Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord
Florentine Radical Architecture died at the premature age of 50 years old and is now been carried in funeral processions. Large exhibitions, such as Super Superstudio at the PAC in Milan in 2015, Superstudio 50 at the MAXXI in Rome in 2016 (recently restaged at the Power Station of Art in Shangai) and finally Utopie Radicali at the Strozzina in Florence, pay tribute to the memory of the Italian Radicals.
Lord, have mercy
The castrum doloris of Florentine Radical Architecture is the Urboeffimero in the courtyard of Palazzo Strozzi. Urboeffimeri realised by UFO from 1968 were inflatable structures carrying ironic and absurdist anti-establishment messages, placed in iconic spots of Florence ‘s city centre with the aim of interfering in urban-social architectural myths and rituals. Today every major blockbuster exhibition held in Palazzo Strozzi usually comprises of a sensational public art intervention in the courtyard space. Instead of causing any disturbance or rupture, the ghastly Urboeffimero complies with the myths and rituals of the contemporary art liturgy.
The just shall be in everlasting remembrance
The Radical Movement never existed, it exists today as memory and historical fiction. In the words of Adolfo Natalini: Today we have Radical architecture but the Superstudio no longer exists. At the time, we had Superstudio, but not Radical architecture.
May they be enabled to escape the avenging judgment.
I am twenty-six, the same age of Superstudio ‘s and Archizoom ‘s kids when they were plotting their first exhibition Superarchitettura in 1966 at the Jolly 2 Gallery in Pistoia. Superarchitettura is the architecture of super-production, super-consumerism, super-induction to consume, the supermarket, superman, super gas the juvenile impudence of their exhibition poster appeals to me. Of course, with a vantage point of fifty years, I can also frame this statement within the Zeitgeist of the time: the birth of consumerist society as we know it, Pop Art, Situationism, the protests of 1968. In his curatorial text Mirko Zardini spends many words claiming that only in hindsight we are now able to see clearly what was the impact of the Radical Italian. But isn ‘t hindsight a patronising framework to judge past events? Aren ‘t some situations just too spontaneous to be assessed only with evaluations in retrospect?
The written book will be brought forth,
in which all is contained,
from which the world shall be judged.
Ce├ºi tuera cela This sentence was uttered by the wistful archdeacon of Notre-Dame in Victor Hugo ‘s Notre-Dame de Paris. This will kill that: namely, the printed page is going to kill stone architecture. Utopie Radicali is curated by a team of historians and historical characters. Radical groups used manifold media to express their ideas (publications, furniture design, collage, fashion design, writing and live events), but the exhibition presents only their archival traces. Looking at the printed matter displayed in the ‘Disco Club ‘ section is hard to imagine that these nightclubs were once the ultimate fun experience – paper kills radical architecture. A feeble soundtrack of 1960 ‘s hits does not succeed in making it all more evocative.
Grant them, O Lord, to pass from death to life
Animal print sofas that one could not sit on, technical drawings of jungle discos, design objects displayed as relics. All dead serious. Rigor mortis.
Resurrecting Radical Florentine Architecture is a challenging objective for an archival exhibition. In 2015 the ICA in London made a first attempt with Radical Disco: Architecture and Nightlife 1965-1975, an archival exhibition that nonetheless showed some good will in trying to recreate the aesthetic mood of the radical discos.For sure, the visual identity of Utopie Radicali could have been more seductive: dress sexy at my funeral my good wife. Exhibition display and events programming could have been more playful, since the Radicals alliance with pop culture and nightlife provided inspiration to experiment with formats.
Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.
Even in the worldly context of an art fair, namely Artissima 2017, a rather revolutionary project around the Radical Italian Architecture was realised. PIPER Learning at the discotheque, directed by Paola Nicolin, was an educational space with live events, dancing nights, seminars. For a few days a temporary disco within the art fair became an heterotopia of interdisciplinary research and musical enjoyment.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, grant them rest.
In Utopie Radicali the subversive spirit of the Radical groups is hopelessly tamed. No antagonism, no provocation, no pranks, no mischievousness, the Radicals are put to rest. They are presented as an historical avant-garde: yet another younger generation revolting against the rules, the cultural hegemony, the values of an older generation.
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
I tend to think of the radical as a transhistorical attitude, a way of living which constantly attacks the cultural status quo, instead of a single historical moment happened once at some point during the 1960s. The Radicals were concerned with topics that are still relevant today: negative utopias, transgression, clubbing culture, leisure, consumerism, technology. Where are in the exhibition the connections with current thought, artistic and architectural practice? Where are the new commissions stressing how radical thought is still much needed?
Dread and trembling have laid hold on me, and I fear exceedingly because of the judgment and of the wrath to come.
Since the Radical groups emerged from universities, Utopie Radicali offered the chance to reconnect with local architecture education institutions. Some uncomfortable truth might have emerged from this inter-generational conversation – for instance, that the nowadays students are more concerned with their bleak professional perspectives than with revolutionary dreams. Still, it would have been no harm to temporarily divert the Florence Faculty of Architecture from its relentless activities of designing wineries and wine cellars in Chianti.
May the Angels lead thee into paradise
A procession of architecture students pays the final respects to the Radical Movement buried in the dungeons of the Strozzina. Florence is now the same it used to be before Archizoom, Remo Buti, 9999, Pettena, Superstudio, UFO and Zziggurat started messing around. It is the Renaissance Paradise where radicals can rest in peace.
Data e luogo di nascita: 24/12/1991