An extraordinarily lyrical fusion of light, energy and material seemingly combining to form a condensed flow of information sequentially progressing across the gallery floor, 6765 is a major work by the former 'arte povera' artist, Mario Merz that expresses a profound sense of both the progressive material build-up of information and ideas over time and of the continuous progression and even ethereal flow of events through history.
A large and imposing installation created by Merz for an important sequence of exhibitions in 1976, 6765 is a work that comprises primarily of eighty-three separate bundles of newspapers from the period, laid out in a grid on the floor. These bundles or stacks have been segregated in places by glass panels, some of which are connected by a single wave-like powered line that illuminates a sequence of neon numbers drawn from the Fibonacci series of numbers - the mathematical and also organic sequence of growth first discerned in nature by Leonardo Fibonacci in 1202.
6765, which takes its title from one of the numbers in this sequence, is one of the earliest of an ongoing series of major installation type works by Merz to make use of newspaper stacks that appear repeatedly throughout his career from the early 1970s onwards. Indeed, 6765 is perhaps the earliest surviving example of these works to still exist in its original form with its original 1976 newspapers. Merz's very first series of newspaper works for example, created in 1971, exist now only in recreated form, comprising of new stacks of newspapers printed at the time of their later exhibition.
Like his igloos, spiral tables, neon numbers, bundles of twigs, and fruit and vegetables, Merz's stacks of newspapers are a central part of the unique lexicon of primarily primordial, archetypal and organic elements and materials that characterize and distinguish his powerful metaphorical language of form. Expressive of the continuous flow of information and thought throughout a modern industrialized society, Merz's newspaper works, like his igloos, neon Fibonacci numbers or spiral tables for example, are dynamic and fluid installations set within and to some degree at odds with the fixed and defined architecture of the gallery space as a way of indicating the perpetual energizing flux of both art and life. The concept of flux and of life as a seamless and perpetual flow of events in which objects both materialize and dematerialize and transform themselves into other things is one that is central to Merz's aesthetic and one of the constants permeating his entire oeuvre.
'Science tells us' Merz once asserted, 'that, in nature, the elements all pass into one another, the meaning of nature is transformation,' (Mario Merz, Interview, Genoa, 1971, reproduced in Mario Merz exh. cat, New York, 1989, p. 105) It is largely for this reason that Merz endlessly employed the same more-or-less fixed lexicon of materials in his work, combining the same elements time and again throughout his career into ever-new sequences and constellations of form or even large landscape-like installations aimed at articulating, invigorating and ultimately transcending the space, location or environment into which they were set. Various sets of Merz's newspaper stacks, for example, form the core of some of his best known and most impressive installations such as Il Fiume appare (The River Appears) of 1986 or Onda d'Urto (Shock Waves) of 1987 now in the Museo Nationale di Capodimonte in Naples
Like these later works, 6765 is in one respect a unique and autonomous work that exists and has at times been exhibited alone in its own right. It also, like all of Merz's creations, is but a part of the wider and continuous flow of interconnected creativity that in 1976 originally took the form of a startling series of elaborate, open-ended and constantly evolving installations made for an important sequence of exhibitions of Merz's work held throughout Europe that year.
Rooted primarily in the idea of growth, extension and natural proliferation, these now celebrated and groundbreaking exhibitions that marked the first showing of Merz's spiral tables, originated in a converted prison space in Pescara and continued at the Galleria Antonio Tucci Russo in Turin and the Galerie Konrad Fischer in Dusseldorf amongst several other locations. Deriving in part from the nature of the architecture and place into which they were to be set, each of these installations was reflective of the fundamentally nomadic nature and identity that Merz championed in his work and invoked the idea of artistic practice as a close parallel to the perpetual, creative and transmutative flow of life. As Germano Celant wrote of the installation entitled Nature is the art of the Number shown at the Galerie Konrad Fischer and later at the Museo Pignatelli in Naples, 'the igloo runs into the table, the table into the newspapers, the fruits into the twigs, the stones into the glass and so on'. (Germano Celant in Mario Merz exh. cat. New York, 1989, pp. 34-5). Here, a sense of landscape, of a primordial village or settlement and ultimately of the continuous and continuing flow of time and events coursing through both history and all matter is persuasively invoked by the simple, elemental materials of Merz's art.
Referring to Nature is the art of the Number, Merz said, 'the newspapers actually represent the force of expansion, the twigs the force of cohesion, the igloo the concentrated weight of a dome. Nineteenth century landscapes always have a powerful light that comes from the plain, a powerful expansive panic that comes from the sky. These three powers together produce the landscape. This, we may say, is a real landscape, a true modern landscape, with electricity, newspapers, twigs, glass.' (Mario Merz cited in Mario Merz, exh.cat. New York, 1989, pp. 34-5)
6765 derives originally from the installation that Merz installed at the Galleria Tucci Russo in October 1976 and to which he gave the title Tavola a spirale per festino di giornali datati il giorno del festino, (Spiral Table for Banquet of Newspapers Dated the Day of the Banquet). In this installation as in those at Pescara and Dusseldorf, Merz's spiral table, laden with fresh fruit and vegetables, expanded and opened onto the gridded block of newspapers.
The transmutative flow of energy, symbolized by such produce, is continued, by other means, through the wave-like flow of the power line running between the illuminated neon Fibonacci numbers. The concept of a banquet also reinforces this association. The fruit and vegetables, indicative of nature and of the reproductive abundance of the natural world, also here infused the room with their fragrance, one that is both enticing and, as time progresses, ripe with decay. The organic, perishable, olfactory and sensual qualities of the fruit and vegetables were set as a clear contrast to the fixed, mechanical, grid-like, block-form printed information contained in the stacks of newspapers. Suggestive of both a landscape and of a transformation between one world and another, the similarity and, ultimately for Merz, the uniformity between the two seemingly distinct and separate worlds of organic form and human thought, words and information is here established by the illuminating presence of the neon Fibonacci numbers floating over the newspapers and lighting up the entire space. The luminous electrical energy flow of this harmonious, ever-growing, numerical sequence of numbers - a sequence found in nature, in which each number is the sum, progeny, and/or resolution of the previous two - flows throughout the grid of newspaper stacks. It is both a mathematical and a natural evolution, rendered in modern industrial material that emulates and reflects the organic progression of the fruit on the spiral table- a table which also spirals and expands in size according to Fibonacci dimensions. Together the two works - the spiral table laden with fruit and the illuminated progression of newspapers combined in this memorable installation to create what Merz once described as "a veritable modern landscape.' (Mario Merz, quoted in Mario Merz, exh. cat. Fondazione Merz, Turin, 2005, p. 216)
It was as such and in this form, that this work was re-presented, re-combining 6765 and Tavola a spirale (now in the Kunstmuseum, Wolfsburg) at the Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, Castello di Rivoli, Turin in 2004-2005.