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What has society made of me? Who am I? Lonzi ceaselessly questions her sense of self, the place society had assigned to her, refusing to conform to social roles and fixed identities. An art critic, a feminist, a poet, a woman, but above all a subject seeking freedom, Carla Lonzi represents a unique figure in the history of Italian feminism.

I discussed her radical life and thought with writer and researcher Giovanna Zapperi. I met Giovanna some years ago — I think it was or may be — through a mutual friend. She is currently working on a book on Carla Lonzi which will be published next year Our conversation happened partly via email and partly in person, when, back from the US where she had been lecturing on Carla Lonzi, and on her way to Paris, where she lives, Giovanna agreed to meet at a bar in the district of Kreuzberg in Berlin.

What follows is an edited version of a much longer exchange. Some have described her as a difficult and uncompromising woman. For Giovanna Zapperi, who is Carla Lonzi? I would say that Carla Lonzi was an Italian art critic, a feminist, a writer, and a poet.

And yet, as someone who struggled against such categories and their power to reduce life to a sum of roles and identities, my own attempt to define her activity will inevitably remain provisional and incomplete. She wanted to undo the roles linked to her oppression, while constantly trying to articulate her subjective experience within a collective endeavor.

She chose words carefully in order to avoid academic jargon and the formatted languages of art criticism or philosophy. Or, Rather: Speak ], Lonzi attempts to use a language as close as possible to her lived experience.

For Lonzi, writing is one place where these ties can be unmade. It was as if she had never existed in the history of Italian Modern art. She had been erased, and this made me really angry. GZ: Well, I guess that your experience as a student is a very typical one. It was the same for me. I was an art history student in the s in Italy, and nobody ever mentioned Autoritratto.

My encounter with feminist theory happened through these readings. FB: Autoritratto , a book-montage made from interviews recorded with 14 Italian artists, questions the role of the art critic and the relationship between artist and critics, and deconstructs art criticism by proposing a style of writing based on participation, exchange and non-linearity. Autoritratto is an important example of a non-conventional approach to art criticism and an extraordinary piece of Italian art history.

GZ: Despite the fact that Autoritratto is an extraordinary resource for the study of Italian art in the s, it never became a canonical text. In this book, Lonzi experiments with the construction of a relational subjectivity; but there is a subject, and this subject is Carla Lonzi. This subject is caught between the fragmentary nature of the conversations and the montage of the book. There is a desire to question the authority of the art critic as much as the position of the author who writes from a distance.

Autoritratto presents a tension between the subject, Carla Lonzi, and the multiplicity of voices composing the book. Interestingly, the artists at that time were happy with the outcome.

The image of the artist that emerged from Autoritratto did not correspond to the way they wanted to be represented. In the end, they still preferred the conventional artist-critic relationship. Unlike Carla Lonzi, they were not ready to undermine their own institutional role. FB: In her preface, Lonzi explains that the collected conversations are not so much responses to artworks, but to a desire to be in conversation with them.

The artwork becomes an occasion for an encounter. What is, in your opinion, the political and cultural relevance of Autoritratto? What does it mean to occupy the position of the one who speaks on behalf of others? These are the fundamental epistemological questions addressed in the book, which are still relevant for contemporary emancipatory politics.

What is perhaps even more striking is the way these counter-discourses emerge from the actual structure of the book. Her critique extended itself beyond magazines; it happened in her diary, her conversations with Pietro Consagra collected in the book Vai Pure [ Now You Can Go]. How can we bring Lonzi back into a debate on art and artistic practices today, so as to prevent her legacy from being erased from the history of art twice?

I think your commitment to write about Lonzi addresses this need. GZ: My work on Lonzi is very much about challenging the idea of the two Carla Lonzis: the art critic and the feminist, as if these two domains were separate. Of course, for Lonzi herself, there was no possible reconciliation between her activity as an art critic, and her engagement as a feminist. However, as you mentioned, despite this rupture in her biography, Lonzi continued to reflect on art and its patriarchal structures from a separatist feminist stance.

When she abandoned art criticism, in , Lonzi decided that she no longer wanted to be identified with an activity or a role in which she felt alienated. Her withdrawal did not only concern the art world. It signaled the beginning of a process of dis-identification from the roles that organize and hierarchize life. After four decades of feminist interventions in the art field, we need to reconsider her ideas as a set of transformative practices that affect us in the present. This was clear to some of the women close to Lonzi, such as Carla Accardi, the only female artist in Autoritratto.

Can you explain what autocoscienza is? GZ: Autocoscienza takes place within a group. This practice cannot happen in solitude. The diary is a personal reflection on the type of relationships explored through the autocoscienza groups. Reading the diary has been a transformative experience for me.

Reading her has made me reflect on my own life. How would you describe this kind of experience then? GZ:Of course, the writing of the diary is very much connected to the practice of autocoscienza, but they are not the same thing. FB: Resonance was an important idea for Lonzi. GZ: I like this term very much…Resonance is a relationship that can be established between two or more women who do not necessarily live in the same place or time. For example, in the last years of her life, Lonzi was working on an unfinished manuscript Armande Sono Io!

Lonzi approaches the history of these women not so much as a historian, but as a someone who recognizes something of her own life in the experience of women living three centuries before her.

For Lonzi, feminism opens the possibility of finding resonance with other women. Subjectivity and History in the Work of Carla Lonzi ]. GZ: For Carla Lonzi, feminism is the present. The pamphlet is a critique of the Hegelian model of history as a forward movement, a linear progression, which is also crucial in the traditional Marxist idea of revolution.

In her anti-dialectical understanding of historical time, history itself is understood as a male construction from which women are structurally excluded. This interruption is a transformative gesture. Seen through this understanding of history, Feminism is neither a promise nor an objective. The rupture, the unexpected, is a way of moving away from the patriarchal logic, from the logic of causes and effects, from the idea of a promised future.

FB: Today we hear that we lack perspective on the future, and hence, that we need to think of ways of imagining the future anew. At the same time, I think that our idea of the future is still very much connected to the idea of a linear progression… I wonder what the potential of thinking the present as the time of change might be.

To think of a change in the present is also a way of fighting the idea of a future to come, the very idea of a promise, the patriarchal structure of history. Do you agree? Of course this is also where things start getting complicated! However, to me there is a fundamental ambivalence in her use of this notion.

Authenticity is often described as something that is already there and that needs to become manifest. You can imagine how problematic that is. So, why does it become a political impasse? GZ: Well, Lonzi said many contradictory things! FB: In what ways it becomes a political impasse?


Carla Lonzi

Carla Lonz i, an emblematic figure in Italian feminism, was an innovative art critic in the s. Her Self-portrait, published in and now translated into French for the first time, is a book-montage made from conversations recorded with 14 artists where Lonzi deconstructs art criticism and invents a style of writing based on subjectivity, exchange and non-linearity. This conference aims to explore the diverging trajectory of Carla Lonzi, who abandoned art for feminism, in order to investigate the relations between art and feminism from a minority perspective that is little known outside Italy. Dialogo con Pietro Consagra, a four-day conversation with sculptor Pietro Consagra, her life-long partner, which ended their relationship. Very quickly, Carla Lonzi came to occupy a central position in Italian feminism, which, paradoxically, is also one of the reasons why Autoritratto was so quickly forgotten.


Reimagining the Family Album: Carla Lonzi's Autoritratto (1969)

What has society made of me? Who am I? Lonzi ceaselessly questions her sense of self, the place society had assigned to her, refusing to conform to social roles and fixed identities. An art critic, a feminist, a poet, a woman, but above all a subject seeking freedom, Carla Lonzi represents a unique figure in the history of Italian feminism.



As Italy celebrates the th anniversary of its unification, the country passes through a rather dark moment in which the political economy and the power of the media seem to be in league against the artistic and intellectual resources of the country while contributing to the degradation of the image of women. Paolini: Teresa playing the part of Joan of arc in prison, Collezione Anna Paolini Piva, Torino. The reader thus finds her or himself navigating this flux of somewhat disconnected discussions, occasionally interrupted by snapshots— everything devoid of information— which depict the artists and the author in moments of disarming familiarity, as if the conversations actually issued simple dinner among friends, which just happened to be recorded. Consagra in his studio in Via Margutta, Rome, Courtesy Archivio Pietro Consagra.


Finding Resonances with Carla Lonzi

Carla Lonzi Florence , March 6, — Milan , August 2, was an Italian art critic and feminist activist, who is best known as the cofounder of Rivolta Femminile Feminine Revolt , an Italian feminist collective formed in Carla Lonzi was born in Florence, Italy, on March 6, to a middle-class family. Her father owned a small industrial company and her mother dedicated her life to the nurture and education of Lonzi and her four siblings. In her early twenties, Lonzi became greatly interested in film and theatre, both as a spectator and creator. This lead her to performance art, a practice she liked for its ability to stage real life experiences and revealing truths.

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