Interdisciplinary Italy 1900-2020: interart/intermedia

inter-italyFunded by an AHRC Standard Grant.

Principal Investigator: Clodagh Brook; Co-Investigators: Giuliana Pieri (Royal Holloway) and Florian Mussgnug (UCL).

Senior Research Fellow: Emanuela Patti.

Project Partner: Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London.


This project is founded upon work completed during the AHRC networking grant, Interdisciplinary Italy 1900-2015: Art, Music, Text. We thank all those who have supported us in that phase and helped us develop this second phase. 

The context for this project

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. We also propose it as an intriguing case study for other language disciplines. 

This project’s research questions

  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, and so on, 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.

What we will be creating

What we will write over this period are two new interartistic cultural histories of 20th and 21st century Italy, one dedicated specifically to the digital age, a book providing a theoretical underpinning for interartistic research for a broader intellectual community and, of course, a series of  articles. We will also be writing sample interartistic/intermedial teaching material for secondary schools and, together with the Estorick Collection, working on an interartistic exhibition and catalogue. We will be developing 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.