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Factory and culture, narrated through images

The investigation of an industrial area’s transformation narrated through film

 

Industry is culture. An established truth that, nonetheless, always needs further confirmations and verifications, because the “factory” or the “offices” might still be erroneously equated to drudgery and a lack of prospects. Yet, rediscovering the many ways in which industrial production is also cultural production, through means and circumstances inherently different in each case, is a good thing. Hence, reading “Il caso Pirelli-Bicocca. La fabbrica (dismessa) tra realtà e immagine” (“The Pirelli-Bicocca Case. The (dismantled) factory between reality and image”), written by Ornella Castiglione and published only a few weeks ago, is useful to understand how much factory and culture go hand in hand. Even when, indeed, the factory gets dismantled.

Castiglione approaches factory and culture as a unified pair and from a particular viewpoint: cinema. And the story of the factory in flux is accordingly unravelled through stock footage. The article is based on the analysis of the factory becoming something else than a manufacturing space. It’s about the Bicocca district in Milan, the protagonist of a full-fledged urban transformation. In fact, at the beginning of the 1980s the whole Pirelli complex started being dismantled: the abandoned space led to the district’s redevelopment from an industrial production site to a cultural and culturally innovative space. One of the most significant narrators who told the story of this industrial transformation was Silvio Soldini, with the documentary “La fabbrica sospesa” (The suspended factory) (1985). Moreover, just like Milan, other northern industrial cities became the backdrop of interesting social and iconographic investigations, as shown in Ettore Scola’s “Trevico-Torino” (Trevico-Turin) (1973).

Ornella Castiglione examines the story and draws from it an underlying commentary based on the factory’s capability not only to generate culture when fulfilling its manufacturing function but also when, dismantled, it becomes the foundation for the creation of diverse spaces for cultural expression.

Il caso Pirelli-Bicocca. La fabbrica (dismessa) tra realtà e immagine(“The Pirelli-Bicocca Case. The (dismantled) factory between reality and image”)

Ornella Castiglione

L’avventura, 1/2020. January-June