Category Archives: Contemporary

Remembering Modigliani (1884-1920)

2020 marks the centenary of the death of Amedeo Modigliani, the Italian artist who died young of tuberculosis in Paris after a life usually described as troubled. The Italian Institutes of Cultures of Sydney and Melbourne have joined forces to remember him by two free events: online projection of the film Les amants de Montparnasse (Montparnasse 19)  (9 July, 18.00-20.00, free, necessary to register here); and a webinar Modigliani – A Bohemian Life by Roberta Crisci (16 July, 18.30, again registration necessary here). The film is attributed to Max Ophuls as well as Jacques Richard since Ophuls, the intended director, wrote the script but died before the film could be shot.

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La tragedia del Vajont

La storia della diga del Vajont, che doveva essere il gioiello dell’energia idroelettrica italiana a cavallo tra il Veneto e il Friuli Venezia Giulia. Ultimatata nel 1960, la diga era la più alta in Europa e sottostava all’imponente Monte Toc. Tutto pareva essere normale nei tre anni che seguirono al completamento, fino a che il 9 ottobre 1963, 270 milioni di meri cubi di terreno si distaccarono dal fianco della montagna provocando la tracimazione della diga. Questo provocò un vero e proprio tsunami che si riversò sui paesi della valle, uccidendo piu di 2000 persone. La tragedia viene raccontata adesso in un documentario qui su Viceland.

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Religion in cinema and television

Clodagh Brook’s latest work, Screening Religions in Italy (2019), tackles a little-explored area: the role of Catholicism (but also of other religions) in the organisation, production and distribution of Italian film and television. Pollard (2008) and Garelli (2014), for example, have provided valuable summaries of what we know about the patterns of Italian religious belief and participation, electoral influence, relations between church and state, and so on, often considering in what respects Italy is becoming more religiously differentiated or perhaps even secular. But Brook tackles the detailed ways in which Catholicism – its icons, rituals and policies – has shaped the form and content of film-making in recent years, tracking its embedding across the public sphere and concluding that, surprisingly, its hold over the production and distribution of films has actually been strengthening since the 1990s.

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Pandemia 2020 in Italia

E’ uscito adesso un libro istantaneo, Pandemia 2020: La vita quotidiana in Italia con il Covid-19, curato da Alessandra Guigoni e Renato Ferrari, scaricabile gratis qui. Il libro, disponibile gratuito anche fra poco su Amazon, raccoglie i contributi originali di 28 autori e 12 ospiti, tra cui antropologi culturali, ricercatori delle scienze umane, sociali e biologiche, filosofi e linguisti, appartenenti a generazioni e a contesti lavorativi differenti, che hanno deciso di mettere a disposizione le loro competenze e i loro saperi per cercare di capire che cosa è accaduto e come possiamo uscire da questa drammatica situazione.

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A Scholarship Cut Short: Donna Storey reflects on her time in Rome during COVID-19

At the beginning of March this year, I travelled to Italy to undertake research for my PhD thesis as a recipient of the ACIS/Cassamarca Dino De Poli Scholarship for 2020. My intention was initially to spend two weeks at the British School at Rome (BSR), before travelling north for around nine weeks to undertake archival research in Salò, Trento/Bolzano, and Trieste, before returning home in May. Little did I know upon my arrival at the BSR on Monday 2 March that, due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, not only would I not be able to leave Rome and travel north, but that I would in fact have to leave Italy by the end of the month. 

When I arrived at the BSR, the virus had already been detected in Italy (primarily in Lombardy and Veneto), but infection numbers were still reasonably low, and I didn’t really think at this point that my travel would be impeded. Given that the outbreak was in the well-resourced north of Italy, I assumed that the virus would be contained reasonably quickly and there would be no ongoing major interruptions. How naïve and wrong I would turn out to be! Before I knew it, not only were the northern regions locked down, but so too was the entire country. All schools, libraries, universities and businesses were closed, with the exception of essential services (supermarkets, pharmacies, health professionals etc.). Social distancing measures were quickly introduced, both internally at the BSR, and if we were to venture outside. Permission slips were required to go out of the BSR, for example to the supermarket. Police could, and would, stop and check to ensure that anyone outside was there for a legitimate reason, and would readily issue fines if not. These measures seem standard procedure now; however, at the time, they were new, and a little unsettling. Continue reading

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Disease and death

‘They fell ill daily in their thousands … many fell dead in the open streets … such was the multitude of corpses there was not sufficient consecrated ground to bury them’.  And: ‘the plague came from afar … that part of the world called Asia’. A historian in 2120 describing the horrors of a century earlier? Extracts from a comparative study of plagues and pestilence? An epidemic seen from the grassroots today? No, Boccaccio and Villani talking of events in Italy as the Black Death and other disasters wreaked their havoc, as quoted by Tim Parks in the introduction to his dispatch from northern Italy, ‘Milan in a time of coronavirus‘ in this week’s TLS (March 20, 2020). For descriptions of life in the plague-ridden Florence of 1630, see the review in the LRB (20 March, 2020) of John Henderson’s Florence Under Siege: Surviving Plague in an Early Modern City (Yale UP 2019).

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‘Ultras despite being women’

What is the position of women in the groups of football fans in Italy called the ultras? Newspaper reports of ultra activities emphasise the men and the systems of power, exchange and violence they manage. But women belong to the groups too, often from a very early age. Can they accede to positions of responsibility, issue orders, organise the rituals of fandom on and off the pitch or do they play a subordinate role at every point? Can they have anything that corresponds to a career in such groups? Ilaria Pitti interviewed the women at the core of one group (in Serie A but not specified) to track their perspective on their lives. Her report, ‘Being women in a male preserve: an ethnography of female football ultras‘ (Journal of Gender Studies, Volume 28, 2019, 3) considers the options which women themselves see as available and acceptable.

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Art: high, low and mixed

The third issue (January 2020) of the open-access journal Modern Art of the Center for Italian Modern Art (New York), is dedicated to the proceedings of the conference “Methodologies of Exchange: MoMA’s Twentieth-Century Italian Art (1949)”. CIMA’s publications advance innovative scholarship in the area of twentieth-century Italian art and promote Italian modern artists who remain particularly understudied among US audiences. On a different front, the publication of Emma Barron’s book Popular High Culture in Italian Media 1950-1970: Mona Lisa Covergirl (Palgrave Macmillan 2018) has been very favourably received (Barron was one of the 2019 ACIS Save Venice Fellows). Here is the review  in the latest issue (2020) of the journal Modern Italy.

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Vittorio De Sica Retrospective

Vittorio De Sica was one of the most important actors and directors in 20thC Italy and his influence is still felt today both in Italy and abroad. In partnership with Melbourne Cinémathèque, Elisabetta Ferrari (Italian Studies, University of Melbourne) will introduce his life and work on Tuesday 11 February at the Italian Institute of Culture in Melbourne, 233 Domain Rd, South Yarra, at 6.30 (booking here) in  preparation for the Vittorio De Sica Retrospective that will take place between 12 and 26 February 2020 at The Capitol cinema in Melbourne. Elisabetta’s talk is free and in English.

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Exploring Venice’s past and present

Jen McFarland, enrolled in a History MA at the University of Melbourne, spent September to December 2019 in Venice as an ACIS Save Venice Fellow researching the identity, status and activities of the pizzocchere (associations of lay religious women) in the city in the 16th century. It was not her first exploration of religion there. In 2019 the journal Renaissance Studies published her study of Catherine of Siena’s incorporation into the iconography held in the Dominican convent of Santi Giovanni e Paolo in the late 15th century, in particular the ways in which the convent wanted to emphasise Catherine’s status as a legitimate stigmatic and to promote the then-current Dominican reform. Jen has written an interesting piece summarising her recent stay in Venice which can be found here.

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