Riccardo Giacconi

Simone Pianetti (1858 - ?)
ongoing research project
in collaboration with Andrea Morbio

An ongoing project around the figure of Simone Pianetti, presented through different formats, such as puppet shows, lectures, publications, exhibitions, films and sound works.

Simone Pianetti (1858 - ?) was an Italian mass murderer. On the single morning of 13 July 1914, Pianetti used his rifle to shoot and kill seven people who ruined his life and his reputation in the village of Camerata Cornello, northern Italy. Among them were figures of power in the village, such as the town clerk, the parson and the doctor.

Soon after the massacre, Pianetti left the village and fled to the mountains. He was never arrested and his body was never found. After more than 100 years, in his area his figure is still controversial and for many his story embodies a positive example of revolt against authorities, while he personifies an anti-establishment political symbol – notably for anarchist circles in Italy and in the United States.

The first installment of the project was a performance, Un ligero equipaje para tan largo viaje, in collaboration with Nerea Elizalde. It featured in the one-day event Dezplazamientos Temporales that took place
 11 December 2010 at La Alhondiga, Bilbao, Spain.

A 12-year old girl, standing at the entrance of the building, shouted a looping series of sentences.
The performance aimed at functioning as a non-recorded reportage. The text was a montage of fragments of interviews with citizens of Camerata Cornello, the village of the Pianetti massacre. Such interviews were collected during a field research conducted in summer 2010. In the performed text, all details about names, dates and locations were omitted.

* * *

Shortly after the massacre in 1914, local puppeteers started to perform adaptations of Pianetti’s story, which have been transmitted and performed until the 1990s.

Giacomo Onofrio represents the third generation of a puppeteer family, from the North-West of Italy. The puppet tragedy Il vendicatore (“The Avenger”) was written by his grandfather right after the news about Pianetti’s massacre had been spread.
The play has not been regularly performed since the 60s, since Onofrio doesn’t perform puppet shows for adults anymore, due to the lack of an adult audience.

The second installment of the project was the re-enactment of Onofrio’s ancient puppet show about Simone Pianetti, exactly in the village where he executed his massacre. The puppet show Il vendicatore was performed by Onofrio in the square of Camerata Cornello in September 2012, ninety- eight years after Pianetti’s massacre was executed in the same place.

Installation view, Quadriennale d'arte,
Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Roma, Italy, 2017.

* * *

At the end of their performance, those wandering artists we call cantastorie (singer-songwriters from Northern Italy between 1850 and 1950) would sell printed flimsy flyers containing the lyrics of the song they had just performed (in Italian, they are called fogli volanti). As well as words, there were often one or more illustrations, which summed up the main theme of the song: they were either vignettes printed on the top of the flyer or single pictures placed to the side of the lyrics.

A third installment of the Pianetti project has been a series of fogli volanti focusing on Simone Pianetti’s story. After examining two samples of flyers issued at that time and concerning this notorious affair, a new series was produced, which covers the documentary aspects only marginally, in 
the form of footnotes, captions, editor’s additions and similar continuous variations on layout and genre. At the center of each flyer, there is a love song, Monti e Mari (“mountains and oceans”), which has no historical or philological connection to the Pianetti affair: it works as a fulcrum, as an overtly conventional core around which objects, quotations, and images are arranged. In a play of dissonant harmonies, a gory crime story is set in what might look like a love song. The book was designed in collaboration with Giulia Marzin.

Installation view, Viafarini, Milano

The graphic design of the series is the result of a study of the fonts, illustrations and themes found in Italian printed materials dating from the first three decades of the 20th century. We took into consideration flyers as well as posters, book covers, and pamphlets.

Monti e Mari (English)

Monti e Mari (Italian)

* * *

American writer Harry Ashton-Wolfe, in a book published in Boston in 1929, focused on a heterogeneous series of revenge stories, among which the massacre by Simone Pianetti. The author deals here with a number of outlaws he had personally been in touch with. The chapter entitled Pianetti, the Chamois Hunter is an account that allows to discover a part of the biography of the avenger from Bergamo.

The Chamois Hunter is a story where real elements fit together almost perfectly with masterfully engineered fiction. Ashton-Wolfe is a writer but also a criminologist, who made of his ‘scientific’ career the emblem of his artistic inspiration (he is thought to have had a friendship with Sherlock Holmes’ creator Arthur Conan Doyle). While reading his account, we are not able to clearly perceive the dividing line between real events and literary invention.

* * *

An essay about ‘The Variational Status’ of the document, regarding the latent, marginal and unofficial modalities of transmission of Pianetti’s story, was first published on the Volume 2 of “Cahiers du post-diplôme”, a publication edited at the initiative of the postgraduate platform “Document and Contemporary Art“ of the European School of Visual Arts (EESI).

Project exhibited at: FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, Reims, France; Centrale Fies, Dro, Italy (2017); Quadriennale d'Arte, Palazzo delle esposizioni, Roma, Italy (2016-2017); TOKONOMA, Kassel, Germany; Institut national d'histoire de l'art, Paris, France (2016); KABK, Den Haag, the Netherlands (2015); tranzitdisplay, Prague (2014); MACRO - Museo d’arte contemporanea di Roma, Italy (2013); VIR - Viafarini-in-residence, Milano (2011); La Alhondiga, Bilbao (2010).