All the World’s a Screen

The End by Fabio Mauri

Fabio Mauri, The End, 1959. Collage, ink, transfer letters and oil on paper, 12.59 x 9.06 in. (32 x 23 cm). Courtesy the Estate of Fabio Mauri and Hauser & Wirth

  • 21 June 2024
  • Issue 10

Italian artist Fabio Mauri (1926–2009) incorporated performance, film, mixed-media works, installations and theoretical writings to investigate 20th-century history and the atrocities of World War II. After the war, he saw magazine pictures of concentration camp victims and was deeply shaken. In visually jarring and often profoundly provocative ways, his work explored the mechanisms through which spectacle, media and nationalism conspired to spawn Italian fascism and continued to fuel isolationist, totalitarian impulses long after the war.

In 1957, Mauri made his first screen work (schermo) in reference to cinema and television, which had infiltrated Italian society by the 1950s. The newfound ubiquity of television reinforced Mauri’s perception that a screen was a vehicle through which reality would be shaped and that the world as we know it was becoming a projection.

Text and words were central to his work, the legacy of his literary upbringing and his family’s ownership of the Italian publishing house Bompiani. Several of his screen works invoke the words “The End” or its Italian equivalent “Fine” as a contemplation of finality: a literal reference to the last, fade-out moment in cinema but also a broader philosophical reflection on human mortality and the context of history.

Mauri’s questioning of the proliferation of screens and new media in society reflected a major issue of his time, one that holds even more troubling relevance today.

“Reality, by definition,” he wrote presciently, “is more complex than the world of signs that describes it.”