Interdisciplinary Italy 1900-2015: Art, Music, Text

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Languages Cultures Art History & Music

Abstract

Since the early twentieth century, Italian culture has been dominated by polemics against conventional form and calls for an abolition of boundaries between the arts. Italy's most influential artistic movements favoured multiple, reversible, "open" structures, a trend that can be found throughout the twentieth and twenty-first century. Interdisciplinarity has been driven by a desire for transgression and emancipation from obsolete artistic conventions, but also by a belief in the deep-rooted affinity between literature, music and the visual arts. Critics like Bonaddio and Butler have argued that such border-crossings are fundamental to understanding creativity during this period. Yet, so far, no one has attempted to study the developments across the period to assess the complex social makeup of the groups that defied established boundaries, or to explore the implications of their theoretical ideas for the teaching and study of modern Italian culture. Research on interdisciplinarity in the arts in the 21st century is very fragmented and has not been adequately theorised.

In addition to fostering dialogue about interdisciplinarity in the arts, the network will use questions that arise to explore issues relating to the development of the discipline of Languages and Area Studies: what are the implications of border-crossing in 20th and 21st century culture in Italy on the way Italian culture is researched and taught in the academy? How could interdisciplinarity enable Italian Studies to improve its public engagement profile? This project promotes the creation of instruments, such as a database, website, workshops and panel discussion, that will enable easier communication between academics and non-academics. Policy issues arising from our findings will be discussed with the SIS, and more broadly with Language subject bodies for schools and universities (UCML, LLAS, ALL and CILT) and will be introduced to the US Italian Studies associations (AAIS) as our research will have implications there too.

The network will run three workshops in London (UCL), New York (NYU), and Rome (RomaTre), and a panel at the Society for Italian Studies conference in 2013. Each of the workshops is dedicated to a separate period: (1) Modernism, (2) Postmodernism and (3) the Internet age. The steering group (Brook, Mussgnug, Pieri) will create and maintain a website and a searchable database, the first of its kind, of academics, museum curators, members of conservatoires and the media with interests in Italian culture. The group will also disseminate results through journal articles and a website. The steering committee will be supported by an advisory panel of experts from within and outside academia.

This project focuses on the following questions:
1) Causes: Where do the roots of modern and contemporary interdisciplinarity lie? Why has it taken place in Italy during this period and what contributed to these developments? What is the place of technology, artistic milieus, journals, cafés, printing, Internet etc. in the development of cross-fertilisation?
2) Change and development: Can one map developments across the whole period? Does the idea of working between artistic genres and disciplines change over time?
3) Philosophical and ideological underpinnings: How do metaphors of borders enable us to understand interdisciplinarity better? What does interdisciplinarity tell us about concepts of facilitating, policing, transgressing? How does the border crossing relate to fragmentation? How do ideas of emancipation and freedom fit in?
4) Policy Implications: how can interdisciplinarity inspire new patterns of research, teaching, and exhibition organisation in Italian Studies and more broadly in Languages?

These questions will be addressed by a network that brings together academics, doctoral and post-doctoral researchers, museum curators, members of conservatoires, and cultural practitioners currently working in Italy.

Planned Impact

1. Educational Policy Makers and Teachers in the UK
This project will provide a forum to enable free, but structured, discussion and thinking anew about policy and curriculum development in Languages, considered by HEFCE 'vulnerable' and 'strategic', in both university departments and secondary schools. There will be discussion of the future of Italian Studies in the UK, the exploration of questions of what it means to be a Language discipline, what the study of a single country entails, how closer links to those working on countries such as Italy in other parts of our universities can be pursued and the benefits and drawbacks of opening out a Language discipline in this way. The project, which was presented to the SIS Executive on Jan 13th 2012, will dialogue openly with this subject body throughout its life. Concepts emerging from the 3 workshops relevant to policy will be integrated into the discussion at a panel at the SIS conference in July 2013 to which representatives of CILT, ALL, UCML and LLAS will be invited. Findings from this panel will then be proposed for discussion at the SIS Executive in July 2013, and outcomes from the conference and Executive meeting will then be presented for discussion at the next relevant meeting of both the LLAS and UCML and also to to CILT and ALL. The aim is to provide new ideas, strategies and advice to policy-makers and curriculum developers in Languages in universities and in schools to make Italian and other Language disciplines as competitive nationally and internationally as possible. The aim is also to free up dialogue between teachers and lecturers in Languages.

2. Museum Curators and Professionals in the UK and North America
Workshop 1 (NYU) and Workshop 2 (UCL) will draw in handpicked curators with interests in modern Italian culture. By exploring both the theoretical underpinning of interdisciplinary practices in Italy and by creating a database of researchers and practitioners, this project has the potential to engage strongly with the museum world. Work on Italian Modernism by North-American scholars and curators in the past 2 decades has shown that better links between academia and the museum world can be mutually beneficial and has the potential to open up new pathways to engage with the wider public. The searchable database will enable museum curators working on Italy to have immediate access, through the database, to academics who can advise them on exhibitions and work with them in other ways. In other words, the database, together with the programme of workshops, will provide a springboard for further collaboration and a virtual networking forum for academics and museum practitioners working in the broad field of Italian studies in the UK. While we cannot guarantee that it will facilitate future wider interdisciplinary partnerships or free up the relations between museums and the academy, the potential for this is in our view considerable.


3. Cultural Practitioners in Italy
Workshop 3 (Roma Tre) will enable academics to test out, and challenge, theories about how interdisciplinarity works, and to network with artists, so providing opportunities to set up interviews and other collaborations in the future, which would provide an opportunity to deepen discussion. It will benefit cultural practitioners by providing them with a forum to reflect on artistic processes, to consider emerging theories behind the current artistic trends of border crossing, to network with those with similar artistic interests, and to consider and reconsider the place (both advantages and pitfalls) of the web-based technologies in the shaping of border-crossing art. Artistic endeavours in Italy like Wu Ming's work, Ibrid@menti and others have been at the forefront of experimentation with the possibilities of new artistic forms and hybrids, and interactions between academics interested in border crossings and artists will, we believe, be very fruitful and exciting for both groups.

Publications


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Brook, CJ (2017) Italian Studies: An Interdisciplinary Perspective in Italian Studies
Pieri, G (2014) L'italianistica in Gran Bretagna: tra interdisciplinarità e tradizione. in Rassegna della letteratura italiana
 
Description This Interdisciplinary Italy project had two strands, one exploring interdisciplinarity in Italian culture from 1900 to the present and a second policy strand dedicated to discussing interdisciplinarity in Italian Studies in universities and secondary schools.
New knowledge generated. The project generated new knowledge about Italian culture in the 20th and 21st centuries, providing some initial sketches of how interdisciplinary practice changed over time, and the place of political institutio(e.g. the government under Fascism), changes in technology (journals, cafes, Internet), and changes in the philosophical and psychological underpinnings which lead to today's focus on interdisciplinarity. The nature of this project, however, means that what was sketched was necessarily preliminary. The project also generated new knowledge about how interdisciplinarity has developed over time within the field of Italian Studies; we traced changes from 1900 to the present, and advised how the increasing interdisciplinary openness might be harnessed by our field and by teachers in schools and museum curators. New methodologies: It is our view that Italian Studies, and other Modern Language disciplines, would make swift progress in exploring the increasingly hybrid artistic objects and cultural practices and practitioners that span more than one art, if cross-disciplinary co-writing of articles was used as a method: this is where two or more academics from different fields pool their knowledge in an open attempt to understand the object of study from divergent perspectives. The importance of this began to become evident as the project developed. We have begun to experiment with this technique and a number of publications are in progress. We will take this forward over the coming years, and intend, if further funding is successful, to use the website as an experimental area for co-writing. Our experience of working with postgraduates during this project, suggests that there is an urgent need to train them in interdisciplinary working practices. Creation of new research resources: The project gave two new resources to the field. One is a searchable database of those working on Italian culture of the 20th and 21st centuries in Italian Studies Departments, but also in Departments of media, film, art, music fashion, theatre studies and so on. It also includes museum curators. This database enables members of the academic and curatorial community to find people working on similar areas to themselves, who they may not otherwise know due to disciplinary boundaries. The database is now housed on the Society for Italian Studies site. The second resource is a website, www.interdisciplinaryitaly.com, on which videos of the 3 workshops, discussions of key issues arising from those workshops, video interviews with teachers, and blog posts on teaching were published, alongside a twitter feed to keep people informed about our work. Over the two years, the website got over 10,000 hits. Particularly noteworthy new research collaborations and networks: the network has created a strong and productive bond between academics and secondary school teachers (the latter continue to bring the project into schools via multiple conference papers) and academics and museum curators, and the intention to work together in the future has been established.
Exploitation Route Methodological findings will be taken forward by our encouraging - through the website, if funding is found - of co-writing across disciplines, which is a rare, or even unknown practice in our field. The discovery of interdisciplinary research gaps in academic work on Italian culture have been published on our website and may be taken forward by other academics in our field. Our work with secondary school teachers will continue with Pieri's present commitment with SIS; she will facilitate further collaboration between ALL and ISMLA and the SIS Schools Liaison Officer. If funding is found, sample resources for teaching could be developed to share interdisciplinary strategies and practices in the secondary and higher education sectors. Collaboration with museum curators has been productive but remains more challenging without further funding. The links with both Estorick Collection and the V&A resulted in invitations by both institutions to address non-academic audiences via public lectures and gallery talks (both by Pieri, in April and May 2014 respectively) showing great potential for further cooperation between project members and the museum world. The latter examples remain a viable pathway to continue our commitment to knowledge transfer and have stemmed directly by the curators' involvement in our project.
Sectors Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
URL http://www.interdisciplinaryitaly.com
 
Description The project from its outset aimed to forge better links with a number of non-academic groups in order to foster new pathways for knowledge exchange. We have worked with teachers in the UK-both representatives of teachers' associations (ALL) and individual teachers who were able to reflect on their interdisciplinary practices in interviews that are available on the project's interactive website. Work in this area has been especially productive and has resulted in direct, and ongoing, invitations from our teacher-partners to collaborate on the delivery of papers to address larger teacher audiences (Language Live Show, October 2014) and teacher associations (ISMLA January 2015). We have also shared our findings and reflections on interdisciplinarity in Italian Studies with a number of national subject associations and policy making bodies, including addressing both HEA and UCML (via its representative for Italian Studies) in March 2013; the SIS during its AGMs in January 2013 and 2014; and LLAS in July 2014. Workshop 1 (NYU) and 2 (UCL) have seen the participation of curators with an interest in modern Italian culture and an understanding of the need for its interdisciplinary contextualisation. This has resulted in a number of invited talks, in gallery/museum spaces, to address non-academic audiences from members of the project, fostering the wider dissemination of our initial findings. Future plans for collaboration on an exhibition are also in place and, if additional funding is found, our ongoing informal partnership with the Estorick Collection will allow us to deliver a much wider programme of public dissemination of present and future research in the areas of interdisciplinary and interartistic exchange in modern Italian culture. Overall the network has provided a forum to enable free but structured discussion and thinking about policy and curriculum development; it has helped to bridge the gap and free up dialogue between teachers and lecturers in Italian; and it has enabled project members, contributors to the three workshops, and the wider community which has visited our interactive website to reflect further on the functioning of disciplinary and institutional boundaries in interdisciplinary teaching, learning and research.
Sector Education
Impact Types Cultural
 
Description Standard Grant
Amount £549,832 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/M008819/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 06/2015 
End 10/2018
 
Description University of Birmingham College Scholarships
Amount £18,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Birmingham 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 10/2013 
End 09/2017
 
Title Cross-disciplinary co-writing 
Description It is our view that the discipline would make swift progress in exploring the increasingly present hybrid artistic objects and cultural practices and practitioners that span more than one art, if cross-disciplinary co-writing of articles was being used as a method: this is where two or more academics from different fields pool their knowledge in an open attempt to understand the object of study from divergent perspectives. The importance of this began to become evident as the project developed. We have begun to experiment with this technique and a number of publications are in progress, including one by a member of the advisory board, who - inspired by his involvement with the project, wrote 'Masculine Semiotics: the Music of Goffredo Petrassi and the Figurative Arts in Italy during the 1930s' (Twentieth Century Music, Vol 9, 1-2) DAVID OSMOND-SMITH and BEN EARLE 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Access to new knowledge and new understandings of hybrid art objects and cultural practices 
 
Title Database for Interdisciplinary Italy 
Description The project created a searchable database of those working on Italian culture of the 20th and 21st centuries in Italian Studies Departments, but also in Departments of media, film, art, music fashion, theatre studies and so on. It also includes museum curators. This database enables members of the academic and curatorial community to find people working on similar areas to themselves, who they may not otherwise know due to disciplinary boundaries. The database is now housed on the Society for Italian Studies website. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact While we are not aware yet, of any impacts, and it will be difficult to quantify impact for the databse, we expect that the database will be used to find research collaborations and collaborations between academics and museum curators. 
URL http://www.italydatabase.com/
 
Description Association for Language Learning (ALL) 
Organisation Association for Language Learning
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We continue to advise ALL on interdisciplinary teaching, both formally and informally, and are contributing a paper on interartistic perspectives to the Italian Teachers Day (June 18th 2016). For this, we will work on a number of small projects in schools based on one or two case studies, i.e. topics that are/can be part of the curriculum in Italian, History and Art History.We will be preparing sample material with the help of the teachers for each specific discipline and then test out an interdisciplinary session in which the students will talk about the topic from their own disciplinary expertise to show them how an interdisciplinary dialogue works in practice.The idea is to put both teachers (from universities and schools) and students in the position of partial knowledge holders and test out interdisciplinarity in the classroom.
Collaborator Contribution We have regular contact via email and meetings with a representative of ALL, who also attend our yearly Advisory Board. While this contact was first initiated in the first phase of the Interdisciplinary Italy project, in this second phase the production of teaching materials and papers will deepen the contact and transform the nature of the impact.
Impact The outcomes of this collaboration will first be seen in the June 18th Teachers Day, a training day for Teachers of Italian and related subjects. We also have a designated space on our new website (www.interdisciplinaryitaly.org) for teaching in which we will be sharing material relevant to our project with teachers. This material will largely be developed next year.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Estorick Collection, London 
Organisation Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The Estorick is our official partner for Interdisciplinary Italy 1900-2020. We are currently in discussion with them to prepare an exhibition set to take place in the autumn of 2018. This is likely to focus attention on one year (1960-61) and we will be contributing findings from our research into interartistic practice in the 1960s to the organisation of the conference and to the conference catalogue and events. We have recommended, for example, using images from LIFE magazine, that G. Pieri identified, as a cornerstone of this exhibition and using this to look at representations and self-representations of Italy's modernity
Collaborator Contribution The director of the Estorick Collection, Roberta Cremonini, has been in regular contact with us, attending board meetings and a number of separate meetings to plan the exhibition. The Estorick have been providing ideas (for instance focusing on 1960-61 as the centenary of Italy's unification (which works particularly well with our book project, as our co-authored book works on a similar idea of dedicating a chapter to the analysis of a particular year).
Impact The key outcomes from this collaboration include an exhibition at the Estorick, catalogue and training days.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Papers at Teaching Italian Studies in the 21st century: Trends and Challenges (HEA funded study day) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The papers were given as part of a one-day seminar funded by the Higher Education Academy on curriculum development in Italian Studies at national level. This was an unforeseen and additional outcome of the policy strand of the AHRC networking grant. As the whole day was led by Dr Pieri, we put the core interdisciplinary concerns, which emerged from our project, at the heart of the day. About 80 people attended, and discussion after a number of the sessions centred on the challenges and opportunities or interdisciplinary practice in universities. We advised on how to overcome obstacles on how to work with colleagues in other Departments and gave ideas on how to weave Italian Studies, and Languages, better into the wider University curriculum, which were then debated on the floor. Dr Brook presented a paper on 'Interdisciplinarity in Italian Studies Teaching'. Dr Pieri led a session on 'Italian cinema, art and design: a visual turn'. A further session with contributions by Dr Antonello and Dr Jossa focused on the boundaries of the canon in Italian literature.

This session was aimed at Italian lecturers in UK universities, so an impact beyond policy in Italian Studies is not foreseen. The effect on policy for Italian Studies can be seen in the production of a report by Dr Pieri on The Future of Italian Studied for the Society for Italian Studies (the subject body for this language area) at the AGM in January 2014.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://blogs.heacademy.ac.uk/arts-and-humanities/2013/04/04/teaching-c21-italian-studies/
 
Description SIS Conference Panel on Interdiscipinarity in Teaching 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A Panel at the Society for Italian Studies, which discussed interdisciplinary pedagogy and Languages policy. The panel was made up of two academics (Brook, Pieri) and one secondary school teacher (Langdale), who together discussed the project's questions in relation to interdisciplinarity in policy-making and teaching. The talk sparked substantial debate afterwards.

Direct invitation to collaborate with the two members of ALL who were invited to attend the conference. Pieri collaborated with Amodio-Johnson and Langdale and addressed an audience of primary and secondary school teachers (The Language Show Live, London, October 2014). Pieri is also currently collaborating with Langdale and ISMLA (for the 2015 annual conference where they will address a national audience).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Two panels at SIS on Transmedia practice chaired by Interdisciplinary Italy advisory board members 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact These further panels were unforeseen outcomes of the Interdisciplinary Italy Roma Tre workshop. Discussions at the Rome workshop between Dr Brook and Dr Patti led to the organisation of these two panels on contemporary Interdisciplinary practice at the SIS, which fell under the umbrella of the project. The two panels aimed to investigate Italian storytelling across media, with a special focus on how new media technologies have fundamentally changed our methods of story constructions and modes of reception. The panels stimulated discussion, especially amongst early career researchers, about a new area of research for Languages: transmedia. This in turn led to the publication of a book on the topics emerging from the two panels: Italian transmedia storytelling: Storie e narrazioni attraverso i media (Mimesis 2014). This book is an unforeseen output from the project.

The workshop had invited Italian artists to attend. One, a digital artist called Jaromil, says that the workshop inspired him to develop a methodology and has asked for a bibliography on interdisciplinary practice to underpin his thinking.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Workshop 1 at New York University/Casa Italiana. 22/02/2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact A workshop addressing core questions on Italian cultural and artistic production in the period 1900-1945 (modernism) from an interdisciplinary and interartistic perspective.The morning sessions included papers by David forgacs (NYU) on 'Disciplines, arts, industries, technologies, spaces' and Vivien Greene (Curator at Guggenheim), 'Exhibiting Italian Futurism in 2014'. Later: an extended roundtable discussion during which 15 members of the network discussed intellectual questions assigned to them by the project organisers. The discussions sparked debate and the participants requested to take forward the project and to see more of this kind of interdisciplinary research workshop.

The impact of this workshop was mainly on the academic audience. Examples include workshop participant, Prof. John Champagne, Professor of English Penn State Erie, the Behrend College, who asked for our advice for a 'paper at the annual Bloomington Conference on contemporary Italian film and wanted to refer specifically to some of the keynote addresses', and who also endorsed the impact of the workshop in a private message to us: 'I am finding moments from the day creeping into nearly everything
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Workshop 2. University College London (postmodernism) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The second workshop of the project explored interdisciplinary post-modernism and brought together specialists from different artistic fields who had never worked together before. The morning sessions included papers on postmodernist art, music, fashion, photography etc by Antonello, Donnarumma, Stanfill etc. Later: an extended roundtable discussion during which 15 people from different disciplines (museum curators, Art, Fashion, Photography etc.) The talk sparked a lot of debate and led to sense of a new and wider experience of Italian post-modernist and avant-garde practice, that than usually portrayed in the various fields. It is likely that a further book publication, collecting the papers given at this event, will result from the work done here. It also led to the publication of the first co-written article crossing music and art between members of group who attended. We had numerous requests afterwards about how to take forward the research that had been sparked at the event.

One of the steering committee of the project, who led this workshop, developed a new interdisciplinary team-taught module for UCL: Qualitative Thinking: Making Value Judgements; for which Dr Mussgnug drew on inspiration from the London workshop. The guest lecturers included two speakers from our workshop: Bob Lumley (on Photography) and Cat Rossi (on Ideas of the Hand-Made). The course is part of UCL's new flagship programme, the BASc Arts and Science, and the class consisted of 54 students.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://events.ucl.ac.uk/event/event:e19-hg4sgyfc-25hroj/interdisciplinary-postmodernism-rethinking-t...
 
Description Workshop 3, Roma Tre (internet age) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact A workshop bringing together artists, and interartistic practitioners and academics working on contemporary digital art/writing etc in Italy. Discussion was particularly lively and future-orientated, and was focused on understanding how an interdisciplinary focus might change perspectives on contemporary culture in Italy. The debate was continued through email, on the website and then concretely in 2 panels at the SIS conference, one major edited book published by a member of the group (Marco Gargiulo).

The impact of this workshop was largely on the academic audience, as outlined above. However, one of the artists, Jaromil, intends taking forward the interdisciplinary theories and in Oct 2014 asked us to supply a bibliography.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013