Performance as a ritual
A leading figure in the "body art" movement of the 1970s, Gina Pane staged a series of meticulously prepared and documented performances in which every gesture was performed as a ritual, often linked to the element of bodily pain.
Pane's oeuvre follows a precise agenda: between 1968 and 1970, we speak of the "ecological body" phase (relationship between the body and nature). The period from 1971 to 1974 saw the "sociological body" phase (the body as the sounding board for society).
For Pane, the body is not only "in relation, but a relation in itself": between the earth and the skies, humans and nature, humans and the sacred, public and private, the social body and the cosmic body, the female artist and the female community, Paris and Turin.
Gina Pane's work has served as an example for an entire generation of artists.
Gina Pane was born in Biarritz in 1939 to an Italian father and an Austrian mother. She spent her childhood in Italy, a period during which she came into contact with the country's deeply rooted religious and spiritual traditions.
She studied at the Académie des beaux arts in Paris during the 1960s. Pane's first works were the Structures affirmées (1965-69): minimalist sculptures, geometric designs projected into space. These were similar to the explorations of Bruce Nauman and Robert Morris, in which colours dominate with their emotional values.
The ecological boby
In July 1968, Gina Pane was walking in the Orco valley near Turin: “Seeing a pile of stones exposed to the north, covered with moss and set in the damp earth, made me understand that they never received a single ray of sunshine or a ray of warmth. I decided to move them one by one and place them in an open space facing south" (Pierre déplacées).
This was her "first live action", in a relationship of contiguity with the cultural environment of Italian Arte Povera.
Pane's interventions on and in the landscape were documented in photographic sequences: the buried sunbeam (Enfoncement d'un rayon de soleil, 1969); the raked earth (Stripe-Rake, 1969); and the unfolded path (Continuation d'un chemin de bois, 1970).
This is a 1969 masonite photograph portraying Gina Pane throwing her sketches into a stream.
The sociological body
"Through a network of determinate signs, my actions highlight that form of madness attenuated by the social body that is neurosis and its idiosyncrasies, triggering a public process of liberation that has, until now, been subconscious".
Through a transfer to the spectators, the artist shares the human experience of pain, guided by a love of our neighbours: "If I open my body so that you can see your blood, it is for the love of you: the other".
The first action, Escalade non anésthésiée, was performed in her Paris studio in 1971. In Il bianco non esiste (Los Angeles, 1972), she repeatedly wounded her face with a razor blade in front of the audience. The gesture was a high-impact form of rebellion against convention, aesthetic canons and abuses affecting the female world.
This was followed by Action autoportrait (s): mise en condition/ contraction/ rejet (1973), Action transfert (1973) and Azione sentimentale (1973),Death control (1974).
The performance Azione sentimentale, performed at Luciano Inga-Pin's Diagramma Gallery in Milan in 1973, is the keystone of Gina Pane's artistic expression.
In the role of bride or vestal, the artist decided to use art as a form of revolt for human, political and environmental rights, characterising her poetics of feminism, protest and sacrifice.
She performed to an exclusively female audience with a bouquet of red roses, from which she detached the thorns, leaving a trickle of dripping blood. The red roses in the bouquet turned white, while the white dress became tinged with red.
“Today, I vindicate religiosity and value the fact that, in relation to my work, this is, etymologically speaking, the correct word. Needless to say, the term is not tied to any institutionalised practice but, on the contrary, it is I who provides the guidelines by which this religious dimension is connected to the common life of human beings.”
In 1981, Pane completed the cycle of her performances and began the "Partitions", in which the central topic was the role of the body and its relationship with the world. Often, these were wall installations that partially also bore traces of the same or previous works.
The artist abandoned the use of her body for expression due to its physical limitations. She returned to sculpture, but with the performative experience behind her. She continued to work in this field until her premature death in 1990. The subjects of her works were often the saints, indeed martyrs, that is, those who gave their lives for faith and humanity.
J'ai jeté 4 dessins dans le torrent Chisone (Turin) destination mer: Act raisonnable, ennuyeux, autocritique (1969) by Pane GinaLa Galleria Nazionale