but together with the other is committed to finding the way that leads to a common end.
“Zôon logon ekhon,” “Man is a living being capable of dialogue” – Aristotle said – and when dialogue ends, barbarity triumphs, degrading language to scream, yell, insult, and threatening sound.
The woman holding the symbol of measure, repels from herself and from the world violence as point zero of thinking, barbarization of the word, immoral duplicity of an impoverished human being in decline, imposing his selfish and deadly interests as universal values.
Hegel’s reflections on the “Roman principle,” summarized in the sentence “Censeo Carthaginem deledam esse,” where the destruction of the other is decided as a necessary strategy, comes to mind.
“The Roman principle is explained as the cold abstraction of domination and of power, as a pure egoism of will confronting others, egoism that does not have in itself any ethical end, but takes its content only from subjective interests.” (Hegel)
Gli altri colorano la nostra vita (Other color our life), the artist writes on the brightness of acrylic, underlining the presence of the other and the joy of the encounter and, at the same time, suggesting the path to go beyond this “hour with no voice,” when the word is silent, swallowed by the deafening cry of lies.
Reaffirming and defending the plurality that inhabits the Earth, recalling a subjectivity that builds its identity within a relationship, it will be possible to overcome and to turn a back against the falsehood that preaches mono-thinking, uniformity, the false universalism of any partial right, the manipulability of everything as a sign of progress, and does not see that the world, shared by all, is already close to its death when seen in a single aspect and can show itself in only one single perspective.” (H. Arendt)
H. Arendt, to whom the artist dedicates her last panel, was never tired of repeating that “Since they live, move and act in this world, human beings in their multiplicity can have meaningful experiences only when they can speak and mutually give meaning to their words.”
The work of Libera Mazzoleni, analyzed in the complexity of its many references, is not then a confinement in a uniform vision, but a painful decision to tell what is missing from our age, and a courageous attempt to bring to light the opportunities of a new temporality, measured by pauses in the dialogue, which always unfolds listening to the plurality of tales and is never tired of searching for words to persuade.
Dialogue, in its vigilant unfolding, only trusts the measure of thinking that always relates what is said to the horizon of signifying, where the demand for meaning is present and questions the experience of living that, through duration, keeps the depth of memory and the need for a future.
The artistic gesture of Libera Mazzoleni, repeating the movement of the poíesis as a making able to explore and reveal presence together with the background from which presence emerges, becomes the opening of a threshold, where the soul, which always carries the world inside, can rest, find itself, question, compose images to be given to other souls living in the world, not like in a land of exile but as in the precious and unique place of their sojourn within time.

H. ARENDT, Vita Activa. La condizione umana, Bompiani, Milano 1989
G.W.F. HEGEL, Lezioni sulla Filosofia della storia, Vol. 3, La Nuova Italia Editrice, Firenze 1967
M. HEIDEGGER, Essere e tempo, Longanesi, Milano 1976
M. HEIDEGGER, L’origine dell’opera d’arte, in: Sentieri interrotti, La Nuova Italia Editrice, Firenze1979
M. HEIDEGGER, La questione della tecnica, in: Saggi e discorsi, Mursia, Milano 1985
K. JASPERS, La bomba atomica e il destino dell’uomo, Il Saggiatore, Milano 1960
M. MERLEAUPONTY, Il visibile e l’invisibile, Bompiani, Milano 1969
F. NIETZSCHE, Così parlò Zarathustra, Adelphi, Milano 1995
F. NIETZSCHE, Ecce homo, Mondadori, Milano 1977
G. SERENY, In quelle tenebre, Adelphi, Milano 1975