Welcome to ACIS, the Australasian Centre for Italian Studies – a connection-point for the specialised communities of Italianist scholars in Australasia and beyond.
ACIS congratulates the three winners of the ACIS Cassamarca scholarships for postgraduate research in Italy in 2017. Paola Di Trocchio (University of Technology Sydney) has been awarded the Dino De Poli Scholarship for her project, Reading fashion in the museum through a case study of Anna Piaggi, Walking Museum, which investigates the life and work of Anna Piaggi (1931-2012), journalist, stylist and Vogue Italia contributor, and her impact on fashion culture and the museum. Anna Piaggi was a major figure in design and fashion history in Italy and beyond. In The Machine and the Arch Shayani Fernando (University of Sydney) will examine traditional stone architecture in Italy, seeking to learn from past masonry structures to build for the future, expanding our knowledge to improve the maintenance and restoration of sandstone buildings in Australia. She will investigate dry stone construction techniques in Alberobello and take up a position as scholar-in-residence in Bari. The project of Julie Robarts (University of Melbourne), The poetry and the person of Margherita Costa, is a study of the early published poetry and Lettere amorose of Roman virtuosa singer, Margherita Costa (c1600-1664). It will be the first philological study of Costa’s poetry, and the first cultural-historical study of her authorship.
Four research projects related wholly or partly to Italy have been funded for 2017 and beyond by the Australian Research Council. In an exploration of the cultural history of capitalism Nic Baker (Macquarie) will be analysing how merchants and gamblers took financial risks, rational and irrational, in Renaissance Italy. Nick Eckstein (Sydney) will use the health records of the door-to-door ‘Visitation’ of every poor household in plague-ridden Florence in 1630 to illuminate everyday urban life as experienced by the otherwise voiceless inhabitants. John Gagné (Sydney) will be mapping the social and cultural effects of paper’s introduction to Europe from 1200-1800, focusing on both intended (censorship, document suppression, prohibitions) and unintended (fires, rot, vermin) loss of documents and its consequences for repression and reinvention. Jaynie Anderson, Shane Carmody and Max Vodola (Melbourne) will track the unstinting efforts of the first Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, James Goold (1812-1886), an Irishman educated in Italy, to use his collection of books and Italian Baroque paintings to convey the intensity of European religious experience to congregations at risk of distraction by the gold discovered in Victoria in 1851.
In 1450 or thereabouts a Florentine goldsmith, Matteo di Bartolomeo Rustici, began to write down the story of a perhaps imaginary journey to the Holy Land a decade earlier. He relied heavily on his favourite readings, copying and abridging them, illustrating his accounts of places and events with detailed watercolours, frequently digressing from his main storyline to include instructions on Christian doctrine for pilgrims, potted biographies of saints, tales associated with the places visited, recommendations of cures for tarantula bites …. the result, in the words of Kathleen Olive and Nerida Newbigin, editors of the critical edition of the Codice Rustici, recently published (Olschki 2016) with a facsimile of the original and collection of essays, ‘resembling the worst kind of research uncritically cobbled together from internet sources’. The beautifully illustrated story of the text’s survival and its own journey towards publication is told by the editors here.
Sally Grant New York
Dario Fo died last Thursday, 13 October, at the age of 90. Rather than fumbling to find the right words to honour this great anarchic jester, we thought we’d let the masterful teller of yarns do it for us by linking to his acceptance speech for the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature. In “Contra Jogulatores Obloquentes” (“Against Jesters Who Defame and Insult”) Fo records his debt to earlier clowns and storytellers, particularly the actor-playwrights Ruzzante and Molière. Fo’s description of these men and the fear their art evoked could well describe his own theatrical skills and how he, along with his wife and frequent co-performer Franca Rame, were received by the political establishment:
“Above all, they were despised for bringing onto the stage the everyday life, joys and desperation of the common people; the hypocrisy and the arrogance of the high and mighty; and the incessant injustice. And their major, unforgivable fault was this: in telling these things, they made people laugh. Laughter does not please the mighty.”
But it pleases, and emboldens, the not-so-mighty. For those gifts, and as you take your last bow, Jester Fo, we give a standing ovation.
‘Il gran duello di Orlando e Rinaldo per amore della bella Angelica‘, narrated by Mimmo Cuticchio, master in the art of the Teatro dei Pupi Siciliani (Sicilian puppet theatre) and of the cuntu (oral tale), will be presented for the first time in Australia at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, 1 Powerhouse Road (entry via Shepherd Street) in Sydney on Sunday 23 October at 11am and 5pm (bookings here). The show, the great duel between Orlando and Rinaldo to win Angelica’s heart, is an example of modification of the narrative structure of the Opra de’ Pupi, born out of the need to adapt the performance to a new audience. The language of the show is condensed in order to give more prominence to the staging quality than to a thorough development of the traditional story. Continue reading
Sally Grant New York
Aside from the news a few days ago that two stolen Van Gogh paintings were recovered near Naples, the New York press has covered Italy’s art and political worlds in a number of recent articles. After Virginia Raggi became the first female mayor of Rome earlier this year, Katie Parla reported on women’s status in the city in “There’s Never Been a Better Time to be a Woman in Rome” for New York Magazine. Though she notes that there are still plenty of sexist obstacles to overcome, the article emphasises a new optimism in Rome, where women are influencing city life in ever-increasing ways. Meanwhile, over at the New York Times, Rachel Donadio wrote of the tricky manoeuvring called for when art and politics collide in her account of the bureaucratic obstacles faced by—another first—the new, non-Italian, director of the Uffizi.
Gino Moliterno Australian National University
For anyone interested in gauging the present state of Italian cinema, the real must-see film programmed in this year’s Lavazza Italian Film Festival (alongside the impeccably-restored version of Visconti’s Rocco and His Brothers) was undoubtedly Quo vado. The fourth in a series of successful vehicles hand-stitched for thirty-something TV comic and musician, Checco Zalone (Luca Medici), and directed, as were the previous three, by an otherwise unknown Gennaro Nunziante, Quo vado was released in January 2016 and immediately began to rewrite the Italian box-office record books, almost equaling in its first weekend the box-office take of the first three weeks run on Italian screens of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Having already earned upwards of an estimated €65 million worldwide, it has effectively become the highest-grossing Italian film of all time, almost effortlessly overtaking the previous record-holder, Roberto Benigni’s Oscar-winning Life is Beautiful (1997).
The School of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics (Monash) and ACIS are organising a seminar Translating the self: story-telling, language and identity with presentations by the Somali-Italian writers Ubax Cristina Ali Farah and Kaha Mohamed Aden on Thursday 17 Nov from 1.00 pm – 5.00 pm at Monash’s Caulfield Campus Building S, 2nd floor, Room 230 (participation free but registration required). Ubax Cristina Ali Farah will discuss the role played by bilingual vision in her writing practice, especially in her novel Madre piccola. Kaha Mohamed Aden’s talk draws on her own experience and the complexities of understanding and misunderstanding that writing between two cultures generates. The abstracts of the two presentations, with the draft programme, map of the location and the short registration form, can be found here.
Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992) was an Italian-born designer of buildings, furniture and jewelry. She trained in Milan with Carlo Pagani and Giò Ponti, working also for Domus and Milano Sera directed by Elio Vittorini. In 1946 she moved to Brazil where she became well-known for her modernist buildings, notably the São Paulo Museum of Art and the Glass House where she lived in the remains of the rainforest surrounding São Paulo. An analysis and appreciation of her work has recently been published under the title Sustainable Lina (Springer, 2016) edited by Annette Condello and Steffen Lehmann. It concentrates on the social dimensions of her adaptive reuse projects from the 1960s to the early 1990s, interpreting her themes, technical sources and design strategies for the creation of luxury as sustainability and pointing to the Italian influences on her approach.