Operaismo, Architecture & Design in Ambasz's New Domestic Landscape: Issues of Redefinition and Refusal in 1960s Italy
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As the subtitle to the 1972 Museum of Modern Art exhibition 'Italy: The New Domestic Landscape' suggests, the work involved was concerned with the 'Achievements and Problems of Italian Design' during the 1960s. Architecture within 'The New Domestic Landscape' does not immediately announce its disciplinarity in any significant way. And yet, although this was an exhibition about Italian design, here this term includes those objects and processes aligned with architecture as well as consumer design products. Architecture's implication within this nominated category of design is important not least because the wider political and socio-cultural terrain that the discourse of the exhibition located itself on. Curator Emilio Ambasz, in his introduction to the catalogue, identified that, 'the object is no longer conceived as an isolated entity, sufficient unto itself, but rather as an integral part of the larger natural and sociocultural environment'. Specifically within the exhibition, the propinquity of design practices (industrial and architectural) and Marxist theories within the context of 1960s Italy must be acknowledged. Here, the research identifies the coincident restructuring the political Left in relation to capitalism and the arrangement of the arts on a disciplinary level in relation to architecture and design. Moreover, this was not simply a case of cultural and political restructuring through their own internal logic, but was rather a process of redefinition as a complex, interrelated series of investigations. As such, this paper aims to briefly touch upon the way in which key theories from the Italian Operaismo (or Workerist) movement, and particularly Mario Tronti's strategy of refusal, might be seen to have informed elements of the practical and theoretical work executed as part of the 'New Domestic Landscape', with the understanding that knowledge of this particular aspect of the exhibition has the potential to reveal a further set of questions relating more closely to the disciplinary status of architecture within the included work.
Imagining: Proceedings of the 27th Annual SAHANZ Conference
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Architectural History and Theory