The Variational Mode

Riccardo Giacconi

Doctoral Thesis



Riccardo Giacconi's artistic practice deals with documents and, more specifically, with the use and the exploration of their narrative potential. This dissertation is about three different cycles of artworks Giacconi produced as part of the research project. The notion of animation inheres in each of the three case studies:

– Case 1 focuses on his artworks about Simone Pianetti (1858–?), an Italian mass murderer who escaped and disappeared, and who then became a puppet character, animated as a stock character.

– Case 2 focuses on Augusto Masetti (1888–1966), an Italian soldier who shot at his superior officer and declared not to remember having done it, as if in a state of ecstatic possession, as if animated by an external entity. Mainly using publications and workshops, Giacconi produced a series of artworks related to legal, medical and anarchist records on his case.

– Case 3 follows the appearance of a puppet character in Colombia, el espiritado, and its supposed connections to the Masetti case. Giacconi describes a series of artistic works he produced, starting from a puppet script about the self-destruction of a village, which can be read as a commentary on puppetry, anarchism and animation.



Photos of the exhibition ‘The Variational Mode’ installed in Gravensteen at Leiden University, 12 November – 14 November 2019. The exhibition presented a selection of work by Riccardo Giacconi produced within the framework of his PhD research project.

Photography by Gert Jan van Rooij