Ugo La Pietra

Immersioni, 1967-1970

In 1967, Ugo La Pietra began to develop his theory on the “unbalancing system,” opening up a vast field of interventions within the city. Designed to provide city-dwellers with an escape from a hostile reality, La Pietra’s Immersioni (“Immersions”) are presented as spaces of refuge, with the artist immersing himself in a cardboard box or a concrete mixer. For the 1968 Milan Triennale, he created a series of micro-environments in transparent methacrylate. Luminous spheres and sonorous helmets, emitting music and subversive texts, invite the public to enter spaces of audiovisual experimentation. Users are never in a passive state. They interact with these “instruments” by activating the installation themselves, in the same way as with Immersione “Una boccata d’ossigeno” (“a jar of oxygen”, Colpo di vento, 1970), in which powerful jets of oxygen are propelled at their faces. In these containers placed at shoulder height, the head is protected by a transparent bubble. The individual is confronted with powerful sensory phenomena such as falling water (Immersione nell’acqua, 1968-69), or the propulsion of Styrofoam beads by means of compressed air (Immersione nel’vento, 1970). While proposing an individual type of educational experimentation, Ugo La Pietra also exacerbates the feelings of discomfort and claustrophobia induced by isolation in a confined space. Playing with dialectical contradictions and seeking to “provoke beneficial conflicts”, these Immersions are designed as a mise en abyme of urban reality. Their aim is to enable the individual to gain awareness of the wider alienating reality and thus to recover the power to act. The Uomouovosfera (“Man-egg-spheres”), placed directly in the city, look like points for critical reflection about social and psychological conditioning of the environment. By placing the individual’s share of freedom in crisis, they prefigure the artist’s work on “the degrees of liberty.”

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