Elena Berriolo: Transcription of Piero Manzoni's Infinite Line with Sewing Machine

Nothing could be more purely poetic than the line, so it is perhaps less a metaphor than usual to think of Elena Berriolo's performance as a reflection on the verse line. Charles Olson was once asked, how long is a line? He put his chalk to the board and ran a line to the end and continues, chalk in hand, to walk out of the room. Berriolo's work had something of that quality, though more whimsical: I was reminded of Mary Poppins flying with and umbrella as well as 1960s performance work by Charlotte Moorman or Yoko Ono. Or then again, as the line flew away in the sky, the sky writing poems of David Antin.

Berriolo's "Transcription of Piero Manzoni's Infinite Line with Sewing Machine" was performed today at Kunsthalle Galapagos in Dumbo (Brooklyn). This is how she describes the work (she chose blue for the balloons in tribute to Yves Klein):

It’s also significant that this year marks the 50th anniversary of Manzoni’s death and the 80th of his birth. In 1959, Manzoni started a project titled The Infinite Line, which represented his desire to appropriate space and time. His long-term project was to produce a line as long as the Prime Meridian, the geographic line on which Greenwich Mean Time is based. Since one of his greatest challenges was finding a way to produce an uninterrupted line of a great length, he used a newspaper printer and other mechanical devices. Berriolo asks: “Why did he not think about the sewing machine? This simple and economical instrument allows you to produce an uninterrupted line while joining together an infinite number of sections.” Berriolo’s Infinite Line will be stitched onto a cloth ribbon as it passes through her sewing machine. At regular intervals, helium-filled balloons will be sewn onto the ribbon without ever interrupting the line. Once the floating line has stretched across the length of the exhibition space, it will be cut and members of the audience will be invited to hold the line in their hands, carry it outside, and release it to the elements, and let it draw itself up into the infinite.

photos by Charles Bernstein