This work is registered in the Archivio Alighiero Boetti, Rome, under no. 6806.
'We need to understand that ultimately there is only one mechanism of the world, and it develops through various processes and in different ways into every part of reality, whether it's a rock, a flower or something else...We then need to perceive this oneness in things, instead of always dividing them into categories and classifications, and above all antitheses of the good/bad, black/white kind.' (Boetti , From Today to Tomorrow, 1988, in Alighiero e Boetti Bringing the World into the World, exh. cat., Naples, 2009, p. 209).
Alighiero Boetti's series of Tutto (Everything) are among the very last works that the artist made and represent in many ways, the culmination of his entire aesthetic - a kind of pictorial summation of his artistic career. Executed in 1988, this vast and detailedembroidered canvas stretching over two and half metres long is one of the largest in this series of all-encompassing and holistic works that - as their name suggests - appear to represent 'everything'. Portraits of the macrocosm as a myriad of interconnecting miniature parts, the Tutto, depict the object-filled world of visual experience as a complex unity - as a perpetual and fascinating field of chaos and flux held together into a cohesive and united order. In this, these works are also the ultimate expression of the central guiding principle of Boetti's art; the principle he called ordine e disordine (order and disorder). This principle which underpins all of Boetti's art from the late 1960s onwards - including the artist's own twinned identity of himself as Alighiero e Boetti (Alighiero and Boetti) - originated in the ancient thought of philosophers like Heraclitus, and is a central part of the philosophy underlying much Eastern thought, in particular that of Sufi mystics like Boetti's spiritual teacher during the 1970s and '80s, the poet Berang Ramazan.
The principle asserts that, like a river, the world exists as a continuous and chaotic flow but maintains itself as a unity. Inherent within chaos is the principle of order and vice versa. Order and disorder permeate one another maintaining a constantly shifting balance. Like his Mappe or the Arazzi in which the separate countries of the world or the individual letters that form words, were shown to combine into a cohesive unity, the Tutti are embroidered representations of the world of objects as a selforganising composite of chaotic form.
Marking the extension of his Arazzi and the Mappe into the wider realm of 'everything', the origins of the Tutto lie most specifically in an early project Boetti created in 1967 entitled Pack. This work originally consisted solely of a bucket half-filled with cement which, when allowed to dry, subsequently cracked and separated into several different segments but still maintained a cohesive sense of unity. This basic conceptual sculpture, heavily reflecting the very material emphasis of the arte povera context within which Boetti was then working, was a clear and simple manifestation of the principle of ordine e disordine at work in the natural world. Its title Pack -referring to pack ice - was intended to emphasise the 'naturalness' of this phenomena and also to underline the universality of the organising principle that Boetti was pointing to.
It was not until 1975 that Boetti created the first works entitled Tutto and not until 1982 that his first large scale Tutto embroidered pictures were made. The first Tutto (all square in format) were also given the title Pack and these were the first embroidered Tutto to take the form by which the series is now known. Each one made use of a selected variety of intersecting shapes of 'all' the separate objects and things that make up the world, with each shape coloured, arbitrarily, by the Afghan women who embroidered them.
These skilled women, who Boetti had first employed to make his Arazzi and Mappe, worked according to a stencil-based pattern drawn out in biro directly on the linen by Boetti and his assistants in which a variety of objects was rendered in such a way that the outline of each fitted in the other so as to fill the canvas with a myriad of form in the manner of a horror vacui. Boetti chose the various objects to be depicted from an extensive range of sources including encyclopaedias, schoolbooks, magazines, newspapers and other lexica. Such an approach ensured the wide range of motifs; but the degree of this range and its scope was always ultimately determined by Boetti himself with many stencils made of certain favourite motifs so that they could be reused in later Tutto designs. When the design was finished it was taken to Peshawar to be embroidered using a precise quantity of threads of different colour. The application of this colour was left up to the women doing the embroidery, the only stipulation being that they use all the colour so that overall an equal amount of colour was used in the finished whole. 'These women' Boetti observed of his co-workers on the Tutto embroiderie, 'are extraordinarily tasteful in their choice of colours. I simply say to them "use all your colours" - there are one hundred in all. I would not have been able to supervise the choice of all the colours. I find myself facing thousand-years-old culture and when I have one hundred embroidered versions made...then there are one hundred women who carry out the work and each has a taste of her own.' (Boetti quoted in Alighiero Boetti, exh cat., Museum fr Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt Am Main, 1998).
The extraordinary results of this process were a visual overload of pictorial information and colour that conveys a sense of each work being a slice of the myriad puzzle of infinite variety and detail that is the world. A cosmic soup comprising of an interconnecting sea of autonomous objects and figures these dense, colour-drenched pictures hover between figurative recognisability and abstract pattern. Implicit within each work however is a discernable sense of an integral organisational structure, of the fact that the shape of each motif in the work has a determining effect on the ones next to it so that the entire field of the canvas is in fact a construction and not a random collage of form. This innate organising principle is something that ensures that the viewer subtly becomes aware of the central ordering principle within this seeming chaotic flux of the whole and thus encourages them to view the world in the same unified and holistic way.
'There are some extraordinary things that happen in the mineral world, in the vegetable world and the animal world.' Boetti once pointed out. 'These worlds have been separated and ranked in hierarchical order, but I think that ultimately there is no hierarchy. We are always faced with the same thing, the same manifestation of a design in things and the fact is that when man enters things and natural phenomena enter human culture, then all the apparent antitheses collapse, all the hierarchies and separations that normally transform the world into a prison. There are, in short, some categories that, if they were eliminated, would enable us to attain a greater degree of understanding. The categories actually hinder instead of fostering an understanding of the phenomena...One of the most obvious mistakes of our culture is the divisions it makes in the oneness and wholeness of the world with rigid classifications: like the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdom and so on. It's a mental category, a separation, which I feel obscures and veils all possibility of understanding things. In its pretence to explain, it only serves to nullify a broad scope of understanding things. So that's what we need to eliminate. We need to understand that ultimately there is only one mechanism of the world, and it develops through various processes and in different ways into every part of reality, whether it's a rock, a flower or something else...We then need to perceive this oneness in things, instead of always dividing them into categories and classifications, and above all antitheses of the good bad, black/white kind.' (Boetti , From Today to Tomorrow, 1988, in Alighiero e Boetti Bringing the World into the World, exh. cat., Naples, 2009, p. 209).