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Texts and Subtexts John Di Stefano

9 May 2005

Texts and Subtexts John Di Stefano

In the exhibition, Texts and Subtexts, interdisciplinary artist, video-maker, writer and curator John Di Stefano explores the controversial figure of Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922 – 1975).

As a politically engaged artist and openly gay man living in the tumultuous Italy of the 1960s and '70s, Pasolini was continuously portrayed by the media as a social outcast. His name became synonymous with scandal and 'otherness' despite the fact that he was highly respected as an artist and intellectual. He was assassinated in 1975 leaving behind a rich and varied body of filmic and written work.

Di Stefano's installation-comprising video, sound, photography, interactive book-work, and site-specific works form a sort of alternative museum that attempts to critically reframe aspects of the public archive of press imagery, filmic material and varied ephemeral texts left behind by the slain filmmaker.

In Texts and Subtexts, Di Stefano's approach is that of a critical meditation which attempts to reclaim Pasolini's 'otherness'. As a first-generation Italian-Canadian, Di Stefano's relationship with Pasolini is not that of a biographer, but that of a translator who shares a cultural and linguistic background with the filmmaker. Di Stefano negotiates the complexities of cultural translation and acculturation to suggest that we think of the expression and representation of identity as porous and fluid, made up of numerous overlapping symbolic and cultural experiences, all modulated with the use, and abuse, of language(s).

John Di Stefano (MFA, UCLA) is an interdisciplinary artist, video-maker, writer and curator. He is Associate Professor, and Director of Postgraduate Studies at Massey University's School of Fine Arts (Wellington). His studio work is focused primarily in video, installation, photo-based and time-based media, and has also included performance, bookwork, site-specific and public art projects. He has extensively exhibited and published internationally since the mid-eighties.

“Pier Paolo Pasolini, screen writer, essayist, poet, critic and novelist, was murdered violently in 1975. Pasolini is best known outside Italy for his films, many of which were based on literary sources - The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales. Pasolini referred himself as a 'Catholic Marxist' and often used shocking juxtapositions of imagery to expose the vapidity of values in modern society. His friend, the writer Alberto Moravia, considered him "the major Italian poet" of the second half of the 20th century.

In the 1960s Pasolini's interest in language drew him to semiotics, although his concern with dialect marked his work from the first collections of poems. One of these early influences was the modern novelist Carlo Emilio Gadda, whose experimental novel That Awful Mess on Via Merulana, written in a mixture of Italian, Roman, Venetian, and Neopolitan dialects, appeared in a Florentine review 1946.

Pasolini has presented his approach to cinema in a number of essays. His opposition to the liberalization of abortion law and criticism of the radical students made him unpopular on the left. From Porcile (1969), in which a son of a Nazi father is eated by pigs, Pasolini's films became increasingly controversial, but at the same time his ideological stance become more concealed and individualistic. He once remarked: 1I too, like Moravia and Bertolucci, am a bourgeois, in fact a petit-bourgeois, a turd, convinced that my stench is not only scented perfume, but is in fact the only perfume in the world.’ His last film, Saló, or the 120 Daysof Sodom (1975), set in the last years of WW II in Italy, linked fascism and sadism. The film was banned virtually everywhere.

Pasolini's creative productivity did not stop in films. He wrote several tragedies in verse. In 1972 his critical writings were collected and published under the title Empirismo Eretico (Heretical Empiricism). He also contributed to the Milanese newspaper Corriere della sera. On morning of 2 November, 1975, his body was discovered on waste ground near seaside resort of Ostia. A young male prostitute was tried and convicted for the murder in 1976. A week before his death, Pasolini had said in Sweden, that he will be killed probably very soon. He had started to investigate the Mafia's link to the prostitution business. Pasolini's massive unfinished novel, Petrolio, was published posthumously in 1992.” –

Pelorus Trust Mediagallery

Preview, Thursday 12 May from 6.00pm

Friday 13 May 2005 -Saturday 4 June 2005

9.00am till 5.00pm


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