| Friday, 04.10.2019 Liminale Körper

Art and Feminism in Italy: Tomaso Binga’s Liminal Actions

This paper focuses on the work of the Italian artist and performer Tomaso Binga (Bianca Pucciarelli), active in the 1970s in the field of visual and phonetic poetry and close to feminist ideas, under the perspective of liminality. The aim of the paper is the analysis of the ways in which Binga’s work on identity and the body challenged the stereotypes of femininity through a radical critique of social rituals and of dominant artistic languages. In 1971, Bianca Pucciarelli renounced her real name and began using a male pseudonym, “Tomaso Binga”. In so doing, she declared that in order to access the art world women had do adapt to male canons and language. Looking for more authentic forms of expression, Binga started using her own body: in the series Scrittura vivente (Living Writing), exhibited in 1976, Binga had herself photographed while performing the letters of the alphabet with her own nude body. She conceived this new physical alphabet to redeem the concealment of physicality and the apparent neutrality of artistic language, through a re-evaluation of what is considered imperfect, wrong, or inappropriate. In the series Scrittura desemantizzata (Desemantized Writing, 1974) Binga created graphic signs using canonical script deformed to the point of illegibility. Binga’s distorted and unreadable words retain the silences imposed upon women. Employing this form of writing, Binga created one of her most significant works: in 1976, in a private house in Rome, she performed Carta da parato (Wallpaper). During the performance, she covered all the walls of the rooms with paper hand-drawn with graphic signs. Wearing a dress made of the same paper and design, Binga blended into the setting and recited the poem Io sono una carta (I am Wallpaper). The action originated from the Italian idiom “fare carta da parati” (meaning “to be part of the wallpaper”), which was said of non attractive women who were not asked to dance at parties in post-Second World War Italian society. The artist presented the centuries-old problem faced by women, the impossibility of expressing themselves freely: Binga acted out women’s shared history of forced silence, things unsaid, words withheld and ideals of beauty which they cannot (and do not wish to) comply with. Through the concept of liminality, the paper aims to analyze the ways in which Binga’s works, thanks to the impulse of feminist ideas, undermine the established boundaries between masculine and feminine, between dominant and subaltern practices, between verbal writing and body language.