Interdisciplinary Italy 1900-2020: Interart/Intermedia

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

Abstract

Since the start of the 20th century, the arts in Italy have rapidly developed hybrid forms. Cinema, digital visual poetry, sound art, filmed book trailers and other practices which cross arts and media and have become a major cultural force. Artists are shifting between different art forms with a fluidity which is striking: Dino Buzzati, for instance, writes novels, but also designs their illustrations; the poet Eduoardo Sanguineti traces his poetry back to atonal music.

Until very recently this interartistic fluidity has been the prerogative of artists. Researchers worked against the grain of this cultural shift, analysing cultural products according to our own disciplines (literature, art, music etc.). In so doing, we risked overlooking a paradigm shift, losing hybrid art forms in the gaps between disciplines - where they receive only marginal treatment - and underestimating the value of one art for another.

As interdisciplinary methodologies develop, however, researchers now find themselves at a new historical vantagepoint. It is finally possible to build a groundbreaking interartistic perspective on the arts. The proposed project maps the paradigm shift in 20th and 21st century Italy. It acts as an intriguing case study.

The key research questions are:

(1) Why has interartistic practice changed so markedly over the course of 20th and 21st century? Our project maps a fresh interartistic cultural history of Italy. It will answer questions like: Why did interartistic and intermedial practice occur in Italy at this time? What part do journals, cafés, printing, digital technology, etc. play in development? Our response goes beyond the narrow focus of monodisciplinary research to reveal a more comprehensive picture of interartistic encounters and new kinds of experimentation. We challenge and amend established ideas of cultural centres and peripheries, to focus attention on individuals and groups who are actively engaged in creative boundary-crossing an on institutions who fostered or hindered interartistic exchange. Our project introduces a new and original focal point: we seek to examine how a multidisciplinary approach subverts widely accepted canons; what looks central under the lens of the monodisciplinary microscope may not be so from an interartistic one.

(2) Why have avant-garde and activist artists critiqued and transgressed the boundaries between the arts in 20th and 21st century Italy? What effect has this had on creativity? Since the beginning of the twentieth century, interartistic practice has been palpable in periods of uncertainty and radical social change, frequently associated with the avant-garde. It also appears to have emerged most strongly where political and cultural conventions are challenged, especially by activists. The first area our project explores is the transgressive nature of interartistic and intermedial creativity.

(3) What theories do we need to develop in order to discuss hybrid cultural objects and avant-garde interartistic practice? We will fashion a theoretical discourse to facilitate new research across the arts and media and underpin work done in our own project. This will highlight the social, creative and psychological dynamics of interartistic creativity, rather than the demands and constraints of disciplinary fields.

Outputs are: Two new interartistic cultural histories of 20th and 21st century Italy (one specifically on the digital age); a theoretically focused book on interartistic research for a broader intellectual community; articles; sample interartistic/intermedial teaching material for schools; an interartistic exhibition and catalogue.

We will develop dedicated events for postgraduates and postdocs, academics, museum curators and schoolteachers. These are targeted at informing ideas about interartistic practice and empowering those cohorts to work, in a theoretically informed way, on interartistic practice articles.

Planned Impact

The interartistic and intermedial focus of our research project provides a strong foundation on which to foster a dialogue with a number of non-academic groups whilst strengthening our major aim to reframe the boundaries of the discipline of Italian studies and its perception outside the academe in the 21st century. Our intention is to use our research findings to open up new pathways of collaboration and cultural exchange among our research team, academics across the field of Italian Studies and those working in museums, secondary schools, and the general public. The dissemination programme that follows has been devised to maximize the potential for engagement with non-academic participants and is the result of our ongoing work with teachers and curators. The events planned (especially in relation to 2 and 3) have significantly been discussed with and endorsed by individuals and organisations (see pathways to impact).
(1) The general public. The project aims to achieve impact on cultural life through its collaboration with a professional curatorial team in organising an exhibition at a significant UK gallery, the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art in London. The exhibition will enable us to present one of the case studies of our research, the work of Italian designers as polymaths and their eminently interdisciplinary approach, engaging in the process with a wider, non-academic audience. The project team will deliver a number of free gallery talks for the general public, and run and/or facilitate a number of additional educational activities.
(2) Museum curators. Our objective is to activate a more robust discussion over the challenges and opportunities offered by different ways to present/frame the work of Italian artists in the period under consideration. The project team will thus organise a study day for museums curators, especially those in institutions across the UK with more substantial holdings of Italian 20th and 21st century art (fine and decorative arts, design, fashion and photography) with a focus on trends in display and exhibition in relation to transmedial and interartistic practices. The interartistic exhibition in 2018 will also present us with the opportunity to bring the potential for rethinking disciplinary boundaries within the exhibition space to the attention of museum practitioners.
(3) Secondary school teachers. Public discussion on curriculum changes in modern languages stresses the inherently interdisciplinary nature of language learning (see draft document of the Department of Education, Modern Foreign Languages GCE, AS and A level subject content, July 2014), yet both teaching material and subject content are still influenced by current disciplinary boundaries. The project will work with ALL (the Association for Secondary School Language Teachers) to produce interartistic teaching material for GCSE and A-level teachers of Italian. The teaching material will be freely accessible online and it will be hosted on the project website under a dedicated teaching tab and blog in order to foster an active dialogue with teachers. A teacher's CPD event, in conjunction with the planned exhibition at the Estorick Collection, aimed at teachers of Italian, art history and history will provide further exchange between educators in different disciplines in which Italian art and culture feature prominently. An enhanced education pack for teachers will also be produced on this occasion and will be available through the Estorick Collection and the project website. Both workshops and teaching/education material will be aimed at students of art history, history, design, as well as Italian language (the latter are not normally catered for specifically in gallery tours and activities).
 
Description Preliminary arguments and ideas presented by the project on the new website www.interdisciplinaryitaly.org were used by Milan artists Studio Azzurro - they said at the annual project Advisory Board meeting in Nov 2015 - to inform their creative thinking. We are now waiting to see if this will result in concrete change and outcomes for their digital artwork.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural
 
Description AHRC PhD scholarships London (LAHP).
Amount £18,000 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 10/2015 
End 10/2018
 
Description AHRC PhD studentship Birmingham (MC3)
Amount £18,000 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 10/2016 
End 09/2019
 
Description AHRC PhD studentship Birmingham (MC3)
Amount £18,000 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 10/2015 
End 09/2018
 
Description Research and Development Training Grant
Amount £1,532 (GBP)
Organisation London Arts and Humanities Partnership 
Sector Academic/University
Country Unknown
Start 04/2017 
End 06/2017
 
Description UCL Global Engagement Award
Amount £2,300 (GBP)
Organisation University College London (UCL) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start  
 
Description UCL International Networking Grant
Amount £1,000 (GBP)
Organisation University College London (UCL) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 10/2016 
End 12/2017
 
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 Studio Azzurro 
Organisation Studio Azzurro
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Studio Azzurro is a group of digital artists based in Milan. They have become involved in our website, and we have provided them with our research questions, ideas through the website. The collaboration is an unexpected outcome of the project.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of blog posts on the website and information supporting our research
Impact The collaboration only began in November 2015. So far, Studio Azzurro have contributed 2 blogposts to the website, have attended a meeting in London, and have provide research material.
Start Year 2015
 
Description The British School at Rome 
Organisation British School at Rome
Country Italy, Italian Republic 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution PI and Co-Is on Interdisciplinary Italy to provide hands-on workshops on intermedial and interdisciplinary practice at the BSR in 2018. The BSR to be represented on the Advisory Board of the Interdisciplinary Italy project Joint applications for post-doctoral funding related to the Interdisciplinary Italy themes which would enable postdocs to spend a period of time at the BSR in Rome as well as time with the PI at UoB;
Collaborator Contribution Financial support for the final conference of the Interdisciplinary Italy project, which is expected to take place at the BSR in 2018. To include discounted rates on room hire and other costs, to be agreed. For the 2018 workshops, the BSR will provide some reduced fee or waived bursaries so that post-docs based in the UK can attend BSR fellows to contribute co-written blog posts to the Interdisciplinary Italy website. These are to span more than one artistic discipline, so supporting the aims of the Interdisciplinary Italy. Occasional small financial contributions for refreshments at events at the Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Languages, set up under the Interdisciplinary Italy project in 2017
Impact The outcomes will appear in 2018. The collaboration is multi-disciplinary, spanning the visual arts and various forms of literature.
Start Year 2016
 
Description BBC Radio 4 broadcast 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk on Umberto Eco, a major literary and theoretical voice in Italy. Audience reported greater appreciation of Eco's role in Italian culture.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b071fnwb
 
Description Interdisciplinary Futurism: Workshop for Schools at Tate Modern - Take Exchange 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 70ca people attended a workshop at Tate Modern/ Tate Exchange on 13 February 2017, entitled Interdisciplinary Futurism. Sixth Form students from The Sixth Form College, Farnborough (departmens of History and Design) Queen Margarets' School, York (department of history of art), and UG and PG students from Royal Holloway University of London (School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures) attended the workshop which fostered an active interdisciplinary dialogue between historians, art historians and design students focused on Italian Futirism. The students were also joined by members of the general public at Tate to explore the nature of interartistic practice in Futurism with a particular focus on Futurist poetic and visual practices.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/workshop/tate-exchange/interdisciplinary-futurism-perfor...
 
Description Interview on Italian Studies in the UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview of Florian Mussgnug by Filippo La Porta on Italian Studies in the UK published in Italy and in the UK.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.britalypost.com/italian-studies-in-london-and-the-pursuit-of-excellence
 
Description Invited talk and workshop on Interdisciplinary Teaching in Italian Studies. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Invited afternoon session (paper and workshop) at Flinders University, Australia. 'Interdisciplinary Italian Teaching: Strengthening the Discipline' at the Conference: An Eye on Italy: Continuities and Transformations in Italian Visual Culture. November 2017. Secondary School teachers attended and took part in the workshop and ensuing discussions
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Keynote speech University of Adelaide 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact A keynote speech, 'Cinema and the Arts in Italy: Creativity, Conflict, Collaboration', at An Eye on Italy: Continuities and Transformations in Italian Visual Culture, International Conference, Flinders University, 24-25/11/2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Making Places, Interdisciplinary Italy workshop. Rome, Italy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Hosted by the University of Rome (Roma Tre) with the support of the British School at Rome (BSR), our second workshop celebrates the exuberant energy and visionary imagination of radical architecture and its influence on other artistic forms. Our invited guest will be the Florentine architect Gian Piero Frassinelli, a key member of Italy's celebrated radical architecture firm Superstudio (1966-1978). Artist and scholar Jacopo Benci (BSR) will lead the conversation with Frassinelli, and will be joined in discussion by experts from various disciplines, including Prof. Robert Lumley (UCL), whose contribution to Italian cultural history includes important studies of radical art from the Sixties and Seventies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.interdisciplinaryitaly.org/2016/04/05/april-2006-making-places/
 
Description Website and blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The website, which was set up in autumn 2015, brings together creative artists and academics in an outward-facing blog to discuss interartistic and intermedial ideas in order to develop ideas under 4 main umbrellas: theory of interartistic practice; a history of interartistic practice in Italy; creative snapshots (an area of the blog which is dedicated to artists in order to enable them to explore their own practice reflectively) and case studies of interartistic practice (such as particular Italian artworks). There has been a lot of interest expressed in emails and by word of mouth in the project website. In March 2017, the blog has been viewed 8327 times and 31 blogs have been posted from bloggers mainly from the UK and Italy. We are publishing posts every fortnight. All blogs are in English but some posts also appear in Italy, which helps widen the website's reach into Italy and to engage with dialogue there. We are running a series of commissioned blog-posts focused on co-writing between March and June 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017
URL http://www.interdisciplinaryitaly.org
 
Description Workshop at UCL 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 50 people attended a workshop at UCL on 2nd March dedicated to interartistic practice. We had invited a number of key speakers, including the artist Tullio Pericoli (Italy) and the theorist Jan Baetens (Belgium). Attendees had travelled from across the UK (Cambridge, London, Birmingham, especially), and internationally (Italy, Belgium and Norway). There was a round table which sparked debate on the nature of interartistic practice and began to develop some early theories.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.interdisciplinaryitaly.org/2016/02/12/painting-and-drawing-literature/