Giuseppe Desiato (Naples, 1935) is an artist whose practice was remarkable for a transgressive performative activity, closely bound up with social issues related to the Neapolitan anthropological territory. In 1960, while being a teacher at the Art Institute in L’Aquila, he created the series of Carte Stracce (“Torn Papers”) and Monumenti Effimeri (“Ephemeral Monuments”), improvised assemblages of everyday objects (cardboard, tin or plastic containers, pieces of broken dolls or mannequins, flowers and fake fruit of the kind found on market stalls or votive shrines, flashing Christmas lights, clippings of photographs from fashion magazines, veils, and flowers). Moving in 1963 to the School of Art in Sorrento, he started cellophaning the inhabitants, mostly fishermen, in the small village of Marina Grande. At the same time, he began to investigate writing, placing it on living bodies or inanimate images. During the same years, together with a variety of actions (in streets, studios and galleries), he continued to produce drawings and sketches, becoming his predominant activity after 1978, with the “reappropriation of painting after Body Art”.
A forerunner in Italy of research related to the body and action, Desiato infuses his actions with a demystificatory tension, visible in a dramatization of the image that is akin, by its vividness of expression, to the poetry of the tutelary deity of the Orgien-Mysterien-Theater (“The Theater of Orgies and Mysteries”) Hermann Nitsch, with whom he made contact early in Naples, in 1974, involving the Austrian artist in a series of shots. In 1975, in Basel, Desiato performed an action with Charlotte Moorman (Senza titolo: “Untitled”), stripping her and covering her with veils, lights and flowers. More recently, on the occasion of Manifesta 7 (Trento, 2008), he had the first major retrospective dedicated to his work.