Bas-Relief in Bolzano-Bozen, Italy
© Bartleby08 CC BY-SA 4.0
On January 26, 2022…
We talked about the Bas-Relief in Bolzano-Bozen, chosen for its representation of fascism in Southern Europe and the ways in which historical narratives are woven to suit contemporary political agendas.
Dr Flaminia Bartolini is a Classical Archaeologist and Heritage specialist, and a Leverhulme Trust Fellow based at the ISPC-CNR in Rome. She gave a lecture on the Bolzano Frieze. In recent years public attitudes towards Fascist Heritage in Italy were at the centre of a heated debate that from the academic world reached the press and the social media. The debate posed questions on the fate of Fascist monuments in Italy and whether the country had yet come to term with its Fascist past. This lecture will look specifically at how this is reflected in the iconography of Mussolini and the heritage sites in Bolzano. It will be examined to what extent the shift in both the perception and fortune of Mussolini’s material legacies mirrors the renegotiation of the Fascist past, and what is the role of the Cult of the Duce in contemporary Italy. Case studies of Mussolini’s bas-relief and his iconography will be analysed together with similar projects in Italy. The presentation also questions whether public perception of these sites has changed over time and considers how their recent transformation into heritage sites or exhibitions signifies a shift from the post-war interpretation.
Dr Hannes Obermair, a historian and exhibition curator, is a Senior Researcher at the European Academy of Bozen-Bolzano (Eurac), and offered a virtual tour of the site. His tour led us through the city of Bozen-Bolzano, the capital of the northernmost Italian province, the pluri-ethnic South Tyrol. Bordering to Austria and part of the Hapsburgian monarchy up to WWI, the region has been annexed by Italy in 1919/20. With the rise of Italian fascism, Bolzano became sort of a laboratory of the violent Italianization attempts carried out by the fascist regime especially within the border-regions. The architectural legacy of the dictatorial past is still visible today, mainly the Monument to Victory erected by Marcello Piacentini in 1928, and the new “Grande Bolzano” urban quarters around the Tribunal square with a monumental bas-relief showing a triumphant Mussolini. It goes without saying, that after 1945 this permanence of fascist symbols led to unrest and dispute between the major ethnic groups, as well as the long forgotten remnants of a former Nazi-concentration camp active in 1944–5. Only in the 2010ies, on the basis of a broad historical “Vergangenheitsbewältigung”, the still existing traces of both dictatorships have been reframed and re- semantized in order to create common memorial grounds for today’s civil society.