Piermario Ciani (1951-2006)
As announced in the previous newsletter, we're celebrating our older brother Piermario Ciani (1951-2006), one of the founders of the Luther Blissett Project , as well as one of the most important (albeit invisible) artists - what an inadequate word - to ever come out of the Italian underground scene.
PIER CIANI, THE MASTER OF CULTURAL GUERRILLA WARFARE
by Wu Ming 1, From L'Unità daily paper, August 9, 2006
I don't come to bury Piermario Ciani. It was already done a month ago. I come to praise him. This is not a "crocodile" [Italian slang for "pre-obit"]. No one expected that Pier, even if he was sick, would die so soon and none of his friends would've had the bad taste to keep an obituary at the ready.
I waited a few weeks before writing these words. I didn't know how to begin. Every reflection of mine, or inner journey, departed from Pier's computer and ended up returning there, among piles of magazines and heaps of materials. Straight after the funeral Emanuela, his girlfriend, proposed to those of us who'd come from far away to stay the night in Pier's studio-house, so as not to have to take the train or hit the road straight away. We declined the invitation. It was too soon to start disturbing the spirits. I know I would have not resisted the temptation, I would have spent the night without sleeping, rummaging through that random archive, discovering who knows what.
Creatures magnificent or monstrous, wild or ubertechnological, remain there hidden in the piles of papers, the ancient floppy discs, the cd-roms, the slides, the negatives, ready to jump out as soon as someone puts their hands in. Pier himself is among those creatures, primus inter pares, a democratic and affectionate creator. From the depth of 30 years creative work and cultural guerrilla warfare, he awaits without haste his 'reevaluation' and classification as a 'cult' artist.
One of contemporary Italy's most versatile graphic artists and inventors of signs – apart from one of the greatest 'connectors' between different scenes, movements, generations – he was able to be everywhere, to be whoever, to collaborate with everyone, without ever moving from Bertiolo, province of Udine. In the days after his death many writings appeared on-line. All of them began with the attempt 'to chart' his activity, to list all the cultural areas where he set foot, facilitating their evolution, changing them forever: Mail-artist, photographer, graphic artist, non-musician, punk rock band producer, architect of media pranks, propagator of myths, fanzine editor, publisher, organizer of exhibitions, founder of the Luther Blissett Project and so on like an obligatory haphazard catalogue.
Piermario Ciani (1951-2006) had written and published himself an automythobiographical volume, 'Piermario Ciani. Dal Great Complotto a Luther Blissett,' (Piermario Ciani, From the Great Complotto to Luther Blissett, AAA, Bertiolo 2000). A book object with dust jacket flaps that could be cut and transformed into bookmarks, and pages that juxtaposed texts from various sources with distorted images. It skips from the years when Pier was photographing exponents of the Friuli punk underground (the scene of the so-called 'Great Complotto') up until the exploits of the multiuse pseudonym 'Luther Blissett' in the second half of the 1990s, passing through many projects in collaboration with and parallel to two other versatile artists and cultural operators, Vittore Baroni and Massimo Giacon: in 1980 the fictitious noise rock band Mind Invaders, that only existed in the reviews of the music press; in 1981 the transnational network called 'TRAX' whose participants called themselves TRAX 01, TRAX 02 etc, an idea reprised by my collective (you just have to see how this article is signed); for the whole of the 1980s and 1990s a very intense production of 'mail art', brochures, messages in bottles and stickers.
Above all the stickers, many of them, to be stuck in public and private places, bearing unexpected messages, koans, aphorisms, often produced in thematic series. Think of the 1992 series, 'Art is the beginning of something else,' in which the syllable 'Art' was emboldened at the head of semantically extraneous words: 'ARTiculation', 'ARTillery', 'ARTeriosclerosis'. Pier, Vittore et al. even manipulated the strings of a super hero marionette, Stickerman.
When Luther Blissett was born in 1994, Pier converged all his previous experiences into the project, transforming it into a great synthesis of Italian counterculture from 1977 onwards. Some of his projects that hadn't ever completely gotten off the ground were 'recycled' and put into a new context, and became the foundation for some memorable Blissett pranks. His post-Fluxus wit was the inspiration for a thousand stickers. In 1995, the walls of the biggest Italian cities were covered with stickers created by an open community but produced (all of them) in Pier's alchemist workshop in Bertiolo. Venice in particular was plastered with dual-directional arrows that indicated, in the name of Blissett, an arbitrary 'psychogeographical route'. Other road signs made in Bertiolo: 'Road open to every experience,' 'Road closed for hatred in progress' [the word hatred 'livore' – is similar to work 'lavoro' in Italian] etc. The pride of place in my heart goes to the sticker with the message: 'Luther Blissett accepts no ideological conflict, only practical solutions.' A teaching that doesn't ever enter into the head of the left, ever.
As a publisher, Pier threw caution to the wind: he had nothing to lose, maybe just a few million of the old lire, every so often. Together with Vittore he founded the AAA publishing house whose catalogue was without doubt the most bizarre in the history of ISBN. Next to precious texts on counterculture and underground art you'd find book objects like 'The Death of a Book' by a certain Erica Moira Pini (decipher the anagram), with blank pages pierced by three bullets, or 'The Culture of Chaos' by Mino Cancelli (a forced Italian translation of 'Bill Gates'), a simple rebinding of discarded pages found on a printing works floor.
In 2001 Pier had begun a new project, a magnificent and graceful synthesis of all previous syntheses: the FUNtastic United Nations, a mapping of imaginary countries, with their geographical lebensraum, bureaucracy, stamps etc.
Rereading these words, I realize that it makes little sense trying to force Pier's curriculum vitae into a 6-7000 line article. I've restricted myself to a brief glance over a production and a network of relationships that defies any summarization. I hope whoever reads all this feels stimulated, wants to find out more, tries to get a copy of Pier's autobiography and other AAA books.
As far as material we will unearth in the future, we'll put it into circulation in the world, during celebrations without end and other occasions of unconditional, generous giving, like a great potlatch gift ceremony. Every work will circulate with the planet, around its own particular equator, until only wear and tear will take if from the hands and eyes of the living. I say goodbye Piermario, with no crocodile tears. Mandi! ["Goodbye" in Friulan]