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Flash, a movement, Art, a culture – a contemporary art magazine from Italy

The wave of art radicalism in the 1960s founded a publication, a bulletin of information transformed into a journal of art literature and research: Gea Politi, Cristiano Seganfreddo

Radicalism varies in context and nature of content: Michigan State University provides a foundation by identifying it as the beliefs or actions of individuals, groups, or organizations who advocate for thorough or complete social and/or political reform to achieve an alternative vision of a society. David A. Snow, a Chancellor’s Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine, and Remy Cross, an Assistant Professor of Criminology at the University of South Florida, studied the types and processes of radicalism in the context of social movements where one plays a role as a social movement activist who embraces direct action and high-risk options, to achieve a stated goal. When radicalism took over the art industry in the 1960s, the countercultural revolution, protesting against its traditions, transformed the art perception in the society. In 1967, Italy birthed Flash Art in Rome, a social movement for contemporary and avant-garde art under the helm of Helena Kontova and Giancarlo Politi, a teacher who had left his work to pursue the art publication, a medium to spotlight contemporary art and artists through information and study at a lightning speed. He moved his publishing house to Milan, a gateway to Europe as he considers in an interview with Artribune, the foundation of the publication’s globalization. 

Ten years after its pilot print, Flash Art introduced Flash Art International, the English counterpart of Flash Art Italia, broaching geography from Europe to West and East. Gea Politi, the daughter of Giancarlo Politi, and Cristian Seganfreddo helm the publication today as Editors-in-Chief, sitting down with Lampoon Magazine to narrate the birth, fruition and transformation the publication has undergone. Seganfreddo discusses «when Flash Art started, Italy lacked involvement in the global movements, and contemporary and avant-garde art had not yet become a subject. In the late 1960s, the founding of Flash Art signaled the establishment of a society, the path to capture the essence and flashes of the art movement in those years, far from a scholar perspective. In the past, the market for independent publishing, art galleries and museums for contemporary and avant-garde art, and auction houses had not yet fared or had been sparse. Flash Art targeted a niche, an earthquake that became a benchmark for the contemporary and avant-garde artists who had no platforms to showcase their works and has been recognized as such since then. This opportunity enters as a redefinition of the aesthetics in society, politics and generations, an epoch of pioneers».

The emergence of media and art forms between the 1960s and 1970s and how Flash Art researched and reported the artists’ practices. Pop Art: Richard Hamilton in England whose work Just What Is it that Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing in 1956 comprises a couple in the living room with cutouts of the moon, a housemaid cleaning the stairs, a picture of Abraham Lincoln in a frame, a magneto phone on the floor, and a view of New York plastered as a window; and Andy Warhol in America whose Campbell Soup Cans in 1962, a synthetic polymer paint across thirty-two canvases, contains clam chowder, scotch broth, pepper pot, tomato rice, and cream of celery to name a few and has been on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles City. 

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Flash Art Italia March 1994 Issue #182 Cover Maurizio Cattelan

Minimalism: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in California has hosted Donald Judd who employed four galvanized iron in square and blue lacquer on aluminum to plaster them on a wall and craft To Susan Buckwalter in 1964, a homage to the collector of contemporary art from Kansas City, Missouri who had passed away, and Robert Morris’ Untitled, a series of sculpture in forms of geometry, arranged where one’s body and awareness intermingles and installed in the garden at Tate for Morris’ 1971 exhibit. Conceptual Art: One and Three Chairs of Joseph Kosuth in 1965 represents an object, a chair one may fold, an image, a photograph of the chair one may fold, and a set of words, the definition of a chair one may fold, and an installation Kosuth selected and assembled; One Piece in Four Parts of Daniel Buren in 1976, an installation of four printed fabric and acrylic paint on a flag, stripes of red and white plastered on four corners of a wall. Fluxus: the promotion of living art in Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece in 1964, a performance of sitting alone on a stage, donning a suit, and allowing the audience to use the scissors before her and cut a piece of clothing draped over her body; Joseph Beuys’ How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare in 1965, a performance inside a gallery where he locked himself up in a room, covered in honey, a symbol of rebirth, and gold leaves, a symbol of the sun, holding a dead hare, a symbol of love and resurrection, narrating each work to the dead animal in his cradle. 

Politi narrates «Flash Art, entering its 54th year, commenced as a bulletin of information, pop-up news, comprising stories and facts across the world through the existence of artists’ networks in Italy and abroad. My father Giancarlo Politi heralded the hub of artists as an artist and poet himself and built up a community around him, fueling exchanges and conversations on contemporary and avant-garde art. These artists had furthered their skills in art, criticisms and writing, forming the tools to contribute to the magazine. Flash Art sprouted as a compendium of art and artists’ insights, criticisms and philosophies in an artist’s journal before transitioning into the digital era that calls for news stories based on research. We have retained our signature, delving into analysis, history and background of a subject, practice, work, or topic rather than delivering the surface of the story, an amalgamation of journalism, reporting and writing. The bilingualism of the magazine in the late 1970s, publishing contemporary and avant-garde from the West, Europe and East, foresaw a boom, allowing the magazine to pilot and dedicate covers to Jeff Koons and Robert Rauschenberg among the others».

Maya Jaggi, a British cultural journalist, introduces cultural journalism as reporting the arts and creative work, and with the individuals, institutions and policies that make or enable such work. It may include literature, music, film, dance, photography, visual arts, architecture and design on high culture, the traditions of art, and popular culture, its modernity. Cultural journalism attempts to understand the role of culture in the society through discussions about subjects of concern. In identifying the journalism of Flash Art, Politi opens with «Journalism embodies flash, efficiency, directness, and a focus on a subject. In Flash Art, our way of writing faces the practices of an artist through a niche perspective, doubling as an art literature with its relevance and timeliness spanning through ages as we create the literature of and for the artists about a period. For instance, our Anthropocene #326 of June to August in 2019 featured Nicolas Bourriaud, our pioneer issue towards coexistence and co-activity, gender and blackness, and the experimentation with essays on fashion and its attitude». In the article, Bourriaud underscores Anthropocene as a space of promiscuity, a brutal bringing-together of all reigns and spheres in a space suddenly devoid of boundaries and a time to understand that anthropology in the present can no longer be centered on the human species. He proceeded in exploring the domains of art, the engines of globalization which concern the ideology of growth, the society and inter-human relations, and the disappearance of humans in name. In the recent print issue of the magazine, #333 Winter 2020 – 2021, a feature titled Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons. A Modernist Revulsion for Nostalgia of Charlie Robin Jones, a journalist and editor in London and founder of Still Projects, narrates the volunteerism of Prada in the Communist Party, an angle of the story that pursues conversations. Politi and Seganfreddo acknowledge the intermingling of fashion and art and the consultations between two industries, the start of their collaboration with fashion houses to produce visuals and content that signify the history of Flash Art. The magazine, as Seganfreddo explains, continues «to make selections that stray from commercialization and superficiality. We pick out content that encourages readers to reflect rather than read. A point to make, the name resembles the philosophy of the magazine where concepts and names in the art industry that have not yet been explored appear, and the opening up to themes such as fashion, design and architecture. Our shift towards analysis in art has made Flash Art a publication to invest one’s time in as they read».

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Flash Art International WINTER 20/21 Issue #333 NEWCOSTUME Column Courtesy: Flash Art

In the second half of the fifteenth century, Europe stationed Venice as the capital of the printing press where one-hundred and fifty typographers operated, the point of wealth, culture, and bibliomania, the penchant to collect and possess books, thrived, and the genesis of Aldo Manuzio, or Aldus Manutius, a trailblazer in the contemporary printing press. Manuzio founded Aldine Press, the emblem displays an anchor and a dolphin, the intention to disperse Greek, Latin and Italian language and philosophy to the community, granting him the authority to produce the texts of Dante Alighieri, Francesco Petrarca and Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus, and the encouragement to the public to report mistakes in texts as a means of engagement. He introduced proportions in the size and style of fonts, inventing the italic font to condense the form of writing, the employment of punctuations, a period to end the sentence, a comma to split the phrases, a semicolon to promote continuity and an apostrophe to showcase ownership, and books that fit the size of the pockets to allow the ease in the carriage of literature. Through this remembrance, the scene of independent publishing in Italy possesses lineage present publications have adopted. Politi and Seganfreddo have witnessed the upholding of the manuscript tradition across Italy as independent magazines and books set forth amidst the pandemic, a homage to the legacy of Manuzio and the industry of publishing in the country. While such culture remains practiced, the entrance of the twenty-first century signals the advancement of technology and the adoption of online platforms against print media. Politi and Seganfreddo recounts «we went online in the late 1990s, but the use of technology had not yet favored websites and our readership. Our readers became accustomed to the print media and may have shown their unreadiness to switch to online media. We went into a more dynamic approach five years ago, but our readers preferred to opt for our print issues and reading long texts online continues to pose a challenge. To counter this, our digital edition relies on hypertextuality and embraces social media as we draft our editorial calendar for media platforms and apps online while ensuring the preservation of our trademark as a brand and publication, Flash Art Online as a starting point to conduct self-research about a topic in art, fashion, design or architecture».

In Kurt Lewin’s model of change, the transformation succeeds among individuals and organizations once the leader has considered the influences within the minds of the individuals and the environment, guiding him to quote you cannot understand a system until you try to change it. The cycle of the model initiates with unfreezing, the recognition that changes have to take place through dismantling the existence of beliefs and practices, change, the occurrence of transformation along with confusion and distress as the mindsets experience transition, and freezing, the formation of stability and acceptance of mindsets the framework has refreshed and induced. In Flash Art, unfreezing, the birth of the publication in 1967 as a response to cater the contemporary and avant-garde art and the pursuit of radicalism, change, the reception of the society towards the magazine as a medium of contemporary and avant-garde art across the globe and the research and conversations through visuals and texts published in print, and freezing, Flash Art as a brand instead of a publication, tugging along the transitions of leadership from father to daughter, the broadening of scope from art to fashion, the hauling of texts from print to digital, and the retainment of literature, research, and reportage in niches of art.

IMAGE GALLERY

Flash Art is an international quarterly magazine and publishing platform dedicated to thinking about contemporary art. Since 1977, it has been published in two separate editions: Flash Art Italia and Flash Art International. Gea Politi and Cristiano Seganfreddo are the Editors-in-Chief and Publishers, a transition from its Founders Giancarlo Politi and Helena Kontova.

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