Politics in Italy and Austria, Ralph Rumney, and More

ITALY’S CULTURAL POLICIES WORRY EUROPEANS: In the past weeks, Italian president Silvio Berlusconi's cultural policies—both at home and abroad—have drawn several critical commentaries in the European press. The Guardian's Rory Carroll, who recently published a stinging report on the fiasco of the Venice film festival and Biennale, reports on Berlusconi's attempt to oust Mario Fortunato, the director of London's Italian Cultural Institute. It appears that Fortunato isn’t the only director of Italian cultural institutes abroad to become a target of Berlusconi’s political assault, according to Neue Zürcher Zeitung's Franz Haas, who has been following the increasingly right-wing Italian government’s attempt to prevent the organization of events that might be critical of its policies. In Paris, Le Monde's Catherine Bédarida attended a recent meeting of Italian intellectuals, filmmakers, and artists who discussed Berlusconi's “totalitarian” hold on the Italian media. Süddeutsche Zeitung's Gustav Seibt considers the regime's manufacture of consensus in a historical context, while Tagezeitung's Marina Collaci explains how cultural figures from Nanni Moretti to Antonio Tabucchi have taken over the role of opposition traditionally played by left-wing political parties. Finally, the London Review of Books has published an epic version of Berlusconi's rise to power by Perry Anderson.

REMEMBERING RALPH RUMNEY: Both The Guardian and Le Monde have published tributes to Ralph Rumney, the cofounder of the Situationist International, who died on March 6 at the age of sixty-seven in his home in Manosque, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. The Guardian's Malcolm Imrie offers a personal portrait, focusing on Rumney's nomadic wanderings from his hometown of Halifax to Paris to the Italian village of Cosio d'Arroscia, where he joined Walter Olmo, Michèle Bernstein, Asger Jorn, and Guy Debord for the first meeting of the International in July 1957. Le Monde's Edgar Reichmann focuses on Rumney's publications, from his London review Other Voices (1953) to a collection of interviews with Gérard Berréby, Le Consul (1999).

AUSTRIAN ARTISTS CREATE INTERNET REFUGE: While Italian cultural figures protest, Le Monde’s Yvonne Debeaumarché has set out to measure the impact of Austrian cultural policies under the influence of Jörg Haider's right-wing Freedom Party. Anticipating Berlusconi's international cultural purge, the Austrian government closed the independent Institut Autrichien in Paris in February, 2001, replacing it with the Forum Culturel Autrichien, which is controlled by the Austrian embassy. In fact, Austrian cultural institutes around the world—from Warsaw to New York—have lost their autonomy as they have been annexed by the official cultural services of the Austrian embassies in each city. In reaction, a collective of French and Austrian artists, art critics, and intellectuals have formed the Institut Culturel Autrichien (ICA). Based in Nantes, the ICA has established a website with links to over two hundred artists and coverage of events outside the state-sponsored culture. As ICA cofounder and Austrian art critic Robert Fleck explains, “For us, the internet is an ideal means of struggle: it brings together dissident Austrian artists beyond borders, and does it at a low cost.” This fall, Fleck plans to organize an exhibition and hopes to collaborate with Chris Dercon, director of the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam.

RENOMINATION AT BEAUBOURG: Jean-Jacques Aillagon will remain head of the Centre Georges Pompidou, according to Le Monde. His renomination, proposed by minister of culture Catherine Tasca, represents the first time in the history of the institution that a president has been named for a third term. Aillagon oversaw major renovations of the building, which were completed at the beginning of last year, but his attempt to open a center “outside the walls” has not been so successful. Also, it appears the city of Lille has rejected a project to open a branch of the Pompidou in the city, though Nancy, Metz, Montpellier, and Berlin remain under consideration.

CHRISTOPH VITALI MAY GO TO FONDATION BEYELER: Neue Zürcher Zeitung's Birgit Sonna reports on speculations that Christoph Vitali will be nominated to head the Fondation Beyeler in Basel. Although the contract has not yet been signed, the sixty-one-year-old Vitali was very pleased about the possibility. “I think that it will happen,” he says. The nomination appears well-timed for all parties: Ernst Beyeler wants to play a smaller role at his foundation, while Vitali's term as the director of Munich's Haus der Kunst ends this spring. Surprisingly, Vitali's contract was not renewed by the Bavarian culture minister, Hans Zehetmair.