Zero to Infinity: Atre Povera 1962–1972: Gilberto Zorio

The work of Gilberto Zorio (born 1944, Andorno Micca) spans sculpture, installation, text and performance. It is characterised by his interest in natural processes involving alchemical transformation and the release of energy. Demonstrating elementary physical laws such as evaporation, pressure, the effects of heat and humidity, his works are metaphors for revolutionary human action and creative energy. In Column 1967, a cylinder is filled with a cobalt chloride and plaster mix. With changes in humidity, this goes from pink to blue and back again. The rate of change depends on the number of people in the room.

In To Purify Words 1969, a long, soft tube containing alcohol is laid in a part circle on the floor, the two ends being raised up to head height. The spectator speaks into one end of the tube and the ‘purified’ words emerge at the other. An unexpected contrast between form and message occurs in Hate 1969, in which a soft lead panel is violently imprinted with the word ‘Odio’ (Hate).

The same sense of aggressive energy is present in Phosphorescent Fist 1971, where a luminous wax hand, clenched into a fist, is periodically blasted with light so that it seems to punch out into the darkness. ‘I have always tried to remove technological functions from all materials’, Zorio has commented. ‘My work with lights… came out of the idea of giving back to light its original function, which was not that of illuminating a room or a table but being heat, a source of energy.’