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Stillness in Motion

Stillness in Motion: Italy, Photography, and the Meanings of Modernity

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Stillness in Motion
    Book Description:

    Stillness in Motionbrings together the writing of scholars, theorists, and artists on the uneasy relationship between Italian culture and photography. Highlighting the depth and complexity of the Italian contribution to the technology and practice of photography, this collection offers essays, interviews, and theoretical reflections at the intersection of comparative, visual, and cultural studies. Its extensively illustrated chapters explore how Italian literature, cinema, popular culture, and politics have engaged with the medium of photography over the course of time.

    The collection includes topics such as Futurism's ambivalent relationship to photography, the influence of American photography on Italian neorealist cinema, and the connection between the photograph and Duchamp's concept of the Readymade. With contributions from writer and theorist Umberto Eco, photographer Franco Vaccari, art historian Robert Valtorta, and cultural historian Robert Lumley,Stillness in Motionengages with crucial historical and cultural moments in Italian history, examining each one through particular photographic practices.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-1997-5
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-24)

    Contemplating the first daguerreotypes of “a motionless, lunar Italy, suspended over bottomless pasts,” the social historian Giulio Bollati pondered how photography’s modernizing vocation might relate to such a changeless and pastoral scene (17; Figure i). What happens when the visual medium of modernity encounters this “deviant and peculiar” (ibid.) historical environment? Would Italy’s timelessness alter, perhaps impair, what photography could mean, its ability to express industrial Europe? To raise the question of photography in Italy, of a medium that has shaped modern experience in ways still mysterious and unexplored, is to raise the equally problematic and unsettled question of how...

  6. Part One. National Beginnings and Modernist Fears

    • 1 Photography and the Construction of Italian National Identity
      (pp. 27-66)

      It was thanks to Italian national television’sIntervallo(which appeared whenever programming was suspended) that I, like many of my generation, came to imagine and perhaps finally understand Italy. As children and teenagers, we saw flocks of sheep grazing in the sunny countryside and postcard-like images of monuments and scenes from so many cities and places on the black-and-white television screen, accompanied by a familiar refrain (Figure 1.1). Watching them, we felt that this was Italy. Countryside and sheep, mountains, lakes, seas, ancient architecture, piazzas, churches, castles, archaeological finds: they were photographs that filled the homes of all the peninsula’s...

    • 2 Local Colour and the Grey Aura of Modernity: Photography, Literature, and the Social Sciences in Fin-de-Siècle Italy
      (pp. 67-96)

      The birth of photography in its Daguerreian incarnation is accompanied by a dense and influential certificate that strove to shape the medium’s future life. I am referring to the report that François Arago presented to the French Chamber of Deputies in July 1839 in hope of persuading the government to grant Daguerre and his partner a pension in exchange for the right to patent photography to the French. A scientist and a politician, Arago pitched the daguerreotype primarily as a tool of archaeological research while also emphasizing photography’s geopolitical potential. For an audience still smarting from the memory of the...

    • 3 Eternal Speed/Omnipresent Immobility: Futurism and Photography
      (pp. 97-130)

      Crawling out of a “bel fossato d’officina” (“lovely factory drain”), emerging covered with slime like a new hybrid species born from the fusion of man and his racing car, the founder of Futurism, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, dictated his “prime volontà a tutti gli uominivividella terra” (“first will to all thelivingmen of the earth”) with a manifesto first published on the front page of the 20 February 1909 edition ofLe Figaro.¹ With this death-like birth inspired by a car accident which landed Marinetti and his beloved Isotta Fraschini in a ditch outside Milan, Italian Futurism establishes...

  7. Part Two. Modern Memory Objects:: Social Histories of the Photograph

    • 4 The Peripatetic Portrait: Exchange and Performance in Migration Photographs at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century
      (pp. 133-148)

      This chapter looks at photographic portraits produced during the initial period of the Italian diaspora, from the end of the nineteenth to the beginning of the twentieth century. These portraits were often circulated with letters exchanged between the Italian emigrants and their families and acquaintances back in Italy. The exchange of photographs helped to maintain kinship ties and the images mostly served as mementoes and as icons of remembrance. The Italian migrants’ traumatic physical departure to the new land could be compensated for by their virtual return home in the form of a photographic image. In this way, images reduced...

    • Colour plates
      (pp. None)
    • 5 Presente! The Latent Memory of Italy’s Great War in Its Photographic Portraits
      (pp. 149-180)

      As soon as it broke out in 1914, the European War immediately revealed its unprecedentedly global nature. As the first mass-mediated event of modernity soon transformed into the collective “great” War, it produced both a worldwide narrative and a totalizing memory. This occurred both quantitatively, in the proliferation of visual and verbal sources during and after the conflict, and qualitatively, in the extraordinary capacity of its imagery to penetrate subtly the private life of millions all over the world. While traditional studies on the memory of the conflict concentrate on published material (written memoirs or the official images filtered through...

  8. Part Three. Photography and the Acceleration of Modernity:: Reality-Commodity-Violence

    • 6 Italian Neo-Realism between Cinema and Photography
      (pp. 183-216)

      No other period in the history of Italian cinema has been so thoroughly analysed as that of neo-realism. This is both because of the intense critical and philological attention paid to its key films and because of the historical importance attributed to the movement as a whole, which was as much revolutionary and utopian as it was multivoiced and multivalent. A crucial period of renewal of forms and subjects in film-making (1945–9),¹ though brief, neo-realism has been investigated from different socio-cultural perspectives and has also elicited archaeological research into the films of the 1930s, aimed at tracing the new...

    • 7 Photographic Excess: “Scandalous” Photography in Film and Literature after the Boom
      (pp. 217-243)

      The post-war boom that transformed Italy’s economy and society also saw an explosion of photographic imagery and its uses in Italian society – as art, as advertising, as popular journalism and as the main way in which ordinary people recorded their daily lives. By the mid-1950s Italy had emerged from the shadow of Fascism and the violence, destruction, and poverty of the war into unprecedented prosperity and mobility. The immediate post-war determination to document previously unseen realities, rather than the Fascist fictions Italians had been fed for years, was overwhelmed by other images that reflected a fast-changing society dramatically reshaped...

    • 8 Images of Violence, Violence of Images: The “Years of Lead” and the Practice of Armed Struggle between Photography and Video
      (pp. 244-270)

      A grey background, a symbol, and two words in white; below, cropped at the forearms, the figure of a man with a tired expression and head slightly bent, a t-shirt showing under his open shirt…

      It is one of the most well-known images in the history of instant photography: the black and white Polaroid of Aldo Moro, the president of the Christian Democratic Party, left by the Red Brigades (along with the “communiqué no. 1,” announcing the beginning of the trial against Moro) in an underpass in Largo Argentina, Rome, inside an orange envelope, on March 18, 1978, two days...

  9. Part Four. Critiques of Modernity:: Stillness, Motion, and the Ethics of Seeing

    • 9 The Body in and of the Image in the Films of Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi
      (pp. 273-287)

      The work of Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi has acquired a significance in the second decade of the twenty-first century that could not have been anticipated when they began their partnership in art in the mid-1970s. Pioneering figures in Europe in making films using found or archival footage that record actions and events marked by war, genocide, and human catastrophe, they anticipated a growing preoccupation with historical memory and commemoration, which became central concerns within Western cultures.¹ Films such asDal polo all’equatore(From the Pole to the Equator, 1986) and the trilogy based on World War One –...

    • 10 Intersections of Photography, Writing, and Landscape: The Italian Landscape Photobook from Ghirri to Fossati and Messori
      (pp. 288-314)

      The photographer Luigi Ghirri played a pivotal role in positing photography as art and in raising its profile in contemporary Italian debates on visual theory. He did so both through his remarkable photographic works (largely connected to landscape) and through an extensive body of critical essays written in the 1970s and particularly in the 1980s. These texts, now mostly collected in the 1997 volumeNiente di antico sotto il soleand in the recentLezioni di fotografia(lessons delivered in 1989–90 but first published in 2010), are still largely unexplored as a coherent body of work and mostly unavailable...

  10. Part Five. Documents and Experiences

    • 11 A Photograph
      (pp. 317-321)

      In the following essay, originally published inL’Espressoon 29 May 1977, Umberto Eco refers to contemporary events involving left wing demonstrations at the universities of Rome, Bologna, and Milan. From the end of the 1960s to the end of the 1970s – the so-calledanni di piombo(Years of Lead) – a series of peaceful sit-ins and protests against the state was staged with the aim of changing Italian society, but they often became violent, even lethal. On 17 February 1977, Luciano Lama (1921–96) – a Communist politician and unionist – was forced to interrupt his address outside...

    • 12 Essays: Photography and the Ready-Made and Apollo and Daphne: A Myth for Photography
      (pp. 322-348)

      Franco Vaccari was born in Modena in 1936. After completing his university studies with a degree in physics, he began his activity as a photographer in the second half of the 1950s. He was initially influenced by the work of a heterogeneous group of photographers, including Alberto Lattuada, Paul Strand, and William Klein, united by their interest in the materiality of place. His early photographs are atmospheric images of everyday life in his native Modena, documenting a provincial world moving towards a rapid modernization. Published only in 2007, these neorealist beginnings gave way to a surreal portrayal of the city...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 349-372)