The House of Fame: Linder Sterling in conversation with Mark Bradley

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Linder Sterling, Pythia, 2017. Courtesy the artist and Stuart Shave/Modern Art. Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth

The 2018-19 BSR Fine Arts Talks series TALK GENDER opens this Friday 16 November at 18.00 with a conversation between artist Linder Sterling  – known for her radical feminist photomontage, and confrontational performance art focusing on questions of gender, commodity and display – and classicist Mark Bradley who has been working with Linder since the two met during Linder’s residency at Chatsworth House. Here Mark tells us a little more about how that collaboration came about.

What do a contemporary artist and a scholar of ancient Rome have in common? More than you might think, is the answer. I first met Linder Sterling in Autumn 2017, when she was artist-in-residence at Chatsworth House and had the enviable task of trawling the House’s extensive archives and collections while preparing an ambitious exhibition for the following Spring that would integrate her own specialism in montage and subversive feminist art with Chatsworth’s rich sophisticated appropriation of classical myth and iconography – and the former Dowager Duchess’ fascination with Elvis Presley. Like the 12th Duke of Devonshire, Peregrine Cavendish (the current owner of Chatsworth), Linder also shares a keen interest in olfaction, incense and sensibility, and so it became the mission of her project to animate the rich sights and sounds of Chatsworth’s historical past, as well as exploring ways of projecting the House’s immersion in classical antiquity through the strategic use of incense recipes taken straight from ancient Greece and Rome.

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Linder Sterling, Origin of the World, 2016. ©Linder Sterling courtesy the artist + Stuart Shave/Modern Art London

That is when Linder heard about the Anglo-French conference that I co-organised last June at the British School at Rome and the École française on the topic of ‘Sensing Divinity: Incense, Religion and the Ancient Sensorium’. Sadly, she was not able to attend, but fortuitously Chatsworth itself and Nottingham Contemporary Arts Gallery, where Linder was organising her linked retrospective exhibition ‘The House of Fame’, were a stone’s throw from where I lived and worked. That was the beginning of a rich friendship and collaboration that has journeyed from Chatsworth to Nottingham Contemporary, to Linder’s most recent performance ‘The Bower of Bliss’ at Southwark Station, a contribution to the ‘Art on the Underground’ project, and now to the British School at Rome. I’ve been working on the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches of classical antiquity for over twenty years, and I’m also interested in how those senses and sensations are channelled into and interpreted by modernity: I learned an enormous amount about those themes during my six years as Editor of Papers of the British School at Rome, in which the richly intertwined themes and experiences of the 3,000-year history of the city led my interests in all sorts of directions that I never expected to go. In the context of these interests, Linder’s penchant for montage resonates with the layered and fragmented experiences of Rome as a city, in which senses and sensations have always been how inhabitants and visitors made sense of their environment and its history. This has become the perfect opportunity for an adventure.

Our ‘conversation’ at the British School at Rome this Friday will chart not only the milestones of the journey Linder and I have taken together over the last twelve months, but will also highlight the rewards that can be reaped when we think outside the box, when artists and academics with common interests work together to explore both new and old ways of representing the world and our places in it.

Mark Bradley

Linder and Mark Bradley at Chatsworth

Linder and Mark at Her Grace Land, Chatsworth House.

 


 

Linder is a British artist known for her radical feminist photomontage, and confrontational performance art. Linder focuses on questions of gender, commodity and display. Her highly recognisable photomontage practice combines everyday images from domestic or fashion magazines with images from pornography and other archival material. Linder has recently completed a residency with Art on the Underground in London during which she has created 85 metres of billboard photomontages and 12 million copies of her tube map cover design are currently in print.

Mark Bradley is Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Associate Professor of Ancient History at the University of Nottingham, and former Editor of the Papers of the British School at Rome (2011-17). He is author of Colour and Meaning in Ancient Rome (2009) and Editor of the six-volume Routledge series ‘The Senses in Antiquity’ (2013-18), and also has research interests in approaches to dirt, pollution and purity in the city of Rome, and the reception of classical antiquity during the British Empire.

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Journey on pause?

In advance of the upcoming BSR at the British Academy lecture—formatted as four short lectures exploring Origins and endings in Italian history—speaker Elena Isayev (Exeter) shares a preview of her topic on journeys.

 

… Now my mind trembling in anticipation longs to roam,

now happy in their zeal my feet grow strong.

O sweet band of comrades, fare you well,

whom having set out all at once, far from home,

diverse routes bear back in varied ways…                                Catullus, Poem 46

So Catullus captures the anticipation and thrill of setting out on a journey – yet tinged with longing for companions, the return home, and that which is left behind or even lost. It signals the unknowing of what will come to pass and expectations of time-space traversed and with it transformations, not least within oneself. Whether it is with zeal or trepidation that journeys are begun, their endings are unknown – this at least is held in common.

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Fresco from the villa ‘Grotte di Catullo’, Sirmione (BS), Italy. Showing merchant galley approaching a coast under sail and oars. (End of 1st century B.C. – beginning of 1st century A.D).
Image: Soprintendenza alle antichità della Lombardia

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Meshworks after Catullus, by Catrin Webster, 2016, Water Colour on Paper. After anonymous painter of the blue boat scene fresco from the villa ‘Grotte di Catullo’ Sirmione (pictured above).
Image: Elena Isayev/Catrin Webster.

Each age tells of itself through journey stories to understand the then and now:

the 3000 year old Homeric nostos of Odysseus – a hero’s long return from Troy to Ithaca, his home, which made him know it again,

the tracing of emerging worlds, as Jason and the Argonauts do in their (space) ship Argo, revealing the North African jewel of  Alexandria as the new hub of the Hellenistic world,

the exile routes of bishops trailed for belief that attract followers in their quest for the divine,

the forged pathways of explorers towards ‘new’ worlds that, as Americas, in the end make ‘old’ worlds new,

the scientific journey such as Linnaeus’ into Lapland, crafts neighbouring land as magical and remote, while tracking knowledge dependent on encounters made there,

or the journey against one’s will, an escape into the unknown that extracts strength, talent – denies knowledge – puts life on pause … on pause … on pause…

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Challenging Eviction from Calais Jungle Camp. Lille Court 24/02/2016.
Image: Elena Isayev

Is that the journey story of today – or is it paused – until we rediscover the power of journeys again.

… you have to understand,

that no one puts their children in a boat

unless the water is safer than the land

no one burns their palms

under trains

beneath carriages

no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck

feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled

means something more than journey….                                           Warsan Shire, Home

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Map of Texúpa (1579). Modern Santiago, Oaxaca, Mexico. Native mobile routeways with footsteps overlie the Spanish Conquest Grid.
Image: La Real Academia de la Historia, Madrid (9-25-4/4663-xvii)

The event Origins and endings in Italian history will take place on MONDAY 19 NOVEMBER 2018, 18.00–19.30. British Academy, 10 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH. To reserve a place, please RSVP to UKevents@bsrome.it. This event is part of the Being Human Festival of the Humanities 2018: ‘Origins & Endings’.

Click here for more information and how to RSVP: http://www.bsr.ac.uk/?p=28882

Introducing…Martina Caruso, Assistant Director in Art, Architecture and the Creative Industries

29946375727_96b29b51b4_z.jpgIn my new role as Assistant Director for Art, Architecture and the Creative Industries, I’d like, among other things, to bring aspects of British culture I miss to Rome. Cultures meet at the BSR, something I enjoyed during my time in higher education in the UK: at Oxford where I studied English and French, at University College London where I completed a Master’s in Comparative Literature and the Courtauld Institute of Art where I wrote my PhD on Italian humanist photography. I’ve since published it as a book entitled Italian Humanist Photography from Fascism to the Cold War, which I’ll be presenting this month at New York University.

The world of photography history in the UK is small but vibrant and I look forward to creating collaborations between it and Italian scholars here. A first foray into the BSR archives has revealed a rich holding of early survey photography in the Mediterranean which I plan to examine and bring into conversation with postcolonial art practices in landscape. This research would build on what I began with the exhibition My Sister Who Travels at the Mosaic Rooms (Qattan Foundation) in London in 2014.

My academic career evolved at University of the Arts London where I taught Contextual Studies at Camberwell and London College of Communication within the Fine Arts and Photography departments. I was also visiting lecturer at the Institut français de presse at Panthéon-Assas, Paris II.  At John Cabot University in Rome, I taught courses on the history of photography and on architecture under Fascism in Rome. It is here I discovered Posthuman studies. I’ve since begun exploring animal-human relationality in contemporary video art and have a forthcoming article on the topic in the Canadian peer-reviewed journal ESPACE.

In my former role as Director of the Giulio Turcato Archives in Rome I gained expertise in modern and contemporary Italian art and hope to have exchanges at the BSR on this topic. I’m also conducting research around private and public memory in relation to Fascism and the Fosse Ardeatine Massacre in 1944. Thanks to our Director Stephen Milner’s wide-ranging interests I feel inspired to connect the disparate parts of my life, including my alternative, non-arts related history in this city: I also worked for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and I’m interested in maintaining the BSR’s communication channels with the different UN organisations active here.

The BSR’s increased engagement with the British Council and the British Embassy means we’re looking forward to a substantial co-created programme involving the Creative Industries, which is part of the Creative Sector Deal and the merging of the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) sector with UK Higher Education Institutions. Among the many plans, I aim to host events related to sustainable fashion as well as a film festival of alternative British film. The BSR will also be collaborating on the Press Play conference to discuss ideas of ‘Creative Interventions in Research and Practice’, opening up dialogues between artists and scholars.

I was excited to put together the BSR’s new Research Strategy with my excellent colleagues Harriet O’Neill, Assistant Director for the Humanities and Social Sciences and Peter Campbell, Assistant Director for Archaeology, with whom I look forward to collaborating on a vast array of projects from object-oriented ontology to the Anthropocene as well as hybridity and false memory. So many pathways to explore.

 

Martina Caruso (Assistant Director for Art, Architecture and the Creative Industries)

Portrait photo by Antonio Palmieri.

 

Oplontis Room 66

BSR alumna Gina Medcalf’s (Abbey Fellow 2014–15) exhibition Oplontis Room 66 is currently open at the Kapil Jariwala Gallery, London. In this blog Gina discusses the dialogue between the historic and the contemporary and how the work is inspired by research carried out during her BSR residency. 

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Photo Antonio Palmieri

In the Oplontis Room 66 series of paintings I want to connect the historic and the contemporary experiences of painting.  Already in my mind as an inspiring narrative before my BSR Abbey Fellowship of 2015, Roman wall paintings had a presence which demanded a deeper understanding.  I followed the clues as my research unfolded, like reading a detective story.  Similarly, the paintings which followed took their time to unfold, research and put into practice.

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GINA MEDCALF
ROOM 66/3L, 2018
Acrylic on canvas
131.5 x 113 cm

The Room 66 wall paintings are of exceptional quality.  Perhaps by the same team of painters as the ‘fantastic’ architectural designs in the Cryptoporticus of Nero’s Domus Aurea in Rome.  ‘The decorative system in the Domus Aurea spread from the capital to the rest of the Empire’, says Alessandra Zampieri  in her book, Ornament and the Grotesque.  And since it is a probability that Oplontis was built by Nero for his wife Poppea, the use of the same painters in the two locations could be considered.  Oplontis is a supreme example of Nero’s ‘new’ taste in decorative art.

However, I was not so interested in the grotesques in Room 66 as in the strong contrasts between the red and black below and the white grounded, full polychromatic upper part.  A visitor to the preview of my painting exhibition wrote, ‘I hope one day we will get to Oplontis, but I must say I imagined it as a rather sad and gloomy place and your paintings are so full of life that I must be wrong.’  The paintings at Oplontis are still full of life with their vibrant drawing and colour, two thousand years after they were painted.

In preparation for the Abbey Fellowship at the BSR, I looked at colour in Roman wall paintings from the point of view of use, availability and cost, then I looked for the closest equivalent to those colours in paints today. In Room 66 I found the key to unlock a convincing interpretation of that passage of time between c.50 CE and 2015.  The red, black, yellow, turquoise, sienna and brown oxide colours and the integration of that colour and linear drawings were the foundation for my 2018 series of paintings.

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GINA MEDCALF
ROOM 66/4L, 2018
Acrylic on canvas
132 x 114.3 cm

Oplontis Room 66 is showing at the Kapil Jariwala Gallery, London until 2 November 2018.

 

Eternal City. Roma nella collezione fotografica del Royal Institute of British Architects

La mostra Eternal City. Roma nella collezione fotografica del Royal Institute of British Architects – curata dal faculty member della BSR Marco Iuliano con Valeria Carullo e Gabriella Musto – chiude al Vittoriano questo fine settimana. Abbiamo parlato con Marco per conoscere maggiori dettagli e il background di ricerca alla base di un progetto che, in meno di quattro mesi, ha attratto più di 100.000 visitatori.

Da dove arriva l’idea di questa mostra? 

La mostra è la sintesi di suggestioni diverse, di interessi e passioni che arrivano da lontano. Ma è, al tempo stesso (o, forse, soprattutto) il prodotto di incontri. Ho avuto la fortuna, negli anni della mia formazione universitaria, di avvicinarmi a uno degli archivi fotografici più importanti della mia città. È all’Archivio Parisio, sotto il porticato di San Francesco di Paola, a pochi passi dal Palazzo Reale di Napoli, che ho imparato a maneggiare con cura i negativi su vetro e ad amare questa disciplina, grazie alla generosità dei suoi curatori, Stefano Fittipaldi e Giuliana Leucci.

Roma, laboratorio dell’immagine dagli albori del medium, ha da sempre stimolato la mia immaginazione. D’altro canto, già dalla metà dell’Ottocento, i fotografi di ogni nazionalità – all’epoca sarebbe più corretto parlare di pittori/fotografi – si davano appuntamento al Caffè Greco in via dei Condotti e sperimentavano le nuove tecniche, dai dagherrotipi ai negativi su carta. E, tra i pionieri britannici, alcuni, da James Anderson a Robert McPherson, si erano addirittura trasferiti in pianta stabile a Roma.

Naturalmente, nel corso delle ricerche che stavo svolgendo presso gli archivi del Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), la curiosità mi aveva spinto a cercare immagini della Capitale. Non quelle iconograficamente più note, ma soprattutto, differenti momenti storici – autori e sguardi diversi. Si trattava prevalentemente di Inglesi: accanto alle immagini del citato Anderson – capostipite di una dinastia di fotografi – si ritrovano professionisti noti come Edwin Smith, Richard Bryant, Ivy de Wolfe, Richard Pare e ‘scoperte’ come Marion Johnson (meglio nota con lo pseudonimo di Georgina Masson), Tim Benton e Monica Pidgeon. Da subito, quindi, il secondo Novecento è sembrato un periodo pieno di potenzialità e relativamente ‘nuovo’, poco indagato, a differenza della fotografia delle origini a Roma, su cui molto è stato scritto, specie in Italia.

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John Donat, Pantheon, 1960 (RIBA Collections)

L’opportunità è poi arrivata un paio di anni fa. Con la creazione dei poli museali in Italia, nel 2015, è cominciata una nuova e dinamica stagione di mostre e di valorizzazione di beni culturali. Con Gabriella Musto, che dirige con impegno e competenza il Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II, condivido sin dai tempi dell’università la passione per la fotografia, in particolare di architettura. Passione che ci accomuna anche a Valeria Carullo, curator di fotografia al RIBA; abbiamo quindi integrato le nostre competenze per la mostra, grazie al supporto al progetto che da subito ci ha mostrato la direttrice del Polo Museale del Lazio, Edith Gabrielli, storica dell’arte che ha lavorato, tra le altre cose, sui temi della fotografia. Un’interlocutrice attenta che ha supportato la nostra sfida da subito.

Un aspetto importante di questo progetto è che in Italia iniziative di qualità possono essere realizzate, se ci sono le persone e la volontà giuste. Il Vittoriano, una vera e propria ‘macchina’ per apprezzare il paesaggio urbano romano, è stata la cornice ideale per l’esposizione – quale migliore sede per mostrare a Italiani e stranieri Roma come (probabilmente) non l’avevano mai vista?

Potresti dirci qualcosa in più sulle decisioni curatoriali, ad esempio l’uso di un approccio tematico per la presentazione delle immagini? 

L’aspetto curatoriale è stato sin dall’inizio in evoluzione. Personalmente credo che i progetti, siano essi di ricerca o espositivi, debbano avere una idea guida forte, basata su di una struttura chiara, cui facciano seguito scelte rigorose. Bisogna però avere la capacità e l’apertura al dialogo, al confronto; l’umiltà di saper cambiare le proprie idee, specie in iniziative complesse e aperte a tante opzioni.

La scelta di focalizzare la mostra su una collezione unica è stato un aspetto sul quale ho creduto sin dall’inizio. Conoscevo abbastanza bene l’archivio del RIBA, ma come curatori abbiamo speso tante ore a identificare, scegliere e confrontarci. In quest’ottica, ognuno ha dato il suo contributo e mi fa piacere ricordare tutti quelli che hanno arricchito il progetto: Antonello Alici, Wouter Bracke, Roberto Faraone, Alessandra Giovenco, Owen Hopkins, Martha Magrini Sissa, Paolo Mascilli Migliorini, Stephen Milner, Carla Molinari, Nick Ray, Richard Pare, François Penz e Tom True. Molti di loro hanno anche contribuito al catalogo, pubblicato da Skira.

Le 200 immagini in mostra sono una minima parte di quelle disponibili in archivio. La scelta non è stata semplice: come raccontare Roma, una città così complessa e stratificata, non solo nelle sue architetture ma anche nell’immaginario collettivo e nella produzione iconografica?

L’approccio tematico alle fotografie è stato quindi necessario e in mostra sono quattro le sezioni – Antichità, Modernità, Paesaggi Urbani e Atmosfere. Non solo: con la sospensione del tempo, che a nostro avviso ben si addice all’idea della ‘Città Eterna’, il materiale è presentato come se il tempo non fosse una variabile, dalle origini della fotografia fino alla contemporaneità, alla simultaneità. In mostra si può trovare un’immagine di metà Ottocento, accanto a una scattata qualche anno fa: analogie e contrasti visivi sono stati offerti al pubblico per le loro suggestioni e valutazioni.

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Tim Benton, Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, EUR, 1976 (RIBA Collections)

La risposta del pubblico è stata straordinaria. In meno di quattro mesi, più di 110.000 visitatori hanno varcato la soglia della mostra. Ma le soddisfazioni non si limitano ai numeri, hanno a che vedere con l’impatto delle immagini nella vita delle persone. Come nel caso di uno degli efficientissimi operai che, la notte prima dell’apertura, in pieno fermento tra un pennello, un chiodo e una cornice ha trovato il tempo di spedire un selfie con la sua immagine preferita, il Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana fotografato da Tim Benton. O la gioia di Luigi Fedullo, professionista del settore che ha stampato in maniera impeccabile gli scatti in mostra, quando ha sussurrato: ‘di fotografie per le mostre d’autore ne ho viste tante; ma in questa occasione non sono stato capace di trovare un’immagine che non sia bella.’

Alcuni commenti lasciati nel libro d’oro, poi, sono straordinari nella loro spontanea interpretazione delle tematiche. E, ovviamente, qualche (fortunamente isolato!) commento meno lusinghiero nel segnalare qualche errore, qualche omissione o più semplicemente nel suggerire degli accorgimenti. Suggerimenti che ci permetteranno di migliorare la prossima volta.

Potresti dirci qualcosa in più sulla collezione fotografica del RIBA dalla quale provengono queste fotografie?

È una domanda complessa che impone una risposta articolata. La collezione fotografica del RIBA ha da sempre esercitato su di me un grande fascino; ho avuto anche il piacere di conoscere il suo primo curatore, Robert Elwall, deus ex machina della collezione. Si tratta di un vastissimo repertorio che raccoglie più di un milione e mezzo di immagini e, infatti, Valeria Carullo ha dedicato a questo argomento un lungo saggio in catalogo.

Costituisce una delle più grandi raccolte del genere al mondo – con i fondi della Prints and Photographs Collection della Library of Congress di Washington e della Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library della Columbia University New York – e fra le più interessanti per la fotografia di architettura; in questo senso va anche ricordato il più piccolo fondo del Canadian Centre for Architecture. Il RIBA ha una magnifica sede Art Decò a Portland Place, a metà strada tra Regent Street e Regent’s Park. Gran parte del basement ospita negativi e stampe dell’archivio fotografico. Con la collezione di disegni e la biblioteca, rappresenta, per me, il nucleo culturale della professione, forse talvolta trascurato nel difficile rapporto con la professione stessa. Oltre a Valeria mi fa piacere ricordare, tra gli altri, Jonathan Makepeace e Justine Sambrook. La collezione spazia dalle origini della fotografia – é presente anche un’immagine di Henry Fox Talbot – alla contemporaneità, dal momento che continua ad acquisire, in maniera molto selettiva, immagini dei fotografi contemporanei, come Hélène Binet, Richard Bryant e Paolo Rosselli.

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Domenico Anderson, Sant’Agnese in Agone, Piazza Navona, early twentieth century (RIBA Collections)

Come si inseriscono la mostra e la ricerca sulla fotografia d’architettura nel tuo percorso professionale? 

Quando dieci anni fa ho lasciato l’Italia per l’Inghilterra non pensavo che sarei potuto ritornare a lavorarci. Poi Stephen Milner, attuale direttore della BSR, mi ha invitato a far parte della Faculty of Humanities e ne sono stato onorato; ho conosciuto in questo primo anno persone straordinarie e mi piace qui ricordare Maryanne Stevens e Vivien Lovell, con cui stiamo organizzando con la BSR a Londra un convegno interdisciplinare sul Concrete, dal Pantheon alla contemporaneità. La BSR è la più importante istituzione di ricerca Britannica all’estero, dinamica, attiva e mi appassionava l’idea di poter condividere la mia esperienza, in architettura e nelle arti visive maturata in Italia e poi a Londra, Cambridge e Liverpool – e, allo stesso tempo, legare la BSR con le eccellenze italiane. Del resto le accademie straniere in Italia rappresentano un veicolo fondamentale per la diffusione e lo scambio culturale.

Ai tempi dell’università in Italia ho sperimentato un sostanziale disinteresse sui temi connessi alla fotografia di architettura. La logica universitaria italiana, nella maggior parte dei casi, è ancora legata a pratiche poco confacenti un paese moderno: c’è bisogno di una rivoluzione culturale, perché, in realtà, non c’è molta differenza tra le logiche clientelari che attanagliano il Paese e quelle di cui soffre l’accademia. C’è ancora tanto da fare in questo senso anche se, ovviamente, eccezioni ed eccellenze esistono e brillano ancora più evidenti in questo panorama. Spero, in futuro, di poter a dare un contributo al nostro meraviglioso, ma bistrattato Paese. In Italia c’è bisogno di competenza, ma anche di coraggiosi strumenti legislativi che favoriscano il merito e l’indipendenza intellettuale. Un’equazione semplice, se, nelle sedi giuste, ci sarà la volontà di mettere in discussione il sistema per migliorarlo.

Tornando alla ricerca, ho comunque perseverato, certo che si trattasse di temi importanti; e ho trovato colleghi, come François Penz (attuale Head del Department of Architecture, Cambridge University) con il quale abbiamo  poi concepito tanti progetti, ad esempio la mostra su Cambridge in Concrete, articoli scientifici e condiviso un corso, The Culture of the Image, che analizza l’architettura attraverso il cinema e la fotografia.

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Monica Pidgeon, Termini Station, 1961 (RIBA Collections)

La fotografia è una soglia che permette di attivare il ricordo e l’immaginazione. Solo pensare che, come architetti, la nostra conoscenza degli edifici avviene, in gran parte, attraverso un’immagine, e quanto questo aspetto influisca sul modo in cui percepiamo e progettiamo l’architettura, credo rappresenti una motivazione sufficiente per studiare la fotografia con attenzione. Internet ha modificato esponenzialmente il numero di fruitori, e ha anche drammaticamente abbassato la qualità delle immagini che inondano l’etere. Imparare a discernere è diventata una priorità del nostro tempo e, infatti, in uno dei miei corsi cerco di far riflettere gli studenti proprio su come ‘leggere’ le immagini. Già negli anni trenta, Moholy-Nagy sosteneva che gli analfabeti del futuro sarebbero stati non quelli incapaci di leggere l’alfabeto, ma la fotografia.

Ho tanti interessi di ricerca interdisciplinari tra architettura e fotografia: accanto ai già citati fondi dell’Archivio Parisio e del RIBA, mi fa piacere ricordare l’archivio, conservato a Parigi, di Lucien Hervé, fotografo prediletto di Le Corbusier; mentre sto imparando a conoscere i fondi iconografici della BSR, grazie alla guida attenta di Valerie Scott e Alessandra Giovenco. Comunque, non trascuro mai incursioni nell’architettura contemporanea. Proprio in questi mesi, infatti, sto curando una mostra su Stirling+Wilford+Associates e dirigendo la competizione per la nuova scuola di Architettura a Liverpool: un progetto molto complesso per il quale, con il supporto dell’Università, stiamo immaginando una sfida per l’architettura che verrà. Magari ne parleremo in un’altra occasione…

Marco Iuliano

Marco in visita alla mostra


The BSR collaborated on this exhibition with RIBA, Polo Museale del Lazio, and the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II. Published by Skira, the catalogue contains, among others, contributions by Marco Iuliano (FAHL member), Stephen Milner (Director), Tom True (Assistant Director), and Alessandra Giovenco (Archivist).

 

 

 

Journeys Without End, Being Human at BSR

Earlier in the month, the BSR took part in the international Being Human Festival of the Humanities. The programme, co-curated with Elena Isayev from Exeter, adopted a tripartite structure to respond to the theme of ‘Origins and Endings’ specifically through the lens of journeys.  Throughout the afternoon writers, historians, archaeologists, artists, policy-makers and those who work directly on the borders cross-cutting the routeways conversed and shared. Although not the explicit theme, there was a demonstrable interest in migration and within this a particular focus on the roles artists and participation in art projects can play in narrating and sharing what are often involuntary journeys. We were delighted to welcome two members of the Palermo-based art collective Giocherenda who told us about the games they have devised to engage the communities around them with issues surrounding migration and the individuals who are part of it. The conversations which flowed under the skilful guidance of our discussants – Stephen Milner, Derek Duncan and Charles Tripp, will continue in future events at the BSR and beyond.

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Harriet O’Neill (Assistant Director for the Humanities and Social Sciences)

Ancient tokens and their communities

For the month of October, BSR alumna Clare Rowan has been staying at the BSR to conduct fieldwork for her European Research Council funded project Token Communities in the Ancient Mediterranean. Here she tells us more about her own research on the subject, and the project’s workshop that was held here at the BSR last week.

Tokens in antiquity were monetiform objects, largely made of lead, that were created across the Mediterranean at a very local level. Tokens likely served a variety of purposes: they might aid in governmental procedures (e.g. Athens), serve as banquet tickets (e.g. Palmyra), were used in cults and festivals (e.g. in Rome), and may also have served as a sort of currency at times, particularly in bath houses.

gliti token

Lead token (20mm) from a private collection showing on one side a male head surrounded by the legend P GLITI GALLI; the other side shows a rooster carrying a wreath and palm branch. The image is a visual pun on the name of Gallus, which meant ‘rooster’ in Latin.

The find spots of tokens aid us in understanding how they were used. Their imagery reveals information about ancient identities, imagery and ancient joie de vivre. While at the BSR, I have been focusing on the tokens of Rome and Ostia, working at Ostia to look through the archives of excavations (Giornali degli Scavi) for tokens and token moulds found in the port. I have also been cataloguing the token collections in the Museo Nazionale Palazzo Massimo, the Capitoline Museums, as well as a collection that was recently acquired by the Archaeological Museum at Palestrina. This last collection consists of more than 1000 specimens, many of which are new types. By using archival and library materials to locate where token moulds (made of palombino or lunense marble) and lead casting waste are found, I have been able to begin to identify that tokens were privately manufactured across both Rome and Ostia, connecting particular types to particular buildings, and even particular tabernae.

lighthouse token

Lead token (22mm) from a private collection showing the lighthouse of Portus on one side and the legend ANT on the other.

A workshop was also held at the BSR on the 18 and 19 October, Tokens, Value and Identity, Exploring Monetiform Objects in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, organised by a postdoctoral fellow in the project, Antonino Crisà. Scholars from around the world came to discuss tokens from different collections and excavations across the Mediterranean.

palombino token mould harvard

Half of a palombino marble mould for casting circular tokens showing Fortuna holding a rudder and cornucopiae. Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Transfer from the Alice Corinne McDaniel Collection, Department of the Classics, Harvard University, 2008.118

The workshop underlined the idea that tokens were made very locally, often unique to a particular city – the method of using marble moulds to cast tokens, for example, appears to be found only in Rome and its port. The exchanges among the scholars who attended continued to contribute to the development of a methodology to study these objects, which have not seen serious attention since Rostovtzeff in the 19th century. If you are interested in seeing and learning more about these objects, you can find the blog entries of the team members here: https://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/numismatics/tag/token/

tokens workshop bsr

Speakers at the Tokens, Value and Identity Conference

Clare Rowan (Associate Professor, University of Warwick and former BSR-Macquarie Gale Rome Scholar)