Alighiero Boetti (Turin, 1940 – Rome, 1994)
The eclectic and cosmopolitan Alighiero Boetti – or Alighiero e Boetti as he signed himself from 1973 onward – debuted on the Turin art scene in the mid-1960s in the climate of experimentation surrounding the new conceptual avant-garde and Arte Povera.
In 1971, pursuing his innate interest in intellectual nomadism and in far-off cultures, he visited Afghanistan and elected Kabul as his second home. There, he began work on his series of Mappe: planispheres on which each nation is represented by the colours of its flag, embroidered by Afghan women.
Within the Mappe, as in the other cycles of works that accompanied his career (the compositions of letters, the Biro series, Alternando da uno a cento e viceversa . . .), Boetti developed an idea of creativity as a collective, open, process-oriented undertaking in which the artist designs the works but delegates their execution to the hands of others, who are guided by sets of rules also established by the artist. The ‘mental’ aspect remains a priority within the creative process, for which reason the majority of Boetti’s works unite formal beauty with a logical structure that is often based on a true code or a system for reading it.
In his production – which varies widely as regards materials, techniques and supports – Boetti strove to go beyond the usual categories – and he began with the concept of identity itself. From his works on the ‘double’, such as the false self portrait entitled Gemelli (1968), echoing Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘je est un autre’, through to his participative works, Boetti questioned and indeed undermined the idea of creative, cultural, linguistic and political unity.