Alighiero Boetti

Alighiero Boetti (born 1940, Turin; died 1994, Rome) worked with cement, cloth, electric light, wood and even the postal system. His array of techniques embraced embroidery, drawing, photocopying, printing, photography, construction and often involved collaboration with people both inside and outside the art world. With this diverse and democratic approach, he wanted to blur the boundaries between art and life, and to disseminate his art as widely as possible using the humblest of means. He rejected the strategies and materials of ‘high’ art in favour of ‘low’ forms such as craft and design. Yearly Lamp, 1966, for example, is simply a light bulb in a wooden box, which randomly switches itself on for eleven seconds each year. This work focuses both on the transform-ative powers of energy, and on the possibilities and limitations of chance - the likelihood of a viewer being present at the moment of illumination is remote.

Boetti was fascinated by the relationship between chance and order, systems of classification, and many aspects of culture, particularly non-Western traditions and practices. This global vision is reflected in his best-known works - the series of embroidered maps of the world, made in collaboration with crafts-workers in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Here, the shape of each country is embroidered with the design of its national flag, vividly illustrating our world of fiercely demarcated individual nation states. As Boetti’s works demonstrate, these boundaries are nevertheless involved in a constant process of flux and negotiation due to political events such as the reunification of Germany, or the collapse of the Soviet Union. Boetti disassociated himself from Arte Povera in the early 1970s.

See also