Have you ever thought how the idea of modern hashtags, so indispensable for today’s communication, came to mind? Sure! And in any case art has little to do with it. However, if we were to tell about a common thread linking history of communication to the history of art, it could be called: Alighiero Boetti, the first hashtagger. I found a six year old photo in my hands. At the time I was in a well-known Roman archive of art with some colleagues and I came across this:
Honestly, I don’t remember if it was a reproduction, probably authentic. I remember it was in a folder, but it was possible to see it. It was a paper with the signature of Alighiero Boetti: emblematic words are written on the paper, one after the other, without space for the eyes and for the air in reading them.
to see – to hear – to smell – to touch – to taste – to think
vedere – udire – odorare – toccare – gustare – pensare
And its german translation
Try to read them one after the other quickly. It’s not easy. Because first you have to read them slowly, give your eyes time to separate the vowels and put the five individual concepts in order. Then ask yourself, “So what?”
These are five words in relation with the sensory and cognitive sphere: usually, these actions are interconnected with each other, due to the strength of the information process. The cognitive functions of seeing, hearing, but also the others, lead almost instantly to thinking. With an extremely creative and simple way, Boetti describes an automatic and simultaneous action of the mind and human reactions. In the same way they happen. In speed.
The space between word and word represents the time that elapses between one action and another. And in that wonderful system which is the cognitive process, time is short. It’s dust, you don’t even notice it’s there.
Boetti worked into the ranks of Italian “Arte Povera“, the famous artistic movement of the 60s and 70s known for the use of manual skills, a return to the simplicity of forms and modest and easily available materials. However, his vision was broader and decidedly more “daring”. It included the quantification and display of the phenomena that were not quantifiable to most. Not necessarily because of mathematical incapacity, but rather because of the lukewarm attractiveness of the topics (The 100 longest rivers in the world).
Quantify, counting, describing, putting on paper: ha wanted to make sure that the public or the individual became aware of the many meanings he could find in one word. One way to describe Boetti is his desire to exhibit duplicity.
The speculation that exists in a letter or in a word, which can be not only ways of communicating but dialectical gestures. An individual able to read a work by Boetti, is able to see more than one aspect of him, even his will to research that would go an artistic moment that had had very daring research. In his famous Maps, for example, borders, society, identity and geo-anthropology coexist. Always giving importance to the discretion of anonymous.
In the specific case of this piece of paper, simultaneity is described in the most basic gestures of human and sensory cognition. The speed of the senses to reach the brain and make it perform actions and decisions.
A human bullet, translated on paper. This is the effect of the small work that happily fell into my hands. That day I did not give her the right importance. I felt only his speed and his sympathy. And together with a friend of mine a connection occurred to us.
Those letters and their confused closeness reminded us a lot of the #hashtag patterns. In a sense, the function was also similar. The hashtag was created with a symbolic, literary, communicative and connecting function at the same time. A word that contains multiple meanings but also multiple directions. A fast “door” that with simplicity encloses complexity (# is like a little gate).
Always looking for the common thread, if we were to compare the use and simultaneity that a hashtag has in itself today and how it is used to find and be found, Boetti’s five words have the same heart in them. The ability to make us think in multiple dimensions and in multiple directions. The possibility of going from one work to many contents, be it culture, art, or intelligence. In the specific case of the work on paper, it is an information process.
Alighiero Boetti, the first hashtagger, wanted us to open our mind, eyes and heart. The hashtag makes us open the link. We can only hope that it is an important link … #thebluedrop
This post is also available in: Italian