Fondazione Antonio Ratti

Matt Mullican

Meaning of Things

Artists' Research Laboratory (XIX CSAV)
5–29 July 2013

Engaging the picture
Mullican discussed his work and research through the emotional interpretation of pictures and signs. Since the early 1970s, Mullican had been interested in the ability of a picture to grab our consciousness and to create an experience. This prolonged investigation of sign-language was discussed during the lab — the nature of the theatrical experience, its ability to transform extreme emotional states, and the trance-like phenomenon that is the core of Mullican’s performances.

Annie Ratti
Simone Menegoi
Anna Castelli

Invited artist

Matt Mullican (b. 1951, Santa Monica, California) lives and works between Berlin and New York. Active since the early 1970s, Mullican is a pioneer in the use of hypnosis in contemporary art. For over four decades he has focused on creating a vocabulary and a system of signs and symbols that offer a polyhedric vision of the universe. It is a classification system that divides all subject matter into the “Five Worlds”, each corresponding to a different level of perception. Mullican’s work is an incessant probing of the relations between reality and perception, in his ongoing attempt to explain and give a structure to every aspect of the human condition. His work also features performances and videos, including what was the cutting-edge use at the end of the 1980s of computers to generate imaginary virtual worlds.

The son of Luchita Hurtado, a Surrealist painter from Venezuela, and of the American painter Lee Mullican, Matt as a child moved from California to Venezuela, to New York, to Rome, to finally return to California. Mullican cites his extensive travels at an early age as a great influence on him and his work. Through experiencing places like Pompeii and studying his parents' collection of Oceanic and tribal art, he became interested in the cosmologies reflected in anthropological objects.
In 1974, he received his BFA from CalArts (California Institute of the Arts), one of the most innovative artistic communities in the United States, where he met David Salle, James Welling, Troy Brauntuch, and Jack Goldstein, all students of John Baldessari.

Mullican’s work has been exhibited in many international venues, including: Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1998); Kunsthalle Basel, Basel (2001); Tate Modern, London (2007); Haus Der Kunst, Munich (2011); Kunsthalle Mainz, Mainz (2013); Camden Arts Centre, London and The Kitchen, New York (2016); HangarBiccoca, Milan (2018). He has participated in several collective exhibitions among which: Whitney Biennial, New York (2008); Singapore Biennial (2011) and 55. Venice Biennale. Mullican has taught and lectured at: Columbia University, New York; The Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, Amsterdam; Chelsea College of Art and Design, London; University of Southern California, Los Angeles; Hochschule für bildende Künste, Hamburg.

Participant artists

Riccardo Beretta
Crystal Z Campbell
Luca De Leva
Iris Dittler
Fredrik Enges
Sara Enrico
Patricia Fernandez
Tony Fiorentino
Kira Freije
Thomas Lee-Steere
Daniele Maffeis
Bridget Moser
Georgia Wall


Matt Mullican

The Meaning of Things

6 July–6 September 2013

Corso Aperto

10 July 2013


Matt Mullican

About the Meaning of My Things

11 July 2013

Stephen Whitmarsh

Metacognition and Nonreactivity in Mindfulness

23 July 2013


The Meaning of Things (who feels the most pain?)
Matt Mullican


The collected work of H.C.


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