by Michele Rizzo

Photography by Matt Ruffalo

Inside A Magazine No.23 Curated By Francesco Risso, the renowned choreographer Michele Rizzo applies his knowledge of the human form into sculpting the curator himself. Already acquainted with the Italian house, Rizzo choreographed Marni’s Autumn Winter 2020 show, an extension of his personal and institutional movement-based projects such as Rest (2021) and Reaching (2021).

Drawing inspiration from the undulating sequences that unfold in late American director James Bidgood’s film Pink Narcissus (1971), Michele Rizzo documents the process of transforming a block of clay into a human figure. For Rizzo, sculpture is a translation of imagination into reality, evoking the languid fantasies portrayed by the film’s protagonist. Bringing questions of human existence to the fore, the Italian cultural practitioner examines the textures of legacy that remain in memory and in nature.

Pink Narcissus (1971) directed by James Bidgood

Personing. ‘Why must we assume that this shaping hides a body? Why not instead take this shaping for what it is, as the event in itself, an event that includes a body-world co-composition? What if instead of assuming that the person is not the shape, we were open to a different concept of personing that included its architecting?… Look again, this time refusing to abstract body from shape. See the personing as the architecting and refrain from selecting out from the emergent shaping the contours of the body’s skin-envelope. See the shape for what it is: a new contouring. Acknowledge this tendency to see textile as that which covers and not as a materiality in its own right. Then see textile in the moving, as an active shaping of what a body can do. See textile as an ecology of practices that is not separate from the body it clothes. And now wonder at the ways you have become capable of abstracting the one from the other (and then wonder about how you abstract the sitting body from the desk, the walking body from the street, the sleeping body from the bed).’ – Excerpt from The Minor Gesture by Erin Manning (2016).


‘Can you think of something that links eroticism with movement?’ Francesco asks.
‘Clay sculpting, without a doubt,’ I respond.
A few days later, I’m in his office at Marni’s headquarters, which I’ll adapt as my studio for some time.

Shaping. On my first day here, I touch the clay, battling against the harshness of three squared blocks of earth, one stacked on top of another. What I have in my mind is yet to appear. I hold on to it as a kind of memory. It will come back to my sense of touch in the near future.

Once I place the blocks appropriately, I begin to remove layers until something resembling legs appears, timidly. From now on, it’s a play between seeing and touching which informs my beliefs.

What does sculpture mean to me? It is just that: the rendering of imagination through the means of desire.

The clay dictates my time. Its generous, available and sensual qualities transform into an inexorably ageing form, entirely mineral, and yet so uncannily tied with the laws that determine decay in the realm of the organic.

On the second day, I already feel a pair of quads stretching under my hands, with calves squished under the glutes. The pose begins to narrate a story.

Photography by Matt Ruffalo

Tactile. I keep coming back to James Bidgood’s Pink Narcissus, ever since I watched it for the first time in 2007. Some shaping happens there too, portrayed in the ever re-morphing of the protagonist Pan. I see him as a diamond, shaped through the two-dimensionality of his mirror, every time he puts on and removes a different garment. Garments are tools that sculpt his fantasies, at times adhering to his body till they become a second skin — a more-than-skin — with the power perhaps to let him transform into the heroes or villains which animate his languid imagination. The textures of the pieces of clothing and accessories are the true protagonists of the movie. Watching is tactile.

Emptying. On the sixth day, I’m working on the corduroy texture when I overhear Francesco in the atelier next door say the clothes he’s making are about human emotions. I hear the words abrasion, discolouring and mending. I secretly smile as I carve hundreds of velvet ribs.

And yet, I’ll soon begin to hollow out the legs.

In order to harden with stability, the formed clay needs to be placed in a kiln for at least two days at 980°C. But for it to survive this process, its entire surface needs to be an even thickness. The sculpture needs to be rid of any excessive clay. It’s a tediously exhausting process that requires the modelled piece to be basically dismembered, risking destroying its details that took several hours to make.

Although I can feel the body’s form tightening the pair of pants, what I’m doing is actually getting rid of the body. I want the body to survive only as a thought, by stretching the fabric. A human memory that protrudes from within? As I remove the sculpture of excess clay, I love to see bits, already emptied, reminding me of the insides of prehistoric animal bones.

Photography by Matt Ruffalo

Traces. For a while now, when I visit the seaside in the south of Italy where I was born, I cannot help but indulge in a very specific fantasy. As I sit on the cliffs, I reorient my body towards the side of the beach where the city is no longer in view. The reef arches sharply towards one side, and in some places it is so tall it hides the nearby buildings if you sit near the water. From this position, I can see the sea, the sky, the cliffs and the edge of the small forest right behind. Just by reorienting my own body, I erase any signs of humanity from view, entering a fantasy where only traces remain forever: a pack of cigarettes, a used condom, a forgotten shoe.

Photography by Matt Ruffalo

Photography by Matt Ruffalo

Photography by Matt Ruffalo

Photography by Matt Ruffalo




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