Books On Books Collection – Alessandro Baldanzi

Chimere (2020)

Chimere (2020)
Alessandro Baldanzi
Leporello: Original drawing (700 x 500 mm) made with black markers on drawing paper (Scheller Hammer), scanned and edited in PhotoShop, digitally printed on 200 gsm.
H195 x W202 mm, closed; H195 x W4659 mm, open.
Booklet: Bound in card with linen thread across 40 unnumbered pages, digitally printed. H148 x 102 mm.
Both enclosed in a handmade box, covered and lined with black linen paper. Edition of 10, of which this is #2, signed. Acquired from the artist, 19 February 2020. Photos: Books On Books Collection.

A cross between a print portfolio and leporello. A cross between Durer, Beardsley and Ernst. A severing of image from text; though in both, one thing swallows a thing only to breathe, excrete or dream another that dreams, excretes, breathes or swallows yet another.

Chimere appeared to me on Via San Gallo. According to the myth, Chimera had three heads: a lion’s, a goat’s emerging from the lion’s back to breathe fire, and a snake’s at the end of its tail. Perhaps the serpent’s eye exerted the same fabled fascination as this leporello did, snaking along the window of Libri Liberi. Drawn closer, then inside, I could find no one to tell me anything about it, but a poster provided the artist’s name and address.

Left: Chimera of Arezzo (ca. 400BCE) Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Florence.
Center and right: Libri Liberi, Via San Gallo 25r, Florence.

After some correspondence, divergent trips and finally a meeting in Florence at L’Hotel Orologio near Santa Maria Novella, the artist enabled Chimere‘s capture.

In the hotel lobby, the detail of the drawing and the inventiveness in linking the panels demanded close attention, making the accompanying small thread-bound booklet recede into the background. But, as I learned later, that background should not be ignored.

“Never can one be equivalent to the many” (Sophocles, King Oedipus, 430-420 BC), or Is the opposite true? What is impossible for everyone to be just one? There will be nothing strange, as Plato stated, if one proves that I myself am one and many.

The problem of duplicity of the single one occurs on several occasions in this series of multiples, combinations of lives, Chimeras formed by animal, human, plant parts. Monstrous beings in flesh and blood, three-dimensional, real but, at the same time, far from reality.

… figures that appeared to me in a dream, but children of wakefulness, don’t certainly lend themselves to living with only one part, but always with one and the other together, in the desperate identity (like the Sphinx) solving enigmas: Fusion, separation, identity, otherness, being, becoming, how can one always be identical to himself and at the same time change to be many? How can anything be generated by something else? “Introduction”, Chimere.

Odessa (wild boar); in Greek, the feminine of Odysseus.

In the booklet, each of the Chimeras has a sort of prose poem in Italian and English to tell its story. The first beast is “Odessa (wild boar), Birth: March 1, 2011 – Death: November 1, 2017”, whom the artist addresses alongside Oedipus:

Did you find me! You finally made it.
You tore me with your wet and rough nose, with all the arrogance hatched over time.
Night, day, father, son, how can a snake fly?
You, clumsy riddles' solver, father and brother of your children, husband and son of your mother, legitimate usurper of the new that encompasses the many, similar to everything and equal to nothing, identical and different both with respect to himself and the other.
You, devoid of education, of pedagogy, you have grown only by hurting yourself, risking and suffering.
Often dying.

Turning the pages of the leporello or unfolding it to full display invokes the feel of an artist book. Consulting the separate booklet of text creates the air of a disembodied gallery. I move from Odessa to Elasmus (rhinoceros), Ecla (amberjack woman), Amutiel (Scorpionfish), Tharnos (The great mother), Boeotia (Horn of Plenty), Smyrna (Wave), Kalamata (Onda bis), Thelma (zebra lion), Elsa (Mouth eats mouth), Talpio (Bull), One (Noses), Orphestia (fish), Corinna (Cat), Soneril (tiger monkey) and Temel (mouth), but often forget to consult the booklet, which sends me back to gaze at the Chimera whose entry I missed and whose intricacy and connection to the next Chimera make me restart the journey from that point.

After many journeys, the prose poems become mostly internalized, but then there are the Italian versions. And then — over and over — at the final Chimera …

Temel (mouth); in Turkish, a masculine name and also means “fundamental, basic”.

looking at the multiracial multitude inside Temel (mouth), I see that, from Temel’s “fish nose”, a fishing line hangs, and I realize that Chimere’s “capture” is not merely its addition to a collection but its capture of me and the many.

Further Reading

DoBe Group and Sino Italian Design Center, Chimere Online Solo Exhibition. Accessed 23 June 2020.

Gosse, Philip Henry. The Romance of Natural History (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1861), pp. 242ff.