giuseppe penone

February 4, 2008 § 4 Comments


(partial definition of the word reflect from The Oxford College Dictionary, 2nd edition,  Spark 2007)


Giuseppe Penone. Rovesciare i propri occhi
(Giuseppe Penone. To Turn Upside Down Your Own Eyes),
1970 gelatin silver print
12″ x 16″ (cm. 30,5 x 40,5)


 Rovesciare i propri occhi, 1970. Mirrored contact lenses, documentary photograph.g-penone-roveasciare-gli-occhi-1970.jpg

(cover of Swiss catalog, unknown date)


(note: the above painting/drawing is made after one of Paolo Mussat Sartor’s photos of Giuseppe Penone taken in 1970)


Back in the 1970’s, the Italian artist Giuseppe Penone created a pair of mirrored contact lenses.  He wore them in a documentary performance & was photographed by Paolo Mussat Sartor. 

The lenses were not “lenses” in the traditional sense of the word.  The lenses blocked Penone’s vision.  They reflected inwardly & outwardly.  The outside world was reflected in the artist’s eyes.  The artist’s vision was then “reflected” back on itself & into itself.  Penone’s contact lenses suggest that one must look inward to show the outside world a creative vision.

A mirror reflects & to reflect can also mean to think deeply.  Penone thought deeply, while his eyes saw into themselves & others saw themselves in his eyes. 

–Aurelio Madrid


1st link to Allison Hunter’s article on Penone, in Sculpture (magazine), Dec. 2004:

2nd link is to an Art Povera show “Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera 1962-1972” at the Tate Modern in 2001:


Giuseppe Penone

Artist’s statement 1977


“Mirrored contact lenses cover my iris

& pupil; wearing them makes me blind. 

Mirrored lenses, when placed over my eyes,

indicate the point that separates me from that

which surrounds me.  They are like a skin, a

border element, the interruption of a

channel of information that uses light as its

medium.  Their mirrored surface is such that

the information that reaches my eye is

reflected. By blocking my vision I eliminate data

necessary for my subsequent behavior. 

When my eyes, covered by mirrored

contact lenses, reflect the images they

habitually capture as I observe the world,

my sense of sight is extended in space &…

in the possibility of seeing in the future

the images captured by my eyes in the past. 

The image that an artist in the representative

tradition perceives, memorizes & retransmits

at a later time by way of the work is, in this case,

transmitted from the work before the artist has

seen it. The delay with which I appropriate the

image, makes the mirrored contact lenses

divinatory of my future vision.” 

–Giuseppe Penone

Artist statement,’ Rovesciare Gli Occhi,

Einaudi, Turin 1977, pp. 70-77.

published in Engish in Germano Celant,

Penone (cat.) Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol:

DCAF/Halifax: Electa, Milan, 1989, p. 58

Excerpted from Art Povera, Carolyn

Christov-Bakargiev (ed.), Phaidon 1999

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