KINN: Autonomy on Film

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A Future at Our Backs! Autonomy on Film

Transmission Gallery: 7pm, Wednesdays – December 5th, 12th and January 9th, 16th

Following a series of readings, films, and co-research enquiries by the Strickland Distribution in the area of autonomy, this film block charts the relation between production (the workplace) and social reproduction (the home, the community, schools, etc) in 1970s Italy. The films index a theoretical and practical break from the role of the male factory ‘worker’ and the domestic role of ‘the housewife’ in the sexual division of labour. In doing so they suggest the means by which social reproduction and work might be reconceptualised to take into account relations of care and forms of value production that are non-economic.

For Michael Hardt, Italy in the 1970s presents us with a model because it constituted a kind of laboratory for experimental thinking and living that can help us conceive of new modes of collective being in our own times. Likewise, Manuela Pellarin’s The Suspended Years suggests a period of intense experimentation in the 1970s that can, “perhaps be seen as ‘suspended’ in time and space, separate from what came before and after, waiting for something new ahead, but not yet in focus or determined… perhaps”.

From the factory to the social factory – where are we now? Is the future behind our backs?

The films will be preceded by a brief introduction, and followed by an open, informal discussion. Optional additional readings can be found below.

All films start at 7pm.


Week 1 – 05.12.12, 7pm:
The Working Class Goes to Heaven (La classe operaia va in paradiso)
Elio Petri, 1971, Italy, 125 min.
The Working Class Goes to Heaven depicts a worker’s realisation of his own condition as a ‘tool’ in the process of production. In Italy at this time, one who worked hard and pushed up quotas for everyone was known as a ‘ruffian’. This film viscerally examines the conflicts between productivity and ‘the refusal of work’; the machine and the body; production and reproduction; order and desire.
I was a piecework laborer, I followed the politics of union, I worked for productivity, I increased output, and now what have I become? I’ve become a beast, a machine, a nut, a screw, a transmission belt, a pump!
’1962-1973: Worker and Student Struggles in Italy’, Sam Lowry, here
‘Italy 1960-1970s: Reading Guide’, Libcom, here

Week 2 – 12.12.12, 7pm:
The Suspended Years: Movements and Political Journeys in Porto Marghera
Manuela Pellarin, 2009, 49 min.
Based on testimonies with militant workers, The Suspended Years charts the intense series of workers’ struggles which took place in and around the chemical production plants of Porto Marghera in north eastern Italy from the mid-1960s until the late 1970s.
The workers were emblematic figures in the whole experience of ‘workers autonomy’ in this period, expressing a widespread ‘refusal of work’ on a collective basis. The movement began in the factories but rapidly spread far beyond the factory walls to encompass and question the whole of social life under capitalism.
‘The Refusal of Work – Workers Committee of Porto Marghera’, here
‘Port Marghera, The Last Firebrands’, booklet here
Film made by members of Mouvement Communiste [link]


Week 3 – 09.01.13, 7pm: School Without End (Scuola Senza Fine)
(With an introduction by Marina Vishmidt)
Adriana Monti et al, Italy, 1983, 40 min.
School Without End follows a group of housewives who had undertaken the ‘150 hours’ course – a contractual improvement gained by Italian workers in the 1970s whereby employers had to pay for 150 hours of learning activities every three years by employees – then continued their education independently with seminars on literature, the body, and the image among other things.
Watching the project develop was like uncorking a champagne bottle. The women’s writing matured and began to flow and sparkle […] science, philosophy, and linguistic analysis (visual, written, and body languages), filled page after page of their writing pads and exercise books, with personal reflections on culture, themselves, their families, nature, and feelings
‘Introduction to the Script of the Film’, Adriana Monti, here
’150 hours’ and the ‘Free University of Women: Reflections on the Conditions for a Feminist Politics of Knowledge’, Paolo Melchiori, here
See also,
‘Human Strike Within the Field of Libidinal Economy’, Claire Fontaine, here
‘The City in the Female Gender’, Lia Megale, here

Week 4 – 16.01.13, 7pm: We Want Roses Too (Vogliamo Anche La Rose)
(With an introduction by Maud Bracke)
Alina Marazzi, Italy, 2007, 84 minutes
Through archive material We Want Roses Too portrays the change brought on by the sexual revolution and the feminist movement in Italy during the 1960s and 1970s. The film revisits these times from a female point of view, through the diaries of three women.
In this film, I chose to examine the history of women in Italy from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s in order to relate it to our current present so charged with conflicts and contradictions; I did this with the intention of offering food for thought on issues that remain partially unsolved, or are even radically challenged today”.
Film website, here <>
‘Manifesto’, Rivolta femminile, here
‘Let’s spit on Hegel’, Carla Lonzi, extract here
See also,
The Commoner, ‘Care Work and the Commons’, Special issue No.15, Dec 2012, here
‘Women’s Identity. Sex and Gender in Contemporary Italian Feminism’, Yasmine Ergas, here
‘The Modern Women’s Movement in Italy’, Bianca Beccalli, (requires access), here
‘The Power of Women and the Subversion of Community’, Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Selma James, here

Beyond the Factory Desert : Anatomy of Autonomy

Wednesday 13th June 2012 The Strickland Distribution facilitate:

4.00-6.00pm. Reading Group | Wednesday 13th June 2012 | Transmission Gallery | ‘Anatomy of Autonomy’, Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi

‘Anatomy of Autonomy’, Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi’s account of the Italian Autonomist movement from 1968 to 1979, is one of the essential surveys of the movement. In a lucid, highly readable style, the essay covers the student and workers agitations leading to a wave of strikes, demonstrations, take-overs and acts of sabotage in the ‘hot autumn’ of 1969; the ‘autonomous’ split from the Italian Communist Party (PCI) and its trade union organs; the repressive ‘strategy of tension’ supported by the PCI with the ruling Christian Democrats, and their later ‘Historical Compromise’; new forms of autonomous class composition with Southern migrant labour in the factories and women and the unemployed in the ‘social factory’; and more than anything else, the movement of autonomia and their refusal of alienation and the ideology of production, quintessentially expressed in the slogan: ‘The refusal of work’.

For Berardi, 1977 produced the most mature expression of the autonomist movement. Beyond the factory desert, the new ‘post-socialist proletariat’ developed forms of struggle related to all aspects of collective life and cultural identity in the social factory. Proletarian Youth Associations set up communes in the big cities, organising squats and experimenting with new forms of collective living; ‘wildcat’ free radio stations such as ‘Radio Alice’ were set up illegally to communicate information from revolutionary organisations and engender dialogue; ‘autonomous price setting’ (‘autoreduction’) movements emerged in their tens of thousands laying siege to city centres, ‘confiscating’ merchandise from luxury shops and ‘self-reducing’ admission prices and bills for cinemas, theatres and restaurants. These activities corresponded to a wave of university occupations, especially in the north of Italy.

These events, which Berardi played a significant part in, help site his post-autonomist theorising in a wider context of upheaval and revolt in Italy during the 1970s, and prefigure his later work on composition, media and technology, precarity and ‘the soul at work’.

Reading material is available at : Anatomy of Autonomy

Reading group spaces may be limited, so please email an interest if you intend coming, to:

6.30-7.30pm. Film Screening/Discussion | Wednesday 13th June 2012 | Transmission ‘Antonio Negri – A Revolt That Never Ends’ (Weltz and Pichler, 2005, 52 mins)

“The idea that work ennobles is a capitalist invention.” Antonio Negri

Best-known for Empire, the bestseller co-written with Michael Hardt, this documentary reveals Antonio Negri as much more than just a producer of radical literature in the commodity bazaar. From early activism in the autonomist movement – agitating at 5am outside auto and petroleum factories – through to his imprisonment by the state and forced exile for 14 years, Negri looked violent state repression in the face while continuing to struggle, live, work and learn.

Accused of kidnapping Aldo Moro, the former Prime Minister of Italy (who was later found dead), and being the head of the autonomia movement and the Red Brigades, Negri was publically castigated

as the ‘cattivo maestro’ (immoral teacher) of Italy’s youth. ‘Choosing’ exile he was attacked and ridiculed by the Italian Communist Party (PCI), as well as the right-wing forces of the state, and condemned to 30 years of prison in absentia. In total 60,000 activists were investigated, and 25,000 arrested. In Paris, without papers, he was befriended by, and engaged intellectually with Deleuze and Guattari, even becoming for some official purposes ‘Antoine Guattari’ to get over his sans-papier status. In Paris, he helped develop key post-autonomia concepts such as immaterial and affective labour, bio-politics and, through Spinoza and Deleuze and Guattari, a-dialectical thought.

Biography is a weak form. Individualisation tends to mask the collective social aspects of life and production. Nevertheless, Negri’s role in the development of key collective concepts is explored in the documentary through the ideas of the social factory, social reproduction, workers enquiry, the refusal of work, self-reduction, the re- appropriation of material social wealth, immaterial labour and bio-politics. As such, the film provides an excellent, if fleeting, overview of both Negri and the autonomous and post-autonomist movement overall. Commentary from key figures such as Michael Hardt, ‘Bifo’ Berardi, Alisa Del Rei, and Disobeddienti add insight and context to Negri’s relation with the wider autonomist movement.

Beyond the Factory Desert: Anatomy of Autonomy
3.45 for 4.00 start
4.00 – 6.00: Reading group: ‘Anatomy of Autonomy’ (1977), Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi
6.00 – 6.30: Break
6.30 – 7.30: Film Screening: ‘Antonio Negri – A Revolt That never Ends’ (Weltz & Pichler, 2005, 52mins)
7.30 – 8.30: Facilitated discussion (followed by a social with refreshments)

Reading group spaces may be limited, so please email an interest if coming:

Reading material is available at : Anatomy of Autonomy

If you can’t make the reading group or prefer the film screening/discussion, please do come along later.

Beyond the Factory Desert: Anatomy of Autonomy takes further previous Strickland Distribution reading groups on ‘autonomy’ and is also a primer to a block of autonomous film screenings/discussions coming up in early 2013 as part of a series of Strickland Distribution events within Transmission Gallery’s annual programme.

The Strickland Distribution is an artist-run group supporting the development of independent research in art-related and non-institutional practices. Art-related includes research forms that directly implement artistic practice as a means of research method. Non-institutional includes forms of grass-roots histories, social enquiries and projects developed outside of academic frameworks and by groups and individuals normally excluded from research environments.

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