Adalberto Libera (left), Beppino Disertori (right), both portraits ca. 1940
Commissioned by Manifesta 7/Italy, 2008, Ricostruzione: Disertori/Libera was shown for the first time in the exhibition “The Soul, or Trouble with the Transportation of Souls”, curated by Anselm Franke and Hila Peleg in the Palazzo delle Poste in Trento. Art historian and critic Tom Holert is working on a long-term study of “the diagnostic modern” which emerged at the intersections of experimental psychology and modernist art and culture from the late nineteenth century on. A collaboration with TV journalist Claudia Honecker, Ricostruzione has been created as a multilevel inquiry into architecture, politics, psychology, and philosophy loosely based on the lives and works of two historical figures hailing from Trentino: Beppino Disertori (1907–1992) and Adalberto Libera (1903–1963).
A neuropsychiatrist with neovitalist leanings Disertori was also a humanist philosopher and determined antifascist. In 1943, following the German occupation of Italy, he went into exile in Switzerland and joined the resistance. His prolific works, for the most part published after the war, range from clinical studies, psychology and philosophy to travel writings. During the 1960s, he lectured in sociopsychiatry at Trento’s new Institute of Sociology, the first such department to be founded in an Italian university. Renato Curcio, who later co-founded the Red Brigades, was one of his students.
Libera was one of the most visible young “rationalist” architects during Italy’s Fascist regime. He continued to work in post-war Italy as a project manager for INA-Casa, the vast public reconstruction program. INA-Casa had been set up as a laboratory for new articulations of dwelling as well as a project of late modernist national (re)building under the auspices of the Marshall plan and generated hundreds of housing projects between 1949 and 1963.
The juxtaposition of Disertori and Libera may (and should) appear incommensurate, even forced. Ricostruzione’s purpose here is neither to initiate a posthumous dialogue between the two modernists nor to suggest a reconciliation, but rather to obtain readings of their historically and intellectually specific projects through speculatively reconfiguring and fictionalizing them, transforming Disertori and Libera into probing avatars, twisting and expanding the narrative by throwing other voices into the mix. In such a process vital questions are raised concerning the potential for research within the institutional and theoretical realm of contemporary visual arts.
Berlin-based art historian and critic Tom Holert teaches at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna where he also participates in the development of a research area on the epistemology and methodology of art production; a book on politics and the visual (Regieren im Bildraum) has been released in November 2008 (Polypen/b_books); currently he is working on a long-term study of “the diagnostic modern”. Claudia Honecker is a tv journalist living and working in Berlin.
In the meantime, Ricostruzione: Disertori/Libera has been invited to “Modernologies”, an exhibition curated by Sabine Breitwieser for the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA). On February 3, 2009, Tom Holert presented Ricostruzione: Disertori/Libera at LUX 28, in a series of talks called “Six Tuesdays After Film as a Critical Practice”, curated by Ian White.