Mario Merz’s retrospective will deepen into the drifts and threads of an oeuvre that stood up against the current by stressing prehistoric time as understood outside history’s teleological discourse in the modern episteme. This anachronistic perspective, evident in the choice of materials and iconography, echoed also the Italian political and intellectual context during the 60s and 70s, bringing into light Merz’s political commitment, as well as his antagonism to the penetration of American lifestyle and capitalism around the globe.
A constellation of works related to the critic of capitalism and postindustrial society identify Merz’s questioning of the established models of discourse through a pre-modern and diachronic imaginary of forms derived from the mythical and the geological: the igloo, the table, the spiral, the river, the ancestral animals (rhinoceros, crocodile, etc.) together with the use of organic materials (clay, branches, wax, charcoal, etc.) and particular associations such as fire-ray-arrow-neon and the idea of the nomadic are implicit in models of life, subsistence and adaptation that have evolved with certain independence, embodying recognizable forms of resistance. In this sense, the search of the mythical differs in Merz from other routes taken by his contemporaries in his articulation of a critic of modernity in that his archaism has nothing to do with the melancholic longing of the past. On the contrary, Merz’s appealing to a language of morphologies and modes of representation that are both literal and evidently exposed prove to have an specific extra-artistic potential to undermine the illusion of representation.
Merz’s use of precarious materials (letters, food wrappings, etc) originated during his imprison in 1945 when he militated in the antifascist resistance group Giustizia e Libertá. His political concerns unfolded early in aesthetic terms giving shape to some of his crucial works. Igloo di Giap; Che fare? and Solitario solidale, ensued from the events of 68, as well as the political and philosophical ideas that, particularly in Italy, modified the classical conception of Marxism regarding the role of the intellectual as a revolutionary subject.