Par­ty Line/Line of Flight

Alessandra Ponte

Immi­nent dan­ger. Be care­ful, the slight­est line of flight can cause every­thing to explode.” Thus began Félix Guattari’s account of the clos­ing of Radio Alice, the free anten­na of Bologna, out­lawed in 1977 by the may­or of the city, Rena­to Zangheri. In ban­ning the radio, Zangheri, a mem­ber of the Ital­ian Com­mu­nist Par­ty (PCI), gov­ern­ing one of the promi­nent red” cities of Italy, was loy­al­ly toe­ing the par­ty line, and active­ly con­tribut­ing to the repres­sion of the diverse autonomies” emerged after the 1972 cri­sis of the extreme-left. Autonomies” in the Ital­ian polit­i­cal vocab­u­lary of the time des­ig­nat­ed the inde­pen­dent mobi­liza­tion of women, youths, immi­grants, homo­sex­u­als, and mar­gin­als of var­i­ous kind, groups that refused assim­i­la­tion and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion in the class strug­gle” con­trolled by the autocratic/bureaucratic machin­ery of the com­mu­nist par­ty and the unions. The volatile Ital­ian sit­u­a­tion and the dra­mat­ic clash­es between mil­i­tants and lead­ers of the PCI and autonomous assem­blages search­ing for new forms of revolt and resis­tance were close­ly mon­i­tored by Euro­pean thinkers and politi­cians. Lead­ing French intel­lec­tu­als includ­ing Michel Fou­cault, Gilles Deleuze, and Félix Guat­tari, active­ly inter­vened pro­vok­ing a num­ber of exchanges and con­fronta­tions with promi­nent fig­ures of the Ital­ian left on the ques­tions of pow­er and rev­o­lu­tion­ary prac­tices. The paper retraces one of such confrontations.

The Aula Magna in Tolentini (IUAV). Courtesy of Università Iuav di Venezia, Archivio Progetti SBD, Archivio iconografico Iuav.

The Aula Magna in Tolentini (IUAV). Courtesy of Università Iuav di Venezia, Archivio Progetti SBD, Archivio iconografico Iuav.

In 1975, to cel­e­brate the thir­ti­eth anniver­sary of Italy’s lib­er­a­tion from fas­cism, Car­lo Aymoni­no, mem­ber of the PCI (Ital­ian Com­mu­nist Par­ty) and recent­ly appoint­ed direc­tor of the Isti­tu­to Uni­ver­si­tario di Architet­tura di Venezia (IUAV), inau­gu­rat­ed the new­ly restored Aula Magna (Great Hall) at the Tolen­ti­ni in Venice. Super­vised by Car­lo Scarpa, the ren­o­va­tion includ­ed paint­ings of famous Venet­ian artists like Emilio Vedo­va, Vit­to­rio Basaglia, Mario De Lui­gi and Arman­do Pizzi­na­to. The cen­ter­piece of the com­po­si­tion was a pan­el embla­zoned with the first part of the slo­gan writ­ten on the front page of Anto­nio Gramsci’s news­pa­per L’Ordine Nuo­vo (The New Order): Edu­cate your­selves because we’ll need all your intel­li­gence. Agi­tate because we’ll need all your enthu­si­asm. Orga­nize your­selves because we’ll need all your strength.”1 Pho­tographs tak­en two years after the inau­gu­ra­tion show the word intel­li­gence” in Gramsci’s sen­tence crossed over and sub­sti­tut­ed with sharp­shoot­ing,” a clear invi­ta­tion to join the lot­ta arma­ta” (armed fight), while the white, pris­tine walls of the Aula Magna appeared insou­ciant­ly dec­o­rat­ed with images and iron­ic slo­gans by the Indi­ani Met­ro­pol­i­tani (Met­ro­pol­i­tan Indi­ans), the cre­ative and lib­er­tar­i­an wing” of the polit­i­cal upheaval of the 1977 Movi­men­to (Move­ment).

Mural by the Indiani Metropolitani at the Aula Magna in Tolentini (IUAV). Courtesy of Università Iuav di Venezia, Archivio Progetti SBD, Archivio iconografico Iuav.

Mural by the Indiani Metropolitani at the Aula Magna in Tolentini (IUAV). Courtesy of Università Iuav di Venezia, Archivio Progetti SBD, Archivio iconografico Iuav.

Thus, while Venice remained mar­gin­al com­pared to the real epi­cen­ters of the 1977 Movi­men­to (Rome, Milan and Bologna), IUAV’s Aula Magna close­ly reflect­ed the trou­bled cli­mate of the time expos­ing the ever-larg­er frac­ture sep­a­rat­ing the extreme left extra-par­lia­men­tary groups from the Com­mu­nist Par­ty, which, since 1973, under the lead­er­ship of Enri­co Berlinguer, had been the­o­riz­ing and nego­ti­at­ing the his­tor­i­cal com­pro­mise” with the Chris­t­ian Democ­rats. The rad­i­cal­iza­tion of the con­flict between the far left and the Com­mu­nist Par­ty cor­re­spond­ed to a pro­found trans­for­ma­tion of the Ital­ian protest move­ment. Lenin­ist-inspired orga­ni­za­tions of 1968, includ­ing Potere Oper­ario or Lot­ta Con­tin­ua, dis­solved to give way to new forms of cre­ative quest or, along a rad­i­cal diverg­ing tra­jec­to­ry, recourse to ter­ror­ism. The inten­si­fi­ca­tion of the actions of the left-wing ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion Red Brigades was the epiphe­nom­e­non of the last alter­na­tive, cul­mi­nat­ing with the 1978 kid­nap­ping and assas­si­na­tion of the Chris­t­ian Demo­c­rat leader Aldo Moro, in answer to Berlinguer’s his­tor­i­cal com­pro­mise.” What tru­ly char­ac­ter­ized the 1977 Movi­men­to, how­ev­er, was the vin­di­ca­tion for auton­o­my,” pro­claimed and the­o­rized in var­i­ous forms: from the struc­tured left­ist move­ment Autono­mia Opera­ia (Work­ers’ Auton­o­my), led by Oreste Scal­zone and Toni Negri, to a het­ero­ge­neous assem­blage of col­lec­tives and groups that sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly refused orga­ni­za­tion, hier­ar­chy, and any kind of polit­i­cal manip­u­la­tion. This last area of the Move­ment found inspi­ra­tion in the writ­ings of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guat­tari, whose 1972 book Cap­i­tal­isme et schiz­o­phrénie. L’anti-Œdipe and the first chap­ter on the rhi­zome from their Mille plateaux, were prompt­ly trans­lat­ed in Ital­ian. Guat­tari, in fact, became an active and acclaimed par­tic­i­pant of the most spec­tac­u­lar demon­stra­tion of the 1977 Movi­men­to, the three-day protest against repres­sion held in Bologna in Sep­tem­ber of the same year. There, in the streets of the city, an awestruck Guat­tari assist­ed to the unfold­ing of his antic­i­pat­ed mol­e­c­u­lar rev­o­lu­tion.”2

An echo and a response to these events at the IUAV can be found in a slim vol­ume print­ed in 1977 by the pub­lish­ing coop­er­a­tive of the school of archi­tec­ture in Venice (CLUVA). Titled Il dis­pos­i­ti­vo Fou­cault (The Fou­cault Device), the book col­lect­ed the papers pre­sent­ed at a cru­cial sem­i­nar by Mas­si­mo Cac­cia­ri, Fran­co Rel­la, Man­fre­do Tafu­ri and Georges Teyssot. Rel­la, quite pos­si­bly prompt­ed by Cac­cia­ri, con­vened the meet­ing.3 Rel­la had arrived at the IUAV in 1975 after hav­ing pub­lished a num­ber of texts on Freud lat­er col­lect­ed in La crit­i­ca freudi­ana (The Freudi­an Cri­tique) in 1977. Dur­ing the aca­d­e­m­ic year 1977–78, Rel­la taught a sem­i­nar on Freud as com­ple­ment to Tafuri’s course on turn of the cen­tu­ry Vien­na. After being affil­i­at­ed with Potere Operaio, Cac­cia­ri — an advo­cate of neg­a­tive thought” and pro­fes­sor of aes­thet­ics at the IUAV — had joined the Ital­ian Com­mu­nist Par­ty (of which Tafu­ri was also a mem­ber), and pub­lished Kri­sis. Sag­gio sul­la crit­i­ca del pen­siero neg­a­ti­vo da Niet­zsche a Wittgen­stein (Cri­sis. Essay on the cri­sis of neg­a­tive thought from Niet­zsche to Wittgen­stein).4 Kri­sis, togeth­er with the 1975 Oikos: da Loos a Wittgen­stein (Oikos: From Loos to Wittgen­stein), writ­ten in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Francesco Amen­dolagine, were manda­to­ry read­ing for the stu­dents enrolled in Tafuri’s class on Vienna. 

With the notable excep­tion of Teyssot’s con­tri­bu­tion, which thought­ful­ly inves­ti­gat­ed and test­ed Foucault’s con­cept of het­ero­topy, the oth­er par­tic­i­pants used the impor­tant audi­ence of the sem­i­nar (after begin­ning in Aula Gradoni where usu­al­ly Tafu­ri taught his class­es, the con­fer­ence had to be moved to Aula Magna at the Tolen­ti­ni) as plat­form to attack not only Fou­cault but also Deleuze and Guat­tari in direct con­nec­tion with the momen­tous events that were tak­ing place in Bologna.5 Cacciari’s essay was reprint­ed, almost untouched, in a spe­cial 1977 issue of the phi­los­o­phy and cul­ture mag­a­zine Aut Aut titled Irrazion­al­is­mo e nuove forme di razion­al­ità” (“Irra­tional­ism and New Forms of Ratio­nal­i­ty”). Cac­cia­ri then became the cen­ter of a noto­ri­ous con­tro­ver­sy about the notion of pow­er attrib­uted by Ital­ian com­mu­nists intel­lec­tu­als to Fou­cault (and by unin­formed asso­ci­a­tion extend­ed to Deleuze and Guat­tari), which found response first in an essay pub­lished by the French philoso­pher in Aut Aut, and then in a let­ter addressed by Fou­cault, in Decem­ber 1978, to L’Unità, the organ of the Ital­ian Com­mu­nist Par­ty.6

Mural by the Indiani Metropolitani at the Aula Magna in Tolentini (IUAV). Courtesy of Università Iuav di Venezia, Archivio Progetti SBD, Archivio iconografico Iuav. (next page also)

Mural by the Indiani Metropolitani at the Aula Magna in Tolentini (IUAV). Courtesy of Università Iuav di Venezia, Archivio Progetti SBD, Archivio iconografico Iuav. (next page also)

In 1976, under the aegis of Aymoni­no, the Insti­tute for Archi­tec­tur­al His­to­ry at the IUAV, which oper­at­ed under the direc­tion of Tafu­ri since 1968, was giv­en more auton­o­my and renamed Dipar­ti­men­to di anal­isi, crit­i­ca e sto­ria dell’architettura (Depart­ment of Archi­tec­tur­al Analy­sis, Crit­i­cism and His­to­ry). The tor­tu­ous appel­la­tion mir­rored the appraisal of Tafu­ri and his col­leagues of the state of the dis­ci­pline. The estab­lish­ment of the depart­ment includ­ed the cre­ation of a new cor­so di lau­rea (degree pro­gram) in his­to­ry of archi­tec­ture that attract­ed numer­ous stu­dents com­pet­ing for guid­ance in the devel­op­ment of their mas­ter the­ses. The after­math of the col­lo­qui­um on Fou­cault marked a dis­tinct reshuf­fling among mem­bers of the depart­ment and in the dis­tri­b­u­tion of the stu­dents. Cac­cia­ri sus­pend­ed teach­ing at the IUAV to devote him­self full time to pol­i­tics as mem­ber of PCI and began to reflect on Catholi­cism. Tafu­ri rather abrupt­ly dis­so­ci­at­ed him­self and his class­es from Fran­co Rel­la. Iron­i­cal­ly, giv­en the sub­stan­tial pres­ence of stu­dents in archi­tec­ture engaged in Lacan­ian the­o­ry, Rel­la found him­self direct­ing Lacan­ian the­ses while Tafu­ri and Teyssot emerged as lead­ing fig­ures of the depart­ment in the fol­low­ing years. Teyssot intro­duced stu­dents not just to Fou­cault but to the large field of French lit­er­a­ture on his­to­ry of sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy from Michel Ser­res and François Jacob to Georges Can­guil­hem and André Leroi-Gorhan. As for Tafu­ri he became inter­est­ed in Car­lo Ginzburg micro­his­to­ry but slow­ly and inex­orably turned his gaze to the Renais­sance entrench­ing him­self and his stu­dents in a stern­ly philo­log­i­cal approach.

  1. 1

    See: Cronache dai Tolen­ti­ni: stu­den­ti, docen­ti, luoghi 1964–1975,” IUAV, no. 110, 2012.

  2. 2

    Félix Guat­tari, La révo­lu­tion molécu­laire (Paris: Les Prairies Ordi­naires, 1977). Guattari’s book col­lect­ed pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished essays and arti­cles includ­ing a text about the clos­ing of the Radio Alice (a free radio) in Bologna, as exam­ple of the repres­sion ordered by the may­or of the city the com­mu­nist Rena­to Zan­gari. Guattari’s (and Gilles Deleuze) involve­ment with the 1977 Movi­men­to and the Ital­ian extreme left are well doc­u­ment­ed in: François Dosse, Gilles Deleuze et Félix Guat­tari: Biogra­phie croisée (Paris: La Décou­verte, 2007). Inter­est­ing­ly Dosse com­ments at length about the rela­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion between Guat­tari and Toni Negri under­lin­ing their diver­gences and ques­tion­ing Negri unre­pen­tant Leninism.

  3. 3

    Mas­si­mo Cac­cia­ri, Fran­co Rel­la, Man­fre­do Tafu­ri, Georges Teyssot, Il dis­pos­i­ti­vo Fou­cault (Venice: Clu­va Libre­ria Editrice, 1977).

  4. 4

    Mas­si­mo Cac­cia­ri, Kri­sis. Sag­gio sul­la crisi del pen­siero neg­a­ti­vo da Niet­zsche a Wittgen­stein (Cri­sis. Essay on the cri­sis of neg­a­tive thought from Niet­zsche to Wittgen­stein) (Milan: Fel­trinel­li, 1976).

  5. 5

    See: Andrew Leach and Luka Skan­si, The Fou­cault Device: Forty Years On,” in the book of abstracts of The Tools of the Archi­tect, EAHN con­fer­ence, TU Delft and HNI, The Nether­lands, Novem­ber 2017, 159. Mar­co Assen­na­to, Il dis­pos­i­ti­vo Fou­cault. Un sem­i­nario a Venezia, den­tro al lun­go Ses­san­tot­to ital­iano,” Engram­ma 156, May–June 2018, index.php?id_articolo=%203419. On the vicis­si­tudes of the idea of het­ero­topy see: Daniel Defert, Post­face Hétéro­topie’: Tribu­la­tion d’un con­cept entre Venise, Berlin et Los Ange­les,” in Michel Fou­cault, Le Corps Utopique — Les Hétéro­topies (Paris: Nou­velles Édi­tions Lignes, 2009), 37–61.

  6. 6

    Parts of the exchange between Cac­cia­ri and Fou­cault are reprint­ed in: Michel Fou­cault, Dits et Écrits, ed. Daniel Defert and François Ewald, 2 vol. (Paris: Gal­li­mard, 2001). The polemic was exac­er­bat­ed by an infa­mous arti­cle pub­lished in L’ Espres­so in Novem­ber 1978. The authors col­lect­ed arbi­trar­i­ly frag­ments of an inter­view to Fou­cault includ­ing an allu­sion to Cac­cia­ri. Hilar­i­ous­ly Fou­cault respond­ed stat­ing that he nev­er referred to Cac­cia­ri for the sim­ple rea­son that he was unaware of his works.