A new voice from Italy / doppiozero goes international

Marco Belpoliti, Stefano Chiodi

doppiozero was founded in February 2011 to lend a voice to an often under-exposed and little-discussed collective intelligence that tends to be largely ignored by mainstream culture and media.   Another Italy, one that speaks a language different from the official rhetoric, and does not share the pessimistic bent that has conditioned much of Italian public discourse over the past twenty years.   This intelligence is the collective contribution of critics, writers, reporters and scholars from a number of different disciplines, all committed to seeking new perspectives in interpreting the social situation, and new ways of understanding cultural traditions, artistic heritage, material culture and lifestyles. Their common goal is to observe contemporaneity in all its facets and to...

At the epicenter of the pandemic / Louisiana

Daniela Gross

We are in the eye of a perfect storm. The new hotspot of the pandemic is down here in Louisiana, and for weeks the spotlight of America has been focused on us. We are the testing grounds of the disaster that threatens to overtake the entire South.   New Orleans is the epicenter. Here the mortality rate comes close to that of New York City and hospitals are overwhelmed. The contagion started at the Mardi Gras parades that attracted 1.5 million visitors in February. From there, it made its way northbound all the way to Shreveport, the city where I live.   Few people had heard of Shreveport, until it jumped to national headlines as the test case the US was waiting for. Shreveport is neither a touristic destination nor a hidden gem. It had its moment of glory at the end of the 19th...

Ulay (1943-2020) / The most unknown among renowned artists

Alessandro Cassin

Frank Uwe Laysiepen, the German artist known as Ulay, died on March 2, just a few months before a major retrospective of his work, scheduled for November 2020, at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. He was born in 1943, in Sollingen, Germany, during World War II, but his personal and artistic journey really began in 1969, in Amsterdam (his adopted city) to which he was drawn by the constructive anarchist Provost movement. From Amsterdam, Ulay’s journey took him to Paris, Rome, Berlin, London, and then widened to include New York, Morocco, India, Nepal, the Middle East, China, Australia, and Patagonia. It ended in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where he married Lena Pislak and resided in the years before his death.   It is now up to us to rediscover his work: polyhedral, beyond category,...

Beyond the rethoric / The Hidden Face of the Pandemic

Antonio Vercellone

Many a journalist and intellectual has recently ventured to describe, often in great detail, the scenario we’ll be faced with after the pandemic. Inevitably, these analyses are subject to two kinds of limitations. First: the scale of this crisis doesn’t allow the necessary distance one would need in order to reasonably imagine the outcomes. Second, and more importantly, such outcomes depend largely upon the critical understanding of the situation that we are capable, collectively, of formulating. This is what should keep us busy and what we should worry about. Because the feeling is that the emergency is legitimizing a dangerous narrative: one that implies that whoever tries simply to challenge or even problematize such a narrative must be an enemy of public health, shunning a “national...

Two souvenirs / The Embrace and the Kiss

Ermanna Montanari

The Embrace   I always liked outside more than inside.   In summertime, after dinner my mother and grandmother would stay at the table and settle in to talk, but my grandfather would stand up and go outside to smoke a cigarette. Eyes half-closed, he’d look out over the countryside in front of my house, a flat horizon that went up into the sky. I would follow him out and squat down next to him on the front step. He would put his arm around me, and I would try to squint my eyes like him. I liked the smell of the cigarette, the warmth of the cement step burnt by the sun all day long. We’d sit there close, wrapped together, and became smaller and smaller. The outside came to life completely, in all its loveliness, canceling out the moments when the inside, with its aggressive,...

A poem for these days / March the Ninth Twenty Twenty

Mariangela Gualtieri

March the Ninth Twenty Twenty   I’m telling you this we needed to stop. We knew. We all felt it that it was too furious, our frenzy. Being inside of things. Outside of our selves. Squeeze every hour – make it yield.   We needed to stop and we couldn’t. We needed to do it together. Slow down the race. But we couldn’t. There was no human force that could hold us back.   And since this was for all of us a tacit wish like an unconscious will – perhaps our species has obeyed loosened the bonds that protect our seed. Opened the innermost cracks and let it in. Perhaps this is why there was a leap in the species – from the bat to us. Something in us wanted to be opened. Perhaps, I don’t know.   Now we are at home.   It is extraordinary what is happening. And there is gold...

Philip Roth meets Primo Levi / The writer and the chemist

Marco Belpoliti

One of Phillip Roth’s best books is not a novel, nor even a collection of short stories; rather it is a book of interviews, entitled Shop Talk (in Italian Chiacchiere di bottega). Published in English in 2001, the volume contains a series of conversations with fellow writers. The interviews are preceded by vivid portraits of the people that Roth met, from Aharon Appelfeld to Ivan Klima, from Isaac Bashevis Singer to Milan Kundera; then there is a visit with Edna O’Brien and an exchange of letters with Mary McCarthy, a portrait of Philip Guston and a series of quick reviews of the books of Saul Bellow. These are wonderful pieces in which Roth displays not only that he is an excellent reader – and how could it be otherwise given that he is a writer? – but also that he is capable of stepping...

Culture and Anthropology: the Berlin Tradition

Federica Buongiorno

Christoph Wulf teaches Anthropology and Pedagogy at Freie University Berlin, where he is a member of the Interdisciplinary Center for Historic Anthropology, of the collaborative research center (SFB) on Performativity, of the center of excellence ‘Languages and Emotions’ and of the Graduate School  ‘InterArt Studies’. Wulf studied History, Pedagogy, Philosophy and Literature at Freie University and received his PhD at Marburg in 1973 where he also passed his habilitation in 1975. In the same year he was given a chair in Pedagogy at University of Siegen. As professor he returned to Freie University Berlin in 1980.   Wulf was a founder member and is one of the main exponents of the Berlin school of historical-cultural anthropology, which combined methods and research topics from...

The mother of all dances

Simon Njami

When I discovered the question, I felt tempted to parody this American actor in this ad for some coffee and to answer: what else? I am the son of Lydia and Simon, two bassa heroes. I am the result of those two beings from a people who fought forcefully for their freedom; two children of Africa. So, what else? What else than that land of shadows and ghosts waiting to be revealed? What else than those millions of stories waiting to be told? Those stories I would read for my grandfather without really understanding, but captured by the mystery of books that could contain a whole world within their pages. Wars, marvels, people, love, hatred, all translated in the subtle magic of words. Conrad did not know to which extend he was right when he called this continent the heart of darkness. He did...

Thomas Macho. Or, on the Science of culture

Antonio Lucci

The pig and its history, Pier Paolo Pasolini, the history of towers in the West, Philip K. Dick and science-fiction literature, the films of Andrej Tarkovskij and Rossellini, the cultural history of calendar formation. And: metaphors of death, rites and myths in the context of historical anthropology, ethical, aesthetic and cultural models of Western history. What might sound like entries in an impossible and ironic encyclopedia in the spirit of Borges and Foucault are in fact all subjects of some of the courses held and the books written over the past few decades by a man who in Germany is considered the Kulturwissenschaftler par excellence: the Austrian Thomas Macho. What is a Kulturwissenschaftler? To understand it, we need to dig into the history, as well as the etymology, of the...

Le Tragique et la pitié

Pierpaolo Antonello

This text was first published as the preface of the Brazilian edition of Le Tragique et la Pitié. Discours de réception de René Girard à l’Académie française et réponse de Michel Serres (Paris: Le Pommier, 2007). René Girard, Michel Serres, [O trágico e a piedade: Discurso de posse de René Girard na Academia Francesa e discurso de recepção de Michel Serres (São Paulo: É-realizações Editora, 2011), pp. 9-17].     23, quai de Conti, Paris; 15 December, 2005   I am looking up at the round seventeenth-century Louis Le Vau dome of the Institut de France, which is hanging over the oval room where the ceremony of the election to the 37th seat of the Academie Française is ready to begin. It’s a bright day in mid-December and a soft light fills the distinctive hybrid architecture, partially...

Luigi Ghirri: ask the fog

Mauro Zanchi

In Milan, around 1991, Luigi Ghirri told Mario Cresci that after having spent many years exploring the landscape and the things of life with countless photographs, he was thinking about something else, and in that moment all that remained for him was to photograph the fog of his homeland, as an extreme sign of erasure of the world, heading towards the unfathomable, the unknown. Roncocesi, one of his last photographs, taken in January 1992, captures the light that flares like a hazy sky, becoming a horizon between two fields separated by an irrigation ditch. The water in the ditch seems like milky hoarfrost, the mirror of a foggy whiteness. The state of suspension, of both the light and the haze, is captured in an ecstatic vision, as it might have been experienced by a medieval mystic. In...

Gaza

The editorial Board

They could be two different images. The backdrop of one is prevalently yellow ochre, with three soldiers in full battle gear clambering diagonally up the steep, sandy incline.  In the other, a composite crowd of children, adolescents, men, and women wave their flags against a predominantly green, grassy background. Separating the two is a barbed wire fence. The photograph was taken Friday March 30 in Gaza, when 16 Palestinian demonstrators were killed and 1,400 wounded. On Saturday there were two more deaths, and the tally of the wounded is not known. A crowd of 30,000 had gathered along the fence that separates Gaza from the State of Israel. They threw stones and rudimentary incendiary devices against the border fence, where over 100 select Israeli Army snipers had been positioned....

Van Gogh’s Shoes and Japan

Rocco Ronchi

It is almost impossible for the contemporary philosopher to avoid coming up against Van Gogh’s Shoes. At least that’s how it has been since the “philosopher” par excellence of the Twentieth Century, Martin Heidegger, held them up as an exemplification of the nature [Wesen] of art, giving rise to a debate that still rages to this day. Despite this, in Heidegger’s favourite version of the Shoes, Mariella Guzzoni has in fact detected the presence of a small detail that had heretofore gone unmentioned and unanalysed. The reason for this oversight may be that, as she writes, “the frontality of the Shoes monopolises the attention of the observer, and so this fascinating detail has remained unnoticed for more than a century…” In the guise of a shoelace, in the lower right of the canvas, there is...

Van Gogh: my Japan

Mariella Guzzoni

“I’m in Japan here” Vincent, letter to his sister Willemien, Arles, 14 September 1888   Every exhibition or catalogue on the Japanese artists of The Floating World mentions Vincent van Gogh as one of the figures who, more so than his contemporaries, was inspired by the charm of the first ukiyo-e images that reached the Parisian market in the mid-late Nineteenth Century. But how did Van Gogh imagine ‘his’ Japan?   From his first celebrated paintings after Hiroshige, The Plum Tree and The Bridge in the Rain, from Père Tanguy to the Shoes, from the Parisian self-portraits to the Self-portrait as a Bonze painted in Arles, so many of Van Gogh’s paintings were inspired by the Orient. A look behind the scenes of these pictures draws us into the exhibition Van Gogh: my Japan, at Palazzo...

Drawing the painting

Silvia Bottani

"I like looking at roots even when I don’t see their origin." Luisa Rabbia   There are works that arrive with a bang, loudly announcing their presence as if demanding to be looked at. There are others, however, that breathe in the space and patiently await the arrival of their observer, cultivating a secret life that happens before and after meeting the spectator. Luisa Rabbia's works belong to the latter: they call for a more gentle-mannered approach, reaching out to those who decide to connect with them and paving the way to a world of silent vastness.   While originally from Pinerolo, Luisa Rabbia has been living and working in New York for many years, which makes her new exhibition at the Collezione Maramotti a rare opportunity to closely observe her work. Love is a small...

Neuhaus’ Time

Patrick Javault

Devoted to the work of Max Neuhaus (1939-2009), Max Feed. Œuvre et héritage de Max Neuhaus at Frac Franche-Comté, Besançon, the first retrospective since the death of this major figure, brought together an important documentation as well as the only non-site specific of his sound works. As a way of looking for Max and make his thinking resonates, works from today’s artists have been cautiously selected by the curator Daniele Balit, working for years on Neuhaus work and  preparing (together with Mathieu Saladin) an edition of collected writings and interviews*.   The work of Max Neuhaus largely deserves a new examination, not only for its intrinsic quality, but also as a way to measure some changes in the appreciation of sounds in the art world (from field recordings to narrative sound...

The remains of landscape. Camille Pissarro in the fields

Camilla Pietrabissa

Persistent in the canon of art history, the equation Nature=Impressionism survives today. At the turn of the twentieth century, French critics already claimed that the Impressionists’ attention to perception was a route to come closer to Nature – a strive for perfect mimesis. Historiography, moreover, has placed the essence of impressionism in the consonance between the use of a free brush and the impermanence of Nature. Soon enough, Seurat’s geometrical marks would have brought to an end the phase of pictorial spontaneity and experiment, moving the potential of expression towards optical rules. Beyond these, only abstraction remained to the painter of Nature. This narrative of Impressionism as an unsurpassed milestone in the representation of Nature is stronger than ever, and attracts...

Respectable Memories: Postcards from South Africa

Sara Benaglia

A Short History of South African Photography, by Rory Bester, Thato Mogotsi and Rita Potenza, is an exhibition hosted by Fotografia Europea XII at the Cloisters of St. Peter, Reggio Emilia, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the agreement (June 26, 1977) between Reggio Emilia and the African National Congress, and the centenary of the birth of Oliver Tambo (1917-1993), leader of the anti-apartheid movement and the ANC.   Chronologically ordered, it is a selection of images that traces the history of South Africa from the dominion of the British Empire to present day. The photographs come from archival collections (Die Erfenisstigting Archives, UWC Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archive, BAHA, Transnet, Times Media, Independent Media Archive), museums (Museum Africa, McGregor Museum,...

Contemporary patrons / A conversation with Nancy Olnick and Giorgio Spanu

“The success of a museum is not measured by the number of visitors the museum welcomes, but by the number of visitors to whom it has taught something. Also, the success of a museum is not measured by the number of objects the museum shows, but by the number of objects that people might perceive in their human environment. The success of a museum is not measured by its extension, but by the amount of space the public will be able to reasonably cover in order to benefit from it. This is the museum.” Thus, in 1978, the French museologist Georges Henri Rivière identified the characteristics a museum should have in order to be defined with this name (La Muséologie selon Georges Henri Rivière, Paris: Dunod 1989, 7, the translation from the French is mine). Rivière passed away in 1985, but if he...

Munch & van Gogh: so close so far

Mariella Guzzoni

 “Yes, artists perpetuate themselves, passing on the torch, Delacroix to the Impressionists,...

Postcards from Europe. An interview with Eva Leitolf

Silvia Mazzucchelli

I met the photographer Eva Leitolf at the conference Etica dell’immagine that took place last month at the Goethe Institut in Turin (Italy). Her work, Postcards from Europe (Kehrer, 2013), explores in many ways the complex and constantly changing phenomenon of the migration of thousands people to European borders,  through the approaching of images and texts, written by the photographer. Born in 1966 in Würzburg, he lives and works in Munich and in the Bavarian Forest. Her works have been shown at numerous international institutions including the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands Photo Museum in Rotterdam, the Sprengel Museum in Hanover and Fondazione Mast in Bologna. The interview begins with asking her,  how the idea of creating "Postcards from Europe", was born.   SM: Your...

Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932

Mariella Guzzoni

A man in a dark coat turns his back to us. He is painting white letters onto a red banner draped across a table. A Venus de Milo towers before him. The room is grey, an attic, a window, the cable of the electric light, in plain sight, dangling from the ceiling with its lamp. The letters in white proclaim: ВСЯ ВЛАСТЬ СОВЕТАМ, “All power to the Soviets”. There is no palette present, a brush and a glass suffice.   Nikolai Terpsikhorov, First Motto, 1924, Moscow, State Tretyakov Gallery, Photo © State Tretyakov Gallery   The artist is Nikolai Terpsikhorov, a little known painter who depicts himself carrying out his new duties. By turning his back to us, he draws us into the canvas. First Motto is the work that greets me as I enter Revolution: Russian Art 1917 – 1932, the new exhibition...

Photography and life: an interview to Letizia Battaglia

Silvia Mazzucchelli

I had wanted to meet Letizia Battaglia for some time, but I hadn’t found the guts to write her yet.  I had always considered that like one of those appointments you keep on postponing to keep your hope alive, the hope that it wouldn’t end in the very moment it happend. However, something suggested me that I couldn’t interview her without visiting her city first. So I went to Palermo with my sister and we stayed for a few days. I tried to catch the secrets of that place, to tune up with what surrounded me: the road sounds, the smells, the markets, the suburbs, the places of the dead portraied by Letizia. Palermo is weird. You find yourself shrouded in a grip of contradictions, it is both a cradle and a grave, sea and asphalt, beauty and death. The city gives something new to your eyes, a...