Metaphysical Years Lecture Series, Year 1: Franco Baldasso on 1916

13 November 2018 / 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Metaphysical Years Lecture Series

Year 1: Franco Baldasso on 1916

This chronological lecture series offers an overview of the birth and development of pittura metafisica (metaphysical art) against the backdrop of World War I as well as in the context of the post-war years in Italy. The presentations explore significant literary trends of the time along with socio-cultural events of the short yet crucially important period covered by CIMA’s 2018-19 exhibition, Metaphysical Masterpieces 1916-1920: Morandi, Sironi, and Carrà.

Italy entered World War I in 1915, on the side of Great Britain and France against what nationalist propaganda depicted as the “barbaric” central powers of Austria and Germany. While vanguard intellectuals portrayed the event as a matter of saving civilization, it was also an opportunity for Italy to affirm its role as a new power on the European stage. After the initial patriotic frenzy and collective enthusiasm that characterized Italy’s entrance into the conflict, 1916 proved to be a dramatic contrast: instead of experiencing an efficient, technological war—eulogized by the Marinetti and the Futurists as “only hygiene of the world”—Italian soldiers endured utterly exhausting and draining conditions in the trenches. Senseless, repeated massacres on the battlefields revealed a reality contrary to any idealized vision, one in which there was very little room for glory or individual heroism. Indeed, 1916 was indisputably the year of great Italian disillusion; like so many others that year, two of the most prominent Futurist artists, Umberto Boccioni and Antonio Sant’Elia, lost their lives while serving their country. Yet 1916 was also the year in which Italian poets, artists, and writers forged a new sense of humanity, a most profound communality and fraternity. This first evening in the Metaphysical Years Lecture Series will shed light on this crucial transitional moment in Italian art and history through selected readings of outstanding texts by authors such as Giuseppe Ungaretti and Curzio Malaparte as well as the presentation of original photographic material, never before seen in the United States, from the Archivio della Grande Guerra di Vittorio Veneto.

Franco Baldasso is Director of the Italian Program at Bard College, NY, where he is Assistant Professor of Italian Studies. In his research, Baldasso examines the complex relations between Fascism and Modernism, the legacy of political violence in Italy, and finally the idea of the Mediterranean in modern and contemporary aesthetics. He authored a book on Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, Il cerchio di gesso. Primo Levi narratore e testimone (Pendragon, 2007), co-edited an issue of Nemla-Italian Studies (“Italy in WWII and the Transition to Democracy: Memory, Fiction, Histories”) and contributes to publicbooks.org. Baldasso is a member of the Advisory Board of the Italian journal Allegoria, as well as the scientific committee of the Archivio della Memoria della Grande Guerra of the Centro Studi sulla Grande Guerra “P. Pieri” in Vittorio Veneto (TV). In summer 2017, he held a CIMA Affiliated Fellowship at the Civitella Ranieri Foundation for his forthcoming book, Against Redemption: Literary Dissent during the Transition to Post-Fascism in Italy.

Missed the program? Watch the video here.

Program schedule:

6pm – registration and viewing of Metaphysical Masterpieces

6:15pm – program begins, followed by audience Q&A

8pm – Evening concludes