“I always referred to my language as ‘my alphabet’”, says Anna Maria Maiolino, 76 years old, during a conversation at the Luisa Strina Gallery, where she had an exhibition until March 23. The artist has just inaugurated a show at the Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea, in Milan. In September, Anna will present a large exhibition at Whitechapell Gallery in London, organized in partnership with the Italian institution. Recently the artist presented a show at MOCA, The Museum of Contemporary Art, in Los Angeles.
It is a busy year for the artist, who says she is reading the book My Alphabet, by the Bulgarian philosopher Julia Kristeva. A friend told her about this book in the late 1990s, but only now Anna has been able to enjoy the pages. “I really like to read philosophy, because it’s a form of feeding the imagination. In this case, my imagination”, she declares. Surrounded by lines and dots, striking signs in her work, a passage from the book echoes: “Printed in me, the alphabet triumphs; everything around me is an alphabet”.
Lines and dots, whether in ink, pen or structural cement; the eggs in the performance Entrevidas or in the strip of cloth that covers the body in In ATTO, are elements that represent, for her, “the first breath of the idea that connects the work with the world”, especially when in drawing, what she calls “the first manifestation of Anna”. It is a type of alphabet that does not need the code in word, it is an post-word, something that comes before the word.
It is always important to point out the migratory issues in the life of the artist and to realize how important the elements of her work were important for her communication with the other, given that for some time she felt the need to belong to a place, and language is part of this. After all, Anna left Calabria for Venezuela and then for Brazil, but also lived in other places over the years, as in Argentina and the United States. Despite the differences in idioms, her language in art has been and is universal. So is ‘her alphabet’.
At another point in Kristeva’s book, the author reflects: “The alphabet revived in me, for me, that I could be all letters”. Identifying her language as her alphabet, it is certain that the letters that make up the abecedary of Maiolino today are intrinsic to her, who never bothered to remain static and had no fear, for example, to depart from figuration. The art process, for her, has always been something to build and deconstruct, which she calls, in an interview for the book Anna Maria Maiolino (Cosac Naify, 2012), “an active state of transformative meditation.”
It is in this way that the alphabet of Maiolino becomes plural and infinite, in the measure that still wants to develop and explore ways. To keep doing this, she wants to rest a little and think of other things: “Obviously you do not forget in your memory what you did previously, because everything is inside you. The artist is a product of various stratifications of culture. Then you do not escape of the thick memory, within you and within all that has already been done”.
For a brief distance that allows her new perspectives, the artist has thought of not doing more retrospective exhibitions for some time. In addition, she plans to keep a regular distance between individual exhibitions she does in galleries that represent her: “I want to have fun experimenting: seeing what this new Anna is at 76”.