Message 82: Piranesi

These comments are excerpted from two emails Andres Bisserier sent to me in March, 2002:

“Among the second set of antivideos RH released, there is one called Piranesi. Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720 – 1778) was an italian artist who did a series of etchings called The Prisions (Le Carcieri) … [I’ve recently] bought a book that comprehends the entire series. [I’ve] observed that the image of the temple with the staircase in the Amnesiac booklet, also a part of the artwork in Rh’s I Might be Wrong Live Recordings, is very much based on some of the plates in these series. Also, the image of the gravestone with two heads in it, included in the Amnesiac booklet, is based on a very similar image in one of the etchings (number XVI, Carcere, with a High Gallery Beyond a Low, Timbered Anteroom).”

“It’s not really possible saying whether the series depict underground prisons, and [they] don’t seem to be actual mazes, but rather labyrinthine (word rings any bells?) structures. In many of them you see people walking by, arguing or even shouting out to other people across the rooms, and stuff like that–it actually looks like some sort of an endless castle, made of a lot of annexes built on top or around the others; just this really messy, improvised, even living architecture. One of the most remarkable aspects of the etchings is the staircases: some of them seem to have been built around parts of the structure after it was finished, like they needed to get to a place where they hadn’t [planned] they would have to go, so the lifted a flight of stairs that hadn’t been [planned] in the first place.”

“The book I have is simply called The Prisons (Le Carcieri) By Giovanni Battista Piranesi, subtitled The Complete First and Second States. It was published by Dover Publications, Inc. NY. Their address is: Dover Publications inc., 180 Varick Street, New York, N. Y. 10014. The first edition is from 1973. The international standard book number is 0-486-21540-7; and, just in case you have access to the library of Congress, the book is under the catalog card number: 72-92762. The book I have is quite good, it consists of, allegedly, the entire series in both their states, each etching being reproduced at 60 per cent of their original size. Considering the tiny images in the further planes of some etchings, this is a good thing. However, if you can’t find this particular book, I should point out that Taschen has some books on Piranessi published. One of them is a small thing, with some of the Carcieri etchings. The other is bluntly called The Complete Piranessi, and should have every and all the etchings the Italian artist ever made…”

One reply on “Message 82: Piranesi”

Also interesting about Piranesi: Giuseppe Zigaina, writing about the artist’s life, observed: “It is well-known that Piranesi’s speech was obscure and almost raving, yet not without its shrewd points, flashes of insight and disconcerting allusiveness. It is therefore logical to deduce that that strange way of speaking was nothing but the verbal representation of an unresolved inner conflict between an ontic being and a consciously programmed “wanting to be.” Perhaps Thom Yorke was feeling the connection to his own “imaginary prisons.”

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