Interdisciplinary Italy 1900-2020: interart/intermedia

  • Patti, Emanuela (Principal Investigator)
  • Brook, Clodagh (Principal Investigator)
  • Pieri, Giuliana (Principal Investigator)
  • Mussgnug, Florian (Co-investigator)

Project Details


Since the start of the 20th century, the arts in Italy have rapidly developed hybrid forms. Cinema, digital visual poetry, sound art, filmed book trailers and other practices which cross arts and media and have become a major cultural force. Artists are shifting between different art forms with a fluidity which is striking: Dino Buzzati, for instance, writes novels, but also designs their illustrations; the poet Eduoardo Sanguineti traces his poetry back to atonal music.

Until very recently this interartistic fluidity has been the prerogative of artists. Researchers worked against the grain of this cultural shift, analysing cultural products according to our own disciplines (literature, art, music etc.). In so doing, we risked overlooking a paradigm shift, losing hybrid art forms in the gaps between disciplines - where they receive only marginal treatment - and underestimating the value of one art for another.

As interdisciplinary methodologies develop, however, researchers now find themselves at a new historical vantagepoint. It is finally possible to build a groundbreaking interartistic perspective on the arts. The proposed project maps the paradigm shift in 20th and 21st century Italy. It acts as an intriguing case study.

The key research questions are:

(1) Why has interartistic practice changed so markedly over the course of 20th and 21st century? Our project maps a fresh interartistic cultural history of Italy. It will answer questions like: Why did interartistic and intermedial practice occur in Italy at this time? What part do journals, cafés, printing, digital technology, etc. play in development? Our response goes beyond the narrow focus of monodisciplinary research to reveal a more comprehensive picture of interartistic encounters and new kinds of experimentation. We challenge and amend established ideas of cultural centres and peripheries, to focus attention on individuals and groups who are actively engaged in creative boundary-crossing and on institutions who fostered or hindered interartistic exchange. Our project introduces a new and original focal point: we seek to examine how a multidisciplinary approach subverts widely accepted canons; what looks central under the lens of the monodisciplinary microscope may not be so from an interartistic one.

(2) Why have avant-garde and activist artists critiqued and transgressed the boundaries between the arts in 20th and 21st century Italy? What effect has this had on creativity? Since the beginning of the twentieth century, interartistic practice has been palpable in periods of uncertainty and radical social change, frequently associated with the avant-garde. It also appears to have emerged most strongly where political and cultural conventions are challenged, especially by activists. The first area our project explores is the transgressive nature of interartistic and intermedial creativity.

(3) What theories do we need to develop in order to discuss hybrid cultural objects and avant-garde interartistic practice? We will fashion a theoretical discourse to facilitate new research across the arts and media and underpin work done in our own project. This will highlight the social, creative and psychological dynamics of interartistic creativity, rather than the demands and constraints of disciplinary fields.

Outputs are: Two new interartistic cultural histories of 20th and 21st century Italy (one specifically on the digital age); a theoretically focused book on interartistic research for a broader intellectual community; articles; sample interartistic/intermedial teaching material for schools; an interartistic exhibition and catalogue.

We will develop dedicated events for postgraduates and postdocs, academics, museum curators and schoolteachers. These are targeted at informing ideas about interartistic practice and empowering those cohorts to work, in a theoretically informed way, on interartistic practice articles.

Key findings

A monograph that aims to rewrite the cultural history of Italy in the 20th and 21st centuries from an interartistic perspective by Clodagh Brook, Giuliana Pieri and Florian Mussgnug;
A monograph dedicated specifically in the relations between the arts in Italy in the digital age by Emanuela Patti;
A further edited book that will provide the theoretical underpinning for interartistic research for a broader intellectual community;
Sample interartistic/intermedial teaching material for secondary schools;
Together with the Estorick Collection, an interartistic exhibition in London, a catalogue, and a CPD day for museum curators;
3 workshops on theories of interartistic practice. These will take place in London, Rome and Birmingham during the spring and summer of 2016;
A Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Modern Languages. This will be set up at the University of Birmingham (UK) during 2016;
We will also be developing dedicated events for postgraduates and postdocs. Much of the work we will be doing is targeted at informing ideas about interartistic practice and empowering people to explore, in a theoretically informed way, interartistic practice;
The blog posts from the first phase of the Interdisciplinary Italy project (Interdisciplinary Italy 1900-2015: art, music, text), which has now closed, can be found under the Archive tab.
Effective start/end date26/06/1524/10/18


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