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Art, Cinema, History & Politics, Literature, Photography, Theater & Dance

Against the Avant-Garde

Pier Paolo Pasolini, Contemporary Art, and Neocapitalism

June 1, 2021
12:00 pm

Book Presentation on Zoom

In collaboration with
Magazzino Italian Art
Center for Italian Modern Art
Italian Cultural Institute of New York

In order to participate, RSVP and you will receive an e-mail with your Zoom link
by 10am on June 1

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Against the Avant-Garde
Pier Paolo Pasolini, Contemporary Art, and Neocapitalism

(2020, University of Chicago Press)

by Ara H. Merjian, NYU

The author in conversation with:

Teresa Kittler
University of York / Magazzino Italian Art 2020-21 Scholar in Residence

Francesco Guzzetti
Guest Curator, Center for Italian Modern Art

Barry Schwabsky
Art critic for The Nation, co-editor of international reviews for Artforum

Moderated by
Alessandro Giammei, Bryn Mawr College

Recognized in America chiefly for his films, Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922–1975) in fact reinvented interdisciplinarity in postwar Europe. Pasolini self-confessedly approached the cinematic image through painting, and the numerous allusions to early modern frescoes and altarpieces in his films have been extensively documented. Far less understood, however, is Pasolini’s fraught relationship to the aesthetic experiments of his own age. In Against the Avant-Garde, Ara H. Merjian demonstrates how Pasolini’s campaign against neocapitalist culture fueled his hostility to the avant-garde. An atheist indebted to Catholic ritual; a revolutionary communist inimical to the creed of 1968; a homosexual hostile to the project of gay liberation: Pasolini refused the politics of identity in favor of a scandalously paradoxical practice, one vital to any understanding of his legacy. Against the Avant-Garde examines these paradoxes through case studies from the 1960s and 1970s, concluding with a reflection on Pasolini’s far-reaching influence on post-1970s art. Merjian not only reconsiders the multifaceted work of Italy’s most prominent postwar intellectual, but also the fraught politics of a European neo-avant-garde grappling with a new capitalist hegemony.


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