120 Days of Sodom Manfred Zylla is a unique art-meet-cinema book published in 2015 by Erdmann Contemporary. It is distributed by Protea Books and available in bookstores in South Africa.

Artist Background

Manfred Zylla (b. 1939. Augsburg, Germany) is a contemporary of Gerhard Richter, Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer and Sigmar Polke. Like his contemporaries, the artworks he produced in the 1960’s were in response to the state of the world back then. Zylla’s radicalization however, started much earlier. He experienced marginalization, as a result of his parents deafness from a young age. His childhood during the Second World War, and in a post-war Germany that had to come to terms with military defeat and the consequences of the Holocaust instilled in him a life-long anti-war, anti-fascist and anti-militarist activism. He has lived and worked in South Africa since 1970 producing works that relentlessly criticized, ridiculed and confronted apartheid’s atrocities. After South Africa’s democratisation in 1994 Zylla re-centered his piercing critique onto global issues such as social justice and climate change.

Pasolini’s influence

Pier Paolo Pasolini was an Italian poet and novelist, an intellectual and a film director and one of the most original and controversial figures of the twentieth century. His films are socially critical, lyrically provocative and profoundly unconventional. In 2011 Zylla began work on a series of 120 small gouache paintings inspired by Pasolini’s final film, Saló (1975). Pasolini in turn had loosely based his film on the novel, 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade (written in 1785 and published in 1904). Sade’s book concerns four wealthy libertines – a priest, a duke, a judge, and a banker, who abducts and hold hostage mostly teenaged victims to fulfil, through a series of ritualistic orgies, their depraved desires. In Saló, Pasolini relocated these events to fascist Italy in the last months of the war, with the same pantheon of power brokers now gorging their lust for power by torturing the abducted children of the proletariat. In his adaptation Pasolini resorted to an idea of Dante’s Inferno which he felt was exactly what Sade had in mind.

This beautifully designed art-meet-cinema publication, in a print run of 350 copies only, has two distinct sections. The first section features Zylla’s 120 paintings. These paintings range from frames directly taken from Pasolini’s film, to images of society’s obsession with, amongst other things, consumerism, nuclear atonement, fracking, and militarism. These paintings are graphic and brutal, they reflect a world seized by a lust for power and insatiable desire to consume. It is as if Zylla is screaming – LOOK AT US – THIS IS ALL OF US. Pasolini is Zylla’s medium, his rostrum.

The second part is anchored by a brilliant short essay, A Saint in the city of Pandemonium: Pier Paolo Pasolini, a revolutionary thinker in a time of consumption by film curator and consummate film connoisseur Trevor Steele Taylor. This thread of cinema is continued through texts in various languages by 30 transcontinental contributors that include an actor, a script writer, a film critic, academics, journalists, artists, musicians, activists, writers, students, teachers, a bar owner, a cultural analyst and a cultural facilitator. It is a collection of vividly crafted texts, some flow through Pasolini, Sade and/or Dante while others simply reflect the intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of the global moment. This text section also include the moving lyrics of a song written by COIL, an English experimental band formed in 1982 and disbanded in 2005. The lyrics of Ostia (The Death of Pasolini) are reprinted with the permission of former band member, Stephen Thrower. Pasolini was violently murdered in Ostia in 1975. His death remains an unsolved mystery to this day.

Contributors

Alessandra Atti Di Sarro, Ludwig Binge, Pablo Cesar, Erik Chevalier, Andrea Dicó, Garth Erasmus, Caspar Greeff, Cheng Haotian, Professor John Higgins, Ashraf Jamal, Aryan Kaganof, Tim Leibbrandt, Marlene Le Roux, Professor Rozena Maart, Dr Nomusa Makhubu, James Matthews, Antonín Mareš, Usen Obot, John Peffer, Dr Ludmila Ommudsen Pessoa, Ivor Powell, Rafael Powell, Chris Pretorius, Cheng Qian, Carsten Rasch, Nicola Roos, Hofmeyr Scholtz, Andrea Tapper, Stephen Thrower, Paul Valentine and Niklas Zimmer.

Edited by Heidi Erdmann. Book design by Peter Stuckey