|In 1977 Pistoletto places a mirror on the altar of the church of San Sicario, a mountain village where the artist periodically lives. A picture of this action appears on the poster and on the cover of the catalogue of his exhibition called Division and Multiplication of the Mirror. Art Takes On Religion, which takes place at Galleria Persano in Turin in March 1978. Through his works, actions and discussions with the public during this exhibition and two texts published on its catalogue, Pistoletto announces and presents two basic directions along which he will develop his work.
The first direction - Division and Multiplication of the Mirror - arises from the artist’s realization that a mirror can reflect anything except itself. However, by dividing the mirror in two and gradually shifting the two sides at an angle along the axis of its division, the mirror can be made to multiply. This phenomenon forms the basis of a new series of works drawing attention to the principle of division as a universal element of organic development and, on a social level, of sharing as a logic alternative to accumulation and exclusion.
The second direction - Art Takes On Religion - constitutes a first attribution of centrality to art, in regard to other fields of human activitity and knowledge, which Pistoletto will later develop with his Project Art (1994) and later on with the founding of Cittadellarte. It also represents the beginning of a reflection on the relation of art and spirituality, which he will further explore in some of his works such as Multireligious and Secular Place of Meditation (2000), The Time of Judgment (2009) and in his text Omnitheism and Democracy (2012).
“I cut the mirror together with its frame,
so that the two halves of the frame, sticking to the two mirrors,
testified to their original oneness. A series of works and operations
on the divided mirror followed in different places and environments,
from Corpus Christi in the United States, to Aalborg in Denmark.
At the same time, my cooperative work, begun in 1967 with the poster
for my studio opening, continued. Thus, the theoretical and factual
side of my work proceeded along parallel lines. The mirror stood
for the theoretical side, cooperation stood for the factual one.
My individuality, compared to the singularity of the mirror, was
divided and multiplied when I created with someone else, just as
the mirror is divided and multiplied…
At San Sicario … I placed a mirror, where usually there was
a painting, in a baroque frame on the altar of the church. Thus,
just as in the early sixties I replaced canvas with mirrors on the
walls of houses, art galleries, and museums, here, I replaced the
canvas on the altar with a mirror…. At the beginning of our
century, the avant-garde made art again autonomous. Art ceased to
be a symbol of religious and political power, but it is still far
from the people, because its autonomy regards only its aesthetic
side. Now art must find autonomy for its factual side as well….
‘Art takes on religion’ means that art actively takes
possession of those structures, such as religion, which rule thought;
not with a view to replacing them itself, but in order to substitute
them with a different interpretative system, a system intended to
enhance people’s capacity to exert the functions of their
own thought” (Michelangelo Pistoletto, Divisione e moltiplicazione
dello specchio – L’arte assume la religione, Galleria
Persano, Turin 1978).
In 1978 Pistoletto began a year-long residency at
DAAD (the German academic exchange service) in Berlin. During this
time the Nationalgalerie showed a group of his mirror paintings
interspersed with works from the museum’s permanent collection.
Thirteen of his other works were scattered in thirteen public places
around the city. At Schweinebraden Gallery, in East Berlin, Pistoletto
showed up at the opening of his exhibition An Island in Time dressed
as a seventeenth-century gentleman. Here he also exhibited the design
of a bridge, which became the logo of Creative Collaboration, carried
out by Pistoletto in the United States the following year.