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Into Bistorco’s woods
Home of ir-ritated art
 
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Places with no time nor shape
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 This exhibition offers a wide        collection of artistic works deriving from the hard and painful experiences of our authors: prisoners (some charged with life sentence or death penalty), people sectioned into psychiatric hospitals, OPGs (judiciary psychiatric hospitals) or asylums, outsiders and institutionalized elderly people. More

Ir-ritated writings
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 This exhibition focuses on artistic works produced in the everyday life by common people who find it difficult to fit in the standards imposed by our society. We collected scribbles from ordinary institutions such as  school (both from students and teachers), family and work. We also collected writings made on the streets and in social centres by young people. More

Creative identities
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 This exhibition can be seen as a meeting point between the previous ones. It connects those works originated in total institutions to those coming form ordinary unease in normality by highlighting the importance and power of creativity that becomes a vital resource in no matter what oppressive situation. More
 “Creativity has proven to be a vital resource that bursts out in difficult situations, when everything else has fallen apart and failed. Unexpected, yet pleasant and welcome, it can make the difference between life and death, sanity and madness”.
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Once upon a time, in a far-off land there lay a mysterious forest. In this forest, that was known as Bistorco’s Woods, there lived bizarre and fascinating creatures like the Feathery Fowl, Salce and the Tree-woman. They were peculiar and fantastic figures born from the need to create a different reality in a state of difficulty, solitude, exclusion or reclusion. Bistorco’s Woods still exist.  They are a fantastic but incredibly real place that can be reached by whoever wants to. They are a crossroad where strange meetings may occur, where tales of shattered lives who found a way out in art and creativity are told. It is a place where there are no borders nor exclusions.
Sensibili alle foglie collected expressions of unease in ordinary life together with expressions of suffering coming from total institutions such as prisons, asylums, OPGs (Judiciary Psychiatric Hospitals). Through the years we welcomed works deriving from painting workshops in psychiatric institutions, artistic outbursts of elderly people in nursing homes, of students forced on school desks and of prisoners holding on to fantasy as the only way out of their cells. Our artistic collection counts more than a thousand works of different kind, that range from paintings and sculptures to scribbles and manuscripts. It does not follow the traditional canons, it is not Dante nor Michelangelo. Dubuffet called it Art Brut, nowadays it may be considered an example of Outsider Art, but we chose to name it “Ir-ritated Art” (it's a wordplay with the Italian word irritata, that stands for both “irritated” and “out of the traditional rites”). It is a form of art that strays from artistic rules and that doesn’t fit in any existing category. The works we collected are important to us for the stories they tell. They are stories of restricted lives, experiences that are difficult to rationalize, tales that tell how difficult it is to survive in a society that tends to deny everything that is perceived as different.
Into Bistorco’s Woods aims at offering a chance to meet and communicate, thus recognizing the deep human and social worth of this collection before the artistic one. The people who answered at the call spoken in the far 1990 trusted us to give life to their works, to allow them to travel and meet the world. For those Authors who are still alive it is a way to confront a society who refused them, to somehow live the life they were kept from living. For those who left us it means being remembered instead of fading in the dark oblivion of the unwanted and is also a chance to tell a story that isn’t rare nor unique but common to many, way too many people. Those Authors offer to us an original, fascinating, personal glance on reality, proving that sometimes they saw further than we have. In their works they demonstrate a unique sensitivity. They pass on their works to us and ask to be listened to, understood and, once in their lives, accepted. We chose to be “Sensitive to the leaves” (Sensibili alle foglie), borrowing the expression of one of our Authors (Carla Molino) who hoped people would once again be “sensitive to the sorrow, sensitive to the leaves”.  Now it’s up to you. Adopt one of our works, visit an exhibition, meet our paintings and worlds of ink and paper. Help us to give life to this angry art, this art refusing the traditional “rites”, this “Ir-ritated” art and, more than anything, to its true protagonists: its Authors.


About the name
“Into Bistorco’s Woods”(“Nel Bosco di Bistorco”, Sensibili alle foglie, 1990) is the title of the book that marks the birth of this artistic research. It was first published in 1990 by Sensibili alle foglie (it was its first edition ever) and contains a call to the readers (that you may find here) to share their thoughts and expressions. The Authors of this book are also the founders of this “collection” of ir-ritated art: Nicola Valentino, Renato Curcio and Stefano Petrelli. The book was written when they were still in prison (as political prisoners) and stands as a common reflection on the reclusive experience.

“The central idea is this: reclusion, in no matter what total institution, puts the body through a radical social amputation and a torsion of every sense and language. The Authors wonder then, how comes, despite it all, prisoners still make it through. How do they keep on living, day by day?
… a letter, the writing burst, night dreams and day dreams with open eyes, an interest to plunge in and to get lost into, to find themselves into. More: a smell, a flavour, a gentle stroke that brings to life memories of pleasant companies.
To cut it short: the Authors believe that the will to live, the energy that lessens the suffering can not exist without the capacity of the body to walk into the foreign lands of altered states of consciousness. That leads to imagine the imprisoned one as someone who, while standing where his jailers want him, also travels elsewhere, where his heart leads him.
(…)
In a time where, somehow, everyone's life is crossed by a reclusive experience, this book speaks to everyone. And for everyone can be the chance for an healthy escape”.
- From the cover of “Nel Bosco di Bistorco”

The choice of the term Bistorco actually laces in to an Italian fairy-tale, that people around Padova used to tell. According to this ancient tale, Bistorco’s Woods are a peculiar place in which there are only two possible paths: either you get lost and disappear forever, or you find yourself, thus meeting one of your identities... the most creative one.




About Sensibili alle foglie

Sensibili alle foglie is a cooperative of production and work, founded in 1990 by a group of convicts connected to the 1970s political activities in Italy. Currently it counts more than two-hundred associates. The cooperative acts in various cultural domains: it works as a publishing house, offers narrative socio-analysis workshops, cures the collection “Into Bistorco’s Woods” and promotes meetings aimed at making society more sensitive and at deinstitutionalising stigmatized people.