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doppiozero goes international

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 capture in art, literature, cinema, philosophy, architecture, theater, design, experiences and political contexts the seeds of new ways of imagining the world and transforming ourselves.   Over the years, doppiozero has constructed a platform of original writing dedicated to themes, works and essential figures in contemporary culture. doppiozero international intends to offer readers around the world...

Sergei Eisenstein and the Anthropology of Rhythm

The exhibition Sergei Eisenstein: The Anthropology of Rhythm opened on September 19, 2017 at Nomas Foundation, Rome. Numerous documents from Eisenstein’s archives – The Russian State Archive of Literature and Arts (RGALI) and The National Film Foundation of Russian Federation (Gosfilmofond) – are exhibited for the first time, including notebooks, drawings, film footage and photographs. Curated by art and film historians Marie Rebecchi and Elena Vogman, in collaboration with the artist and typographer Till Gathmann, the exhibition will continue through January 19, 2018.   Here below is an excerpt from the introduction of the book Sergei Eisenstein: The Anthropology of Rhythm, published by NERO, Roma.     “Out of poverty, poetry; out of suffering, song.” This is how the anthropologist and writer Anita Brenner describes the unfolding of a corrido, a Mexican ballad. Literally “event of the time,” the corrido is an anonymous poetic genre that musically voices the lament of the day. Whether recounting a political or personal event, a catastrophe or a bad dream, corridos lend rhythm to the sorrows of life, equally “for the servants...

Asmarina: post colonial heritages

Italian Version   Asmarina, a 2015 documentary by Alan Maglio and Medhin Paolos, follows what they call “voices and images of a postcolonial heritage.” This beautiful documentary (with an absolutely riveting soundtrack) tells the story of Milan’s habesha community, integral to the Porta Venezia neighborhood since the mid-twentieth century. Weaving together the experiences and identities of those who have lived in Italy for generations with those of newly arrived refugees, Asmarina traces the complex networks of colonial legacies, transnational migrations, family ties, and diasporic politics. And through these stories, which can only be understood from a spatially extended and transhistorical perspective, it also forces a serious reconsideration of what we mean when we talk about “Italy” and “Italians.”   Still from Asmarina (2015).    Diasporic photography   Asmarina begins with a montage of photographs: a hand gently moving a magnifying glass over photo slides on a light table; an aging, black-and-white photo; a well-worn family album; crisp pages from the 1983 work of photojournalism Stranieri a Milano. Pictures are laid out on a table, ejected from a printer,...

Umberto Eco: How I Wrote my Books

It is snowing when I get to Umberto Eco’s house in Milan. It’s February, and his latest book, Numero Zero, published by Bompiani at the beginning of 2015, shot to the top the best seller list almost instantly. There have been several reviews, and Eco has given more interviews than is his wont, if I remember correctly. So what can I ask him that hasn’t already been asked? I had read the proofs before the book came out, but we weren’t able to find a date to meet before today. I’m excited to meet him. Eco is famous throughout Italy and the world over, perhaps the best-known living Italian author today. Essays, articles, whole books have been written about him, and yet there are many things about him that escape his readers and critics. One thing I want to find out more about is his double role as essayist and fiction writer. Another is the way he works. Then there is the trifling matter of having written a book at the age of 82. No small feat, in anyone’s book. So this is where I start my interview: sitting on his sofa I ask him about Numero Zero.     What gave you the idea for this book?   I’ve been writing articles criticizing journalism since the 1970s. In the 1990s a fellow...

Compassion: Between Tenderness and Cruelty

There are so many things to say about compassion that one could fill a book or an encyclopedia. A partial list of areas to cover would include: commiseration, piety, love, understanding, sharing, empathy, sympathy, antipathy, intropathy, bliss and clemency. Compassion is what we feel reading about Hector and his wife Andromache, or the dream about the twenty geese that Penelope tells the disguised ‘beggar’ who is really her husband, Odysseus. It is the condition Aristotle refers to in his ‘Poetics’ when he uses the term ‘catharsis’. It is also the virtue embodied by Aeneas as he slings his old father Anchises and his son Ascanius to on his back and carries them out of burning Troy to safety. Or again, when Eros disobeys his mother and falls in love with Psyche. And so on, throughout history, examples of compassion abound, in Romantic literature and then on to the scandal caused by the controversy between Nietzsche and Wagner regarding Schopenhauer.   Compassion does not necessarily have the same connotations today as it did in the past. We are not even sure whether the words we use to describe the sentiment correspond to what each of us feels today. The term ‘compassion’ has...

Guantánamo and the New Concentration Camps

After the terrorist attack on the Parisian satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, some commentators wondered what the consequences of a reaction calling for greater security would be for European legislation. The almost hysterical use of the inclusive “we” in the slogans following the attack (Nous sommes Charlie) provide a linguistic clue to the identity politics in play, just as the 9/11 attacks fueled the rhetoric of a “clash of civilizations”. The reaction to both has been a justification for police interventions on an international scale and so-called ‘surgical’ warfare.   The Italian philosopher, Giorgio Agamben, in an interview in La Repubblica (Jan 15, 2015), invited readers to “stay lucid” and not repeat the mistakes of the past. “The overlapping of the concepts of terrorism and warfare after 9/11 led Bush to wage a war […] that cost tens of thousands of lives. Without that war, the tragic attack France is now reeling from may never have taken place.” Agamben foresaw a slippery slope towards “what politologists call a ‘Security State’, that is a state where a true political presence simply cannot survive.”   The book Guantánamo Diary was published in January 2015 in the...

Why Africa? Companions of Longitude

Why Africa?  For many years lettera27 has been dedicated to exploring various issues and debates around the African continent and with this new editorial column we would like to open a dialogue with cultural protagonists who deal with Africa. This will be the place to express opinions, tell their stories, stimulate the critical debate and suggest ideas to subvert multiple stereotypes surrounding this immense continent. With this new column we would like to open new perspectives: geographical, cultural, sociological. We would like the column to be a stimulus to learn, re-think, be inspired and share knowledge. For the opening piece we asked our partners, intellectuals and like-minded cultural protagonists from all over the world to answer one key question, which also happens to be the name of the column: "Why Africa?". We left the question deliberately open, inviting each of the contributors to give us their perspective on this topic from their own context. This first piece is a collection of some of the answers we received, which aims to open the conversation, pose more questions and hopefully find new answers.   Elena Korzhenevich, lettera27   Here the column's introduction...

Sharing is the new welfare?

In the last few months I’ve rented rooms through Airbnb, listened to music on Spotify, picked up a free yellow bike in Milan, got a lift from Milan to Florence with Blablacar, grabbed a city car for a quick ride with Car2Go, hailed a cab on a rainy night with Uber, and funded a documentary with an online crowd funding platform. I have quite a few friends who rent office space using a co-working website, though I’ve never actually needed to do so myself. A year ago, none of these opportunities I now consider almost routine were nearly as common. They are all different facets of what is called the “Sharing Economy”, or, less frequently, ‘collaborative economy’, or ‘collaborative consumer economy’ .   They have one factor in common: the sharing of private resources (my car, my desk, my music, my home, my bike), which has always taken place informally. The novelty lies in the sheer scale of the sharing. Social networking platforms have made sharing a way of life not only among friends or neighbors, but also among complete strangers all over the world.   Is the process Jeremy Rifkind called “from ownership to access” really taking place? An article published by Wired framed the...

Peter Handke: The Essay Writer

In recent years, critical attention towards the Austrian novelist, playwright and political activist of Slovenian origin, Peter Handke, has focused more on his activism than on his books. In particular, he sparked controversy when he spoke out in support of the Serbian regime, during the sanguinary civil war in former Yugoslavia, and of its leader Slobodan Milošević, both during his trial in the Hague and at his funeral. Many of his most important works are out of print and there are fewer and fewer reprints scheduled, though there may be some change in the air. And yet, his work continues to be translated. Fortunately, this shows that Peter Handke still enjoys a worldwide readership despite the polemics.   Donata Wenders, Peter Handke, Chaville 2009   After receiving such prestigious awards as the Kafka prize in 2008, and the Ibsen prize in 2014, Handke’s return to the public eye inevitably stirred up the controversy. Perhaps it is easier to attack Handke for his views than to analyze and comprehend the full range of motivations the writer has given for his opinions. Admittedly, his unquestioning espousal of Milošević’s doctrines is hard to digest, in particular by today’s...

Kafka in Charlie Chaplin’s Hands

What do Kafka and Chaplin have in common? They both explore the margins of life, where exclusion from the world and from history opens up the curtains of dissimulation and accepts the cognition of pain as destiny. Is the comparison unfeasible? In Benjamin’s view, the worlds of representation are linked together with subtle ties. Aside from differences in time, place, and artistic media, there are mysterious affinities which allow us to juxtapose the two with unexpected hermeneutic results.   “Chaplin holds in his hands a genuine key to the interpretation of Kafka. Just as occurs in Chaplin’s situations, in which in a quite unparalleled way rejected and disinherited existence, eternal human agony combines with the particular circumstances of contemporary being, the monetary system, the city, the police, etc., so too in Kafka every event is Janus-faced, completely immemorial, without history and yet, at the same time, possessing the latest, journalistic topicality.”   Opening the eighth volume of Benjamin’s collected works is like entering a labyrinth where the paths do not follow a geometric pattern of any kind. They simply carry you on a path of awe and unlikely approaches....

All about Sottsass

On September 8, 1981, Ettore Sottsass and Barbara Radice roll up in a taxi a the Design Gallery in Milan. They’re excited and a little scared. That afternoon was the launch of an exhibition of a group of designers who had got together the previous December in their apartment and called themselves Memphis: Martine Bedin, Aldo Cibic, Michele De Lucchi, Matteo Thun and Marco Zanini. They rub their eyes in disbelief as more than 2000 people crowd the showroom to see 31 pieces of furniture, three clocks, ten lamps and eleven ceramic pieces.   The crowd spills out into the street, blocking the traffic. Sottsass and Radice have no idea what is going on. They think there must have been a road accident. No design event has ever attracted a crowd like this, and nobody can tell them how so many people came to be there that day. The invitation to the private view was a T-Rex with his toothy mouth wide open and his eyes sharply focused. A suggestion of things to come, a provocation almost. Will Memphis devour modern design? That day in September, 1981, the founding father of the new movement reached the acme of his success and popularity.   Ettore Sottsass was born in Innsbruck in 1917,...

Twin H. A new Novel by Giorgio Falco

Three slightly rotten looking apples on a leaning shelf, indefinite shadows  like pools beneath them. The black and white photo on the cover of the Italian edition of the book, by Sabina Ragucci, evokes the idea of time passing.     Apples come into the first sentence, and become part of a discreet but insistent refrain in the book. The protagonist, and narrative voice for much of Giorgio Falco’s new book, La Gemella H ("Twin H", Einaudi 2014) sings the refrain to herself repeatedly: “we only ate apples in strudel in the beginning.” After Pausa caffè ("Coffee Break", Sironi 2004) and the magnificent short stories collected under the title L’ubicazione del bene, ("The Location of Good", Einaudi 2009), Falco tells the story of Hilde Hinner, endowed with the almost magical ability to describe both her own and her sister Helga’s life since their birth in 1933 – her sister the elder by a few minutes.   Hilde tries to become independent by taking up a job as a shop assistant at the Rinascente department store, horribly rebuilt after the ravages of war, but she soon returns to the fold. The twin sisters lives follow a parallel path almost to the bitter end. Identical in appearance...

Cheever Meets Modugno

Years ago I heard a famous Modugno song for the first time. It was called Marito in Città and it first came out in 45rpm in 1958, though it had already circulated the year before. The story is a topos of the 1950s: a husband drops his wife and kids off at their long-vacation destination and then returns to enjoy city life unencumbered, with the excuse of a job to do.     I must confess that the song stuck in my mind for months and still today I appreciate its unusual skillfulness. It was a particularly successful example of a gift Modugno in particular had for evoking a certain quality in the men of his day without any reticence or rhetoric. In the case of this song, the protagonist’s singular charm is quintessentially masculine and Italian. The man proclaims himself to be rich, a good catch for a woman, a tombeur de femmes, only to be betrayed by his excruciating clumsiness, which puts paid to his dreams of adultery. The music is especially congenial, adding a flavor of farcical sympathy to the story. The irresistibly Italian tune hit the charts, and radios blasted the song provocatively in apartments throughout Italy.   Foreign tourists must have been equally struck by...

What a book is for me

For once let’s not talk about books as objects. At least not today. The rhetoric of recto and verso, the unbearable lightness of its being, the fragrance and roughness of its paper, the wrapping of its cover, that reveals something, but not too much and not immediately. We could talk, for instance, about how each of us might imagine a book that blends advanced technology with the perfection of a ready-made object.   Perhaps, one day, instead of pages sitting on an individual screen of an individual tablet, there will be a screen on all the pages of an individual book. Why not? Research and tests on the technology of materials will have made it possible to transmit digital information via paper fibers.   The other day I sat and ruminated for hours, while traveling from train to plane to train again, about this unhealthy idea of a book in the future. It would be white, I thought (or a changing color), of average size, portable, page-turnable, surfable, with screen-pages made of a special make of paper that turns on and off. The best of digital combined with the best of analogical.   I’d really much rather talk about books as stories though.   If we do talk about stories, I...

Fatigue that cures

In his book, Fatigue Society (Müdigkeitsgesellschaft, Matthes...