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Manzoni responded to these gestural enactments of absence and violence by volatilizing the material surface of painting and then pushing his experiments with materials toward practices prescient of later inquiries associated with performance. This chapter argues that Manzoni’s primary project was to respond to Fontana and to affirm disciplinary yet deskilled, repetitive, value-productive labor as the framework for art making. Manzoni’s work indexes Italy’s economic-historical entwinement at the intersection of a belated full capitalism and a prefigurative restructuring, later associated with globalization. This same nexus preoccupied the Marxists of Operaia, or workerist movement, who were retheorizing deskilled work as a form of labor far from democratic, structured in the interest of maximizing profits, and always on the side of capital against labor. Manzoni marks the Marxist Operaia turn to positing the need to abolish labor instead of treating it as an emancipatory site of self-realization for the worker (the Bolshevik model informing the action of the Italian Communist Party), and a rejection of the deskilling and seriality associated with American modernism, with minimalism’s and pop’s “recursive structure.” In Living Sculpture, Manzoni signed “Manzoni, 1961” on a model’s back, in a scenario of exploitive voluntarism that trumps the conventionalization of exploitation in many later art practices. Manzoni asks many more difficult questions about agency, about “living labor” as a source of dead capital, a structure of capitalist production into which the art work was subsumed, including the bodies of artist and model, respectively, much less as any “creative act.”

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