Pier Paolo Pasolini and Arte Povera: Prehistory, Primitivism, and the Aesthetics of 'Contamination'
A lecture by Ara Merjian (NYU, Italian Studies) with respondent Gian Maria Annovi (USC, Italian and Comparative Literature). Organized by the UCLA Departments of Italian and French, cosponsored by CERS.
Pier Paolo Pasolini; cropped. © Agenzia Grazia Neri. Reprinted with permission.
Tuesday, November 12, 20195:00 PM - 6:00 PM
236 Royce Hall
As Italy’s best known aesthetic export since Neorealist cinema, Arte Povera appears ubiquitous in accounts of the country’s post-war culture. Using unorthodox, often “poor” materials, Arte Povera’s artists protested the technological design which had come to distinguish Italy by the late 1960s–the most conspicuous upshot of the so-called “economic miracle”, which had transformed the nation from a chiefly agrarian backwater into a major industrial power. Deploying “animal, vegetable, and mineral” materials, Arte Povera evoked the textures and temporality of an archaic age unfurling in real time. A few scholars have noted in passing the convergence of Arte Povera strategies with the writing and cinema of Pier Paolo Pasolini. Pasolini pronounced no opinions or even acknowledgment of Arte Povera; his hostility to the student revolts of 1968 further distanced him from much of the group’s political sympathies. Yet perhaps more than any other post-war phenomenon, Arte Povera resonated with Pasolini’s work in its basic premise: a rejection of rationalism and of “progressive” avant-garde temporality; a reclaiming of overlooked and (seemingly) archaic materials in defiance of that rationalism’s commercial application; and finally, a valorization of “Third World” cultures as an implicit protest against Western notions of progress, and its complicity with an increasingly imperialist neo-capitalism. Despite Pasolini’s avowed resistance to the neo-avant-garde, his own polemics regarding the “anthropological” changes wrought by neo-capitalism over the course of the 1960s merit closer consideration with regard to Arte Povera, something this talk undertakes by virtue of word and image.
Ara H. Merjian is Professor of Italian Studies at New York University, and an affiliate of the Institute of Fine Arts and the Department of Art History. Prof. Merjian was educated at Yale University and the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Against the Avant-Garde: Pier Paolo Pasolini, Contemporary Art and Neocapitalism, 1960-1975 (University of Chicago Press, 2019), which received a Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation Art Writers Grant, and Giorgio de Chirico and the Metaphysical City: Nietzsche, Paris, Modernism (Yale University Press, 2014), which won a CAA/Millard Meiss Author’s Award.
Cost : Free and open to the public. RSVP not required for admission.
Sponsor(s): Center for European and Russian Studies, French and Francophone Studies, Italian