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    Italian film avant-gardes, 1960-70: ontologies of the archive

    Valente, Donatella (2021) Italian film avant-gardes, 1960-70: ontologies of the archive. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    This thesis situates Italian experimental films made between 1960 and 1970 within the historical landscape of film avant-gardes. A historical and theoretical methodology underpins my research, which identifies a coherent and sustained aesthetic and conceptual deployment of the archive (in the broadest sense) and its materials. I contend that this avant-garde, overshadowed by the international prestige of the Italian auteurs of the same period, and overlooked by most histories of Italian cinema, provides valuable material for critical and philosophical reflection on the cultural role of the archive. Each strand of this work opened up a dialogue between the past and the present, thus foregrounding both a historical and aesthetic attitude. Hence, my claim that ‘ontologies of the archive’ shows how experimental film practices of this period developed a pluralistic approach to the past, which entailed re-purposing the fabric and materials of audiovisual archives, revealing their versatility and generative potential. ‘Ontologies of the archive’ also questions how archival material relates to the film as a whole, how its meaning has been re-shaped, and how various segments and aphorisms relate to one another. Essentially, I explore the varied re-purposing of certain materials and formats in Italian experimental films, which to some extent anticipated the better-known Arte Povera movement and contributed to it. My conceptual framework draws mainly on Adorno’s essays ‘The Idea of Natural History’ (1932) and ‘The Essay as Form’ (1958), and on Umberto Eco’s ‘Form as Social Commitment’ (1962). Italian avant-garde film of this period looked back to the historic as well as contemporary avant-gardes, sharing a critical aesthetic that invoked anti-illusionistic, reflective modes of engagement with film form and content. Drawing on Peter Wollen’s 1975 essay ‘The Two Avant-Gardes’, I argue that the heterogeneous and transformative nature of the archive was formally poised between abstraction and naturalism. Thus, these films constitute a ‘third avant-garde’, arguably invoking the ‘essay film turn’ in the Italian avant-gardes of the 1960s. This aesthetic approach contributes to valued research conducted over the last twenty years on the archival nature of the essay film.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 07 Sep 2021 11:22
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 14:38


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