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Cornell in Rome

College of Architecture, Art and Planning

Cornell In Rome Lecture Series: Pietro Ruffo

On Monday, we were lucky enough to be visited by Pietro Ruffo, a world-renowned artist from Rome. Having studied architecture at university, Ruffo ultimately diverged into the art world while still maintaining his love for structural design. His work discusses social, moral and ethical issues.

Photo by Esther Xie. 

He structured his lecture into three parts regarding “Places of Power,” first discussing “Self Defense.” He talked about his inspiration behind the animal skull and how it’s a form of aggression, using it as his main imagery to reflect on places in conflict from all over the world. He then turned to using the Scarab, a Mediterranean beetle that hides under the sand during the sunniest hours of the day, for his metaphor. Using Kirigami, a historically Jewish technique similar to Origami but allows the paper to be sliced, Ruffo covered an army tank with Kirigami beetles, made from pages of prayer books. He explained, “it’s not blasphemy,” since the beetle can always be folded back into its original page form, allowing the prayer to remain intact.

His second part was titled, “Two Concepts of Freedom.” He talked about Negative Freedom, which comes from inference, and Positive Freedom, which is freedom as self-mastery (aka Communism). He wondered, what should the new model of freedom for contemporary society look like? In NYC, he interviewed people from every country who immigrated to the US and then made “map portraits” of these people. He wanted to depict how humans have different definitions of freedom depending on their origin.

He then talked about “The Popular Will.” Interested in political posters, he created his own propaganda using Kirigami cutouts to show how different countries use similar techniques to express the same idea of freedom.

Photo by Esther Xie.

He ended his presentation by showing his elaborate runway constructions for Valentino and Christian Dior. These were clear displays of his ability to intersect architecture with art, resulting in two incredible shows I wish I could have experienced!




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