Towards an autonomous feminist institution: Carla Lonzi and autocoscienza

This lecture looks at separatism as a critique of the (art) institution within the histories of Italian second-wave feminism, focusing on the group Rivolta Femminile [Feminine Revolt] and Carla Lonzi’s writings from the years 1968-1972. We will consider the ways in which her withdrawal from the art world in 1970 and her critique of knowledge production prompted her to experiment with alternative forms of life, creativity, and being together. Autocoscienza (or self-consciousness raising) is perhaps the most significant attempt to imagine a feminist autonomous space based on dialogue, horizontality and collective empowerment. Lonzi’s abandonment of art also suggests a shift from her interest in the artist’s singularity towards the attempt to build a new feminist community in which alternative forms of creativity could be experienced. Moreover, autocoscienza also suggests the possibility of a counter-institution, whose emancipatory potential can still resonate today.

Giovanna Zapperi is an art historian and writer based in Paris, working at the intersection between art history, feminist theory and visual culture. She has lectured internationally and has recently been appointed as Professor for contemporary art history at Université de Tours (France). She is the author of numerous essays published in various European languages and journals (Art History, Feminist Review, May, Multitudes, Oxford Art Journal, Studi Culturali among others). Her latest book is entitled Carla Lonzi: un’arte della vita [Carla Lonzi. An art of Life] (Rome 2017). She is currently working on collection of essays (edited with Francesco Ventrella) entitled Art and Feminism in Post-war Italy. The Legacy of Carla Lonzi (forthcoming in 2018).