You enjoyed working with others, Alik. Constructing big scenes of life, of art, like a puppeteer. You worked with Scanavino, Tadini, Ferrari, Sangregorio. For the Venice Biennale in 1972 you installed your most ambitious work: “I processi: dalle storie inglesi di William Shakespeare,” with music by Bruno Canino and words by Roberto Sanesi, poet and friend, a colleague at the art academy.
Then it snowed. And it snowed some more, for days. January 1985. The Milanese kept on working, as if nothing was happening, in spite of over 70 centimeters of snow. They moved around the city, tirelessly, pushing buses or using sleds. The army was even called in to clear the streets. The roof of the gymnasium of Parco Trotter collapsed, as did the new sports center, which was never rebuilt. The roof of your studio also came crashing down, on the morning of 17 January. Burying the conceptual labyrinth you had been patiently assembling for almost 23 years. The objective correlate of your mind, your solidified memory buried in snowy oblivion.
You started over, from scratch, at Via De Amicis 17, in the former convent of Santa Maria della Vittoria. At first such a definite space, so full of history, was daunting. It felt like working in a museum. Then the wisteria on the balustrade, beautiful, ancient, and the garden in the courtyard, convinced you that you had found the right place. A place to go back to piling up thoughts, works, found objects, a place to reconstruct the skein of your mind, to flex it outward, a place for potting tomato plants and lemon trees, or to cultivate herbs. Work didn’t scare you, had never scared you. You thrived on your work. In the morning you walked from Via Foppa, where you lived, to Via De Amicis. Stopping at Cucchi for a cappuccino. More than one, actually, you seemed to live on cappuccino.
Pierino, after retirement, gave you a hand. To bring your bronzes to the Battaglia or De Andreis foundry, or to tend the garden in the courtyard, as it filled up with wonders and junk. Emilio Tadini, a lifelong friend, said that in your work it was not possible to know “the exact proportions between comedy and tragedy, banality and invention, irony and abandon.”
You left us abruptly. You had the chance, in September 1997, to celebrate the Nobel won by your classmate Dario Fo. In October you found out you had a tumor of the pancreas. Maybe you never even truly understood what it was. Those who knew you missed your humanity, those who loved you took charge of your memory. Your lemon tree still bears fruit, in that courtyard. Fragrant, generous fruits, your works, in a constant state of becoming.