Ara H. Merjian

Image taken from the recording of event no. 165 of the Open Practice Committee

December 2, 2019
Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago
“Prehistory, Primitivism, and the Aesthetics of ‘Contamination’: Pier Paolo Pasolini and Arte Povera against the Avant-Garde”

As Italy’s best known aesthetic export since Neorealist cinema, Arte Povera appears ubiquitous in accounts of the country’s post-war culture.  Using incongruous and often “poor” materials, Arte Povera tacitly protested the corporate, technological design which had come to distinguish Italy by the late 1960s: the most conspicuous upshot of the so-called “economic miracle” (1958-63), which had transformed the nation from a chiefly agrarian backwater into a major industrial power. Deploying materials of “animal, vegetable, and mineral,” Arte Povera evoked the textures and temporality of some 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 – Italy’s most prominent post-war figure.  Yet their overlaps and divergences – from a shared interest in “Third World” ethnography to engagements with Marxist counterculture – has eluded any sustained attention.  Despite Pasolini’s resistance to  neo-avant-garde experiments (in favor of a more traditional, painterly aesthetics) 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 aims to undertake by virtue of word and image.  

Presented with the Departments of Art History and Romance Languages & Literature

Image from Pasolini's Notes towards an African Orestes (1970)