When in 1999 Nicola Frangione had his CD “Rapporti orali e trasversalità sonore” (Harta Performing, Monza 1999) released, he relied on the sound components of his performances to launch the unmistakable sign of his vocation to practise comprehensive action – that is, action free from predetermined boundaries, whether linguistically, disciplinarily or in terms of the genre.

The title suggested the cross role of the sounds performed and their nature as “oral relations”: a clear message sent to the audience to emphasize that those compositions could be considered oral relations of “other” occurrences, much more complex ones, in space-time dimensions, where voice and sound mean but some of the component parts of the work, which is also connected with pictures, body movements, gestures etc.

You just have to skim the pages of the booklet attached to that CD to immediately realize that. Next to the texts you can find graphic performing charts, scores, including a few pseudoscores clearly pursuing ironic purposes, referring to actions, gestures and information on the structures of spaces and buildings, the use of systems and even the arrangement of the audience and how performances can be enjoyed. Sometimes the artist draws real plans, suggesting the routes to follow, like in “Incorporalità” (1999) and “Ittoosang” (1990), where tips on how to dress are also given. Nevertheless, these charts – rich in verbal and numerical notes, musical notations and functional geometries, on which the artist may rely for second thoughts or with a view to rearranging preexisting material – also play a clearly figurative role, standing out on their own visually.

Hence the collection of “sound poems” is believed to refer to preceding actions responsible for multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary events as well as subsequent actions. Nicola Frangione is basically a performer who combines objects and in-forms voices, words, sounds, colours and pictures in rhythmic paintings which are the fruit of organizing actions. With reference to the etymon of “action” (in Greek, drâma, -atos), the artist proves to cause dramatic events by using his organizing approach as expressed in the areas marking the boundaries between arts.

In his statements (see booklet n°. 3-29 of “Harta Performing”, Monza 1997, titled “Interazioni e drammaturgia delle arti”), Nicola Frangione deals with “interdisciplinary synergy” and “an approach to art as comprehensive dramaturgy” as well as with “comprehensive, theatrical poetry as having an impact on his research, synergising his experiences” and “a dramatic approach to art”.

He wrote that performance “always epitomizes an original character which is connected with drama, although it is not theatre”, that it is fulfilled first “in the awareness of existing and then, by way of synthesis, it is “put forward”, that “the scope of action is changed by inner originality and a performance develops into a birth, an existential event of “bringing something into the world”, because on everything that has taken place in a performance we feel anthropologically alive in the sense”.

Nevertheless, as Nicola Frangione approaches boundary areas, he sometimes tends to mix art up with life while practising contamination, as proved to be the case in the “tradition” of the avant-garde, from futurism to fluxus, through Dada, being eventually shipwrecked on the beaches of Utopia Island.

It is no coincidence that Nicola Frangione assigns the artist the task of taking “rebellious actions”, which may match a “reaction as art of life”. Hence the artwork can be considered both a departure point and an arrival point, input and a provocation, output and an answer as well. Therefore, a performance means an ethically shared action and the artwork means the fruit, the result on the other side, as on this side, of the object world. On the other hand, the artist deals with performances as thoughts/actions, venturing even farther afield, when, with reference to dramatic keys, he even has the work coincide with the artist, who functions as a magnet for interdisciplinary synergy. To sum up: an artwork means a thought/action and a place of the thought/action, where “the approach to art as ‘comprehensive drama’ is how the individual’s virtuous existential characteristic is expressed”. A performance may contain the itself as the out of itself and will be arranged on the main axis of a utopia as translating into the action of the performer, who is “a traveller first in an inner world, and then in an outer world”.

In this respect, it should be emphasized that the collection of oral reports and sound crosses we have dealt with starts with a “Nomadic Introduction”, where the poet whispers – with a storm in the background – a text with tears and mends, based on an inconsistent syntax, although it is connected with a definitely consistent sound form (pauses being filled by thunder as playing a real syntactic role). The whispered voice lets themes related to the concept of nomadism stand out: “nomadic poetry day after day…”, “the daily nature of movement geography…”, “the fantastic and corporal poetry of travellers sketching performances while making stops…”, “the contents of poetics resembling a stop…”, “as a citizen of Utopia, the poet lives but in transit places and is bound to the core of his environment…”.

In the printed version of the booklet, these scraps match a pseudoscore (dating from 1981), obtained from a customs model applicable to post parcels (which reads “towards a definition of comprehensive poetry, verticality and a tactile desire for nomadic ways to cover”). This pseudoscore refers to the golden age of mail art, when the cross communications occurring within the postal network created an extremely fertile climate, and where creative tension supported the leitmotif, namely opposition to the art market, in favour of alternative, nomadic procedures, mainly free from and unrelated to the sometimes aberrant and wicked logic of official and institutional dominions. Nicola Frangione has been regularly part of that circuit; he has often supported it, organizing exhibitions and putting forward projects, including “Mail Music” (1983), a peculiar LP which seamlessly accommodated a flow of sound messages from all over the world.

In Nicola Frangione’s work, nomadism – a theme I find particularly interesting for the development of international art, which is being faced with a critical situation and is being reconsidered – is derived from the importance he attaches to the body, as emphasized by the criticisms the artist makes against the media system and the sometimes thoughtless use of new technology. He approaches multimedia arts with a critical attitude when what he loves defining as “amazing appearances” of technology causes values and ideas to be thoroughly obscured.

A rigorous relationship should be established with electronics. Nicola Frangione does not yield to groundless effects. What is more, he does not fall into the trap of the technological mask, being careful to use neither digital decoration nor useless superimpositions on structures which boast an independent, marked character already. Unfortunately, elsewhere new technology is being indiscriminately used just to cater to fashion and the market: projects drawn up according to absolutely inadequate criteria are still too often believed to be capable of moving with the times based on the mere implementation of technology, while avoiding making any basic linguistic adjustments.

Nicola Frangione stated, and rightly so, that over the last thirty years multimedia have been having a major impact on critical/operating research, new technological opportunities have been offered, “although experimentalism as confined to ‘amazing appearances’ has not been dealt with; indeed, technical standardization has often arisen within several art forms”, which has caused “technical/operating knowledge to be mixed up with artistic/ideational knowledge”, the two types of knowledge playing the same role aesthetically. Technology is the name for increased decision-making opportunities for the artist, although “amazing appearances” dangerously stand out again, when, in the absence of critical attention, they encourage morbid applications of electronics, which may easily translate into the widest variety of unsound ideologies.

Nicola Frangione is faced with one more problem – that is, escaping the danger posed by the multimedia swirl, when the value of information is mixed up with the speed at which it is transmitted. He makes an effort not to exceed the limits of time beating as shaped by gestures, movements, man’s “natural” behaviour in the art adventure, always keeping an eye on the context and an ear on the voices of memory, because it is from memory that steadily sound and recognizable values can be derived. Reality is not what is woven into the speed of data flashing by in the infosphere in millions of millions; reality is what can be appreciated in the value of the overall structure of transmitting and receiving poles. Value lies in the ability to turn messages into something new, into unexpected data.

Therefore, despite both the technological strategies that have been implemented in recent years and the results of confrontation with the evolution of the electronic universe, I have been emphasizing the importance of value in some key factors, belonging (though in different ways) to performing “tradition”, in technical, linguistic and aesthetic terms. These factors, which should be thought about whenever any new projects are to be carried out, can be extensively found in Nicola Frangione’s work as well: presence (understood as a multisensorial factor and a space-time cornerstone); event (understood as an interactive, unique moment); intermediality (understood as the intersection of media areas, codes and languages); performing tension (understood as potential drive to use in performances, where the body enjoys its relationship with space, time, objects, instrumental prostheses).

In my work, “La voce in movimento”[1], I had already pointed out that Nicola Frangione’s experience is aimed at achieving peculiar “interdisciplinary synergy”, where paying attention to the body as a key expressive factor leaves an indelible mark on art work. In his performances, the body “gives up making itself useful”: it is; it acts in itself; it means a crucial presence which establishes a ritual relationship with surrounding space, where objects emphasize bodily values with symbolic characteristics. That moving body creates references with reality, while immediately denying them, when “theatrical” treatment transforms objects into images of space, which also functions as an object with a “theatrical” value. Somehow it is just what happens with Nicola Frangione’s visual and/or verbal/visual works, as crosses between “visual poetry” and “symbiotic” poetry, with plastic values which can sometimes be referred to pop and Neo-Dada atmospheres, especially when he is involved with decontextualization and concentrates on all kinds of objets trouvés. However, Nicola Frangione’s verbal/visual work can hardly be defined outside its work as a performer. The main criterion lies in combining shapes and colours, words and objects into a sort of optical/synthetic theatre. The tablets formally suggest ritual gestures above, which cause the meaning to be moved, elements to be shifted from a situation to “another” situation, from a current dimension to that typical of théatron: theatre of irony as well as of fleeting meanings as the result of a clear-cut ideological choice: nearly a background for performing actions which make up for the loss of reality (and time beats) by reconstructions unrelated to the media jumble, where the balance and tidiness of the tabula are regained for your eyes. Nevertheless, those tablets are there for you to cross them; they even look as if they expect that transit, which should enhance their spectacular role; the audience can almost picture the hand picking up objects on its way and putting materials together in space. That manual character can also be connected with performing gestures bridging the gap between reality and artworks, functioning as drama, which means a “poietic” principle, while emphasizing the concept that what is left out of the work is part and parcel of the work.

Hence theatre breathes silence and crystallized echoes, while transmitting vibrations which evoke actions above as well as those that might be experienced a posteriori, if the tabula embodies a theatrical function. It is like when, in some of Nicola Frangione’s performances, free from both sounds and words, the silent ritual of body display develops into pulsating matter, because, in its silence, that body becomes a vibrant presence, sensory vertigo, a knot of mysterious tensions that cannot be untied. In that silence the body may sometimes reveal the voices that enliven the abyss of interior infinity; as regards Nicola Frangione’s sound work, I have already dealt with that theme. Such voices press in the alveoli and go through the interstices, running up along nerve bundles and emerging, with rough appearance, from those unexplorable cavities, where flatus embraces the soul, getting mixed up with it. Hence the artist’s works boast a double vocal matrix: on the one hand, a vocal character stands out in the acoustic dimension tying the text and music to each other according to tried and tested intermedia approaches; on the other, an interior vocal character – more intimate and deeper – is expressed only as the fruit of the interior tensions of the body while performing, on a level with any other linguistic elements, tending towards the dimension of a theatrical event rather than that of “sound poetry”.

Obviously enough, in Nicola Frangione’s tablets words also play a major role; they always seem to be introducing performances and bridge the gaps between the different interpretations of the work: object/poetry, ready made, théatron in nuce, preludes to action art. These words/events connect fragments of reality with new situations; the emphasis is also on words/projects which carry the signs of the body, of sound, of the voice, and can spectacularly extend interactive values to the context being considered, co-opting the extratextual references that may mean the antecedents and consequences of the verbal/visual tablet, as is especially the case with the poems/scores that, by their own definition, hint at action.

To sum up: achieving interdisciplinary synergy and steadily referring to thought/action allow performances to function as the common thread throughout Nicola Frangione’s work, including visual tablets, objects/books, scores, sound poems, radio art, videographies, installations and creative actions varying in type. Performances are enhanced by poetics as based on ethical and aesthetic connections: the artist relies on relationships between concepts and drive, memory and action, stable projects and mobile achievements, rites and profane gestures, art and life, artists and works.

Testimony to interactivity is provided, from time to time, by the characteristics of space (whether geometric or acoustic or intermediated), which steadily functions as the theatre of perceptive conflict and synaesthetic amazement; intermediality is based on skilfully adjusted interlinguistic balance; whereas performing tension is triggered mainly rhythmically: time suggests the duration of tensions, questioning, while causing daily rhythms to be thoroughly affected, in favour of expansions coinciding with the mazes of memory, unrelated to any historical dimensions, though in a sort of psychodrama.

Here the word is either held back in the body and acts inside it, dying on its lips (the body does not leave it, as if it is its soul, and expects all the senses to be involved in a prelinguistic dimension) or performs, being supported by texts which sometimes prove inconsistent, like in “L’intervista” (1984-99), some other times are based on the low ranges of dialects, and other times rely on the sound of other languages, like in “Giallo notturno” (1985-99), or are on the brink of nonsense, like in “Incorporalità” (1999), or draw on plays of words, like in “Pin-occhio al ticket” (1998-99) or the use of eminently “oral” structures, like in “Vocecevovoce”.

As from the composition dating from 1980, Nicola Frangione became committed to works based on synergic use of texts and music: such elements are not just juxtaposed with a view to mere “spectacularity”; they are connected with mutual support, in order to “reveal” the voice, show it “poietically”, manifest sonority in all its significance. Thus the emphasis is not on dramatic readings with musical backgrounds, where music emphasizes the actor’s recitation and the actor interprets the text; it is on “sound poetry”, a sound event understood as an art object, where the text, the voice and music are closely connected with each other, where sound means the aural dimension of the text, and not a comment on it or decoration. To sum up: sound values are determined by a text which anticipates them in nuce and completes its forms in a vocal character capable of dynamically leading it out of the boundaries of the page, in a play of mutual enhancement and expansion of the meaning, which – as persistently as the waves that break on the water’s edge in succession – will have an impact on the sense organs of an audience who expects to “feel” synaesthetically.

Nicola Frangione’s project cannot be connected with homoeostatic or independent elements: on that score, based on intermedial consistency, the text can no longer be connected with the models implemented so far. The text can no longer be considered independent; it can no longer rely only on its internal rules: the text stands out as dynamic, open to transformation, on this side, as on the other side, of disciplines and genres. Closed, symmetrical structures are replaced with open, multifunctional, interdependent structures: figures that change non-stop, with no hierarchical values. Art as a process will influence the succession of events and translate into pauses similar to ‘clots’ in the dynamics of transformation; whereas countless pollutions may cause new structures to be developed. Thus both unity and variety stand out: a unitary process and a variety of figures ‘coagulating’ in certain space-time moments. Each object, each action produced, has its own history and “bears witness” to the process, as a stage of movement; whereas, as the interlinguistic text is transformed, new senses are produced. In addition, introducing the text into the changing process allows the meaning to be unexpectedly extended and new linguistic dimensions to be revealed, where sound and noise, woven in the verbal web (according to Nicola Frangione’s synergic approach and typically acoustic syntaxes), provide texts which go beyond current meanings and, consequently, the literary dimension, to stand out as comprehensive actions.

This is how Nicola Frangione embraces the poietics of the integrated text, of what, in my theoretical processes, I have defined as resonating polytext, as multipoietic sound hypertext, as cross ultratext based on a new poietic language which crosses the boundaries set by the rules of writing and, while getting away, tends to stand out as comprehensive, tending to change, though without betraying tried and tested values.

Hence in Nicola Frangione’s sound work technical specifications are extended and broken through; he goes beyond art production; there is neither “music” nor “theatre” nor a merely vocal character; nevertheless, all of this can be found in a “comprehensive word” which can tell about itself and have itself looked at, thus developing first into architecture and visual construction, then into sound and figurative echoes of a poetic tension where material belonging to several traditions is used, to effectively head towards comprehensive avenues.

These elements are currently part and parcel of approaches to art supported by a network – not necessarily or not only an electronic one –, based on the relations between aesthetic processing centres spread around the world, which rely on the “political” values of human relations to survive. Tolerance, conviviality, brotherhood, freedom to communicate, outside the restraints imposed by the art business, mean values shared by a panoply of “nomadic artists” from every corner of the world.

For several years a large, significant number of area workers has been laying stress on the concept of nomadism, which would deserve more critical and “political” attention. In 1986 Richard Martel recommended – borrowing tensions which had been underway ever since the 1960s and 1970s – a strategic performance festival to be held in Québec, just to emphasize what was new in this attitude and offer an opportunity for theoretical meditation. The show, “Espèces nomades”, suggested the importance of approaches to art based on fusions of languages and techniques as well as on existential dimensions and lifestyles.

I have often pointed out that Danish-born Marianne Bech[2] then emphasized the similarities between medieval troubadours, nomadic poets who used to rely on poetry, music and vocality to spread their own culture, and contemporary performers, who rely on a blend of technology and linguistic factors bearing witness to the richness and breadth of the concept of performance. Nevertheless, this artist is not nomadic only in metaphorical terms: on the one hand, he crosses languages; on the other, he establishes relations and moves in the world, with a view to discovering other cultures, taking technical know-how and the linguistic universe with him. To sum up: nomadic art refers to the body and all its extensions and prostheses as well as to the tissues it succeeds in connecting, recording every single step and change, drawing, for example, on the topological components which result in what Roger Chamberland wanted to define as “espaces monades”[3], through an effective play on words, referring to perfect unity and active mass. Actually, these “espaces monades” mean the molecules of pulsating matter as nourished by “espèces nomades”, synonymous with energy, which pervades molecular movements occurring non-stop, within a universe which is also a world and a mirror of the world. Thus cultural, art and life are based on international exchanges. After all, “nomadic artists” are committed to drawing up strategies placing both the principles of pluralism and tolerance and the themes concerning man and his technological destiny in a critical area which firmly opposes information (and not only that) as ruled by the interests of the power groups who consider immediate profit the main value. Against this logic, the creative tension of the “ambassadeurs” as designated in/to the world by Julien Blaine,[4] nomades & monades, may still play a fundamental role, through both direct, lively, contaminating exchanges and the support of new technology. Really hard work! This includes, on the one hand, the poetics of exchanges and, on the other, the poetics of the flexibility of poetic design; as well as media interactivity, growing joint, interactive, direct, real work should also be emphasized. Countless shows currently rely on this spirit.[5] For several years, as a reaction to the postmodern trend, the phenomenon has been spreading around the world[6], relying on a variety of relations and modern technology. Nevertheless, stress is still being laid on the artist’s “presence”, pursuing, as I have already mentioned, new relations with the forms of the text, with a view to developing highly antagonistic poietic designs. Nicola Frangione, with his repertoire of voices, colours and sounds and his slim body prone to jerks, is always ready to “fly” towards all kinds of destinations, whether geographic or not, although he is also committed to his work as an artist in Monza, where the festival “Art Action”, which has been held for several years, is developing into one of the most challenging and most stimulating events in relation to future cultural debate.



[1] Ed. Harta Performing & Momo, Monza 2003.

[2] M. BECH, Footnotes, in “Inter” n°. 37, Québec 1987.

[3] R. CHAMBERLAND, Espèces nomades, in “Inter” n°. 37, Québec 1987.

[4] In 1997 Julien Blaine organized an exhibition titled “Les ambassadeurs au V.A.C.” in Ventabren (France), with works by artists defined as “nomades, nomades absolument” [catalogue].

[5] An extensive overview of the latest shows is found in G. FONTANA, “La voce in movimento” [cit.].

[6] 2001 witnessed the foundation of the International Association of Performance Art Organizers, IAPAO. The members are networked to each other.