From the outset, Boetti’s Arte Povera assemblages differed from those of his contemporaries; he was not so concerned with metaphor but rather concepts. The playful and often humorous sincerity and directness of their material gesture related more to the object’s function in the real world than abiding to traditional ideas of sculpture. Colonna (1967), a stack of hundreds of paper doilies, or Mimetico (1966), a painting of stretched camouflage fabric, evince an attitude that the choice and assembly of such ostensibly poor materials can constitute the smallest act of artistic creation. He later assigned himself the task of tracing over the grid of squared paper, exploring the idea of pointless, time-wasting work, and filling large sheets with endless biro scribbles.
Informed by his wide travels, Boetti addressed many of the concerns that artists today find equally fruitful; notions related to time and the temporal nature of making art, often with purposeful inefficiency; delegating fabrication to skilled craftspeople; and geopolitics and the social context of labor. Boetti first visited Kabul, Afghanistan in 1971 and a few months after his first visit he returned to establish the One Hotel with local waiter and entrepreneur Gholam Dastaghir. Here his Mappe (1971–94) were also conceived, colorful weavings depicting maps of the world with the colors of each country filled in with their flag, produced by local craftswomen. For Boetti, the Mappe allowed him to “do nothing”, as not only were they made by others but he didn’t draw or design anything; the shapes of the countries’ borders and the designs of the flags were somewhat fixed. What emerges from the work is its concept with variances left to chance or the choices of the craftspeople, or later physical changes to national borders. Therefore the sea is sometimes pink or Sufi poems are written into the margins. Rather than just opposing order and disorder, he used the processes and logic as a means of creation.
Another project, Viaggi Postali (1969–70) consisted of him sending letters to artists and figures he admired using fictional addresses; once they were returned he sent them on again on imaginary journeys, playing with chance within the order of the postal system and then even classifying them by the color of the stamps. The systems and sequences of classification and the knowledge they create and perpetuate never ceased to interest Boetti. A persistent interest in duality and multiplicity is even seen in the e (and) he added as his middle name, suggesting he is two separate people to challenge the idea of the unified artist. Similarly, by collaborating with creative workers from other cultures, he created a nuanced perspective on global political events and challenged a mode of art production and reception dominated by the west.