Alison Knowles: Some Things
Edizioni Conz Raum
Feb 28–Apr 03, 2020
Exhibition view “Some Things”, Photo by Giorgia Palmisano.
Exhibition view “Some Things”, Photo by Giorgia Palmisano.

The Edizioni Conz Raum presents Some Things, a selection of works by Alison Knowles from the Archivio Conz collection.

Francesco Conz and Alison Knowles met in New York during Francesco's first trip in 1974, which began their collaboration on numerous of projects and editions. As it happened with most of the artists that have closely worked with Francesco Conz, their relationship shifted from a professional one to one of great friendship that lasted for their lifetime.

“Artists are involved in the every day chaos of life and art, and they promote a debate which is somehow central to the notion of enlightenment.”

Conz’s words reflecting his consideration of artists as saints helps us to understand the importance he placed on direct experience with the artists, and consequently on the “fetish” side of his collection: the collection of the artists' relics. This is the identity of the archive Francesco Conz put together over the course of more then thirty years: a life experience in which the lived moments with the artists come before their works.

An example of these great existing bonds can be seen in a peculiar work shown at the Edizioni Conz Raum: "Grant Moves South" is the book by Bruce Catton that Dick Higgins was reading in the last days of his life. Alison Knowles, his wife, decided to send it to Francesco Conz, accompanied by a letter explaining the reason for this gift.

“The Identical Lunch,” a tuna fish sandwich on wheat toast with lettuce and butter, no mayo and a large glass of buttermilk or a cup of soup, was eaten many days of each week at the same place and at about the same time as a digestible performance starting from 1969. In her 1971 artist’s book "Journal of the Identical Lunch," Knowles records the description of the lunch and collects descriptions of their experience from other friends and artists, using the performed action as the basis for a new way to develop media. Among others, the participants include Dick Higgins, John Giorno, Philip Corner, George Maciunas, Geoffrey Hendricks and Ay-O. Some of the works in the show, including the “Identical Lunch” series, demonstrate the interest Alison Knowles has in the printing process:

“I could print on cloth, but I was no longer having a brush and paint. I was printing with inks and I was kind of obsessed with the act of printing because you don't have to pull the squeegee all the way, you can do it with two colors, partially...Smear I mean it's kind of, I treated printing almost like a painting.”

The edition “Leone D’Oro” published by Edizioni Francesco Conz in 1978 also explores the possibility of printing by silk-screening shoe soles that the artist found on the shore of the bay of Naples. Her emancipation from the more classical ways of art happened through the freedom she found in the performativity of Fluxus experience:

“But the idea of those Fluxus pieces was that if you are gonna talk about your shoes, there is no one in this room that has the same pair of shoes in any way or the same history about them. So, it brings out the individual flavor of the person and their life.”

Alison Knowles (born 1933) is an American visual artist known for her installations, performances, sound works, and publications. Knowles was a founding member of the Fluxus movement, the experimental avant-garde group formally founded in 1962. The landscape of her practice is in the arena of performance, the indeterminacy of her event scores resulting in the de-authorization of the work and the element of tactile participation. Knowles’s artistic and social world overlapped with many other fundamental artists, poets and composers of the avant-garde milieu of 1960s New York. In 1967 Knowles collaborated with the composer James Tenney, Carolee Schneemann’s partner, on her 1967 Guggenheim award winning poem, performed by artificial intelligence, titled The House of Dust, that was recognized as the first computer poem on record. Tenney and Knowles, along with Higgins and John Cage, belonged to the New York Mycological Society. Knowles and Cage, when not scouring for varieties of mushrooms, produced the decade’s most important snapshot of notations to be performed: Notations, by John Cage (edited, designed, and produced by Alison Knowles) Something Else Press, 1969.