I like other people more and more.
I notice that other people have lots
of ideas. I don’t have time for ideas,
only for obsessions
1974/note unpublished during Ketty La Rocca’s lifetime
Ketty La Rocca’s playful note to herself differentiates between the rational notion of an idea, a formulated thought, and an obsession where the thought process is controlled by feelings. This exhibition brings together a group of works that illustrates her drive to disrupt traditional language, one that she considered to be representative of the patriarchy. She proposed as an alternative a language of gestures, one that encompassed a more emotional and expressive form of communication.
At the centre of the exhibition is the performance In principo erat verbum (In the beginning was the word) which was performed for the first time in the UK in July 2022 at 9 Cork St, London. A group of local performers and students were given a simple set of instructions and asked to play a game in which the challenge was to communicate without using the voice – only gestures made by the body. The improvised movements of the players captured on a film exhibited in the gallery, resulted in a series of performative vignettes as the participants in the game created an intricate set of movements and their own means of exchange.
The video Appendice per une supplica, 1972 further illustrates a language of gestures as the hands of a man and a woman perform a series of shapes suggesting a male dominant power structure. In later works from a series known as riduzione, La Rocca dissects these movements by tracing images of the hand gestures transforming them to a series of abstract lines. In others she draws the hand gestures using tiny words laced together, language made to form images rather than create meaning.
Two of her early collage works La Rocca offers a further method of resistance to what she considered the contemporary male dominated language both of words and images. Qualcosa di Vecchio (Something Old) 1964-5 is a playful reference to the mini-skirt as a woman gestures to its length next to the cut out words ‘La liberty e’ arrivata’ (Freedom has arrived). The second Ma non cerco abbastanza, (But I’m not looking enough) 1964/65 places cut out words and images together like players in a game. A broken egg, a family of monkies, the Milky Way, a mask, a chair (with the artists’ initials) are positioned next to each other asking us to formulate a meaning without offering any rational concept.
Thanks to The Ketty La Rocca Estate, Michelangelo Vasta and Marina Cioni
all images © the gallery and the artist(s)