“The debate in Italy only concerns old, obsolete chimeras”

Alberto Mattioli, born in Modena (Italy) in 1969, was a lyric critic and Paris correspondent for the daily La Stampa.

Giorgia Meloni, Italian Prime Minister and president of the populist Fratelli d'Italia party, has been in power since October 22, 2022. What assessment do you draw from her cultural policy in your book “Awkward Right”?

There isn't any and it's a real surprise that pushed me to write this book. This is the first time that the far right has been in power since 1945. It had participated anecdotally in a few governments of Silvio Berlusconi but without any real influence. Everyone expected that a political family relegated for so long to what it itself described as the “sewers” of public life without being able to access positions of responsibility, would have had the time to develop any project. To put forward the beginnings of an idea or launch an initiative. It is not so. People who have felt, often rightly, excluded or discriminated against on the public stage have not used this time to develop a cultural policy. They are content to rush to key positions in the world of culture to occupy them. The goal is just to place your friends. But no one is able to explain what they intend to do with the positions they have been given.

Including for important positions?

Especially for top positions. When Pietrangelo Buttafuoco was placed at the head of the Venice Biennale (to take office in March 2024, editor's note), the left was alarmed. However, he is a talented right-wing intellectual – who converted to Islam, which attracted the wrath of Giorgia Meloni. His non-conformist figure can even be useful to a rather moralizing Italian culture. The problem is that neither the Minister of Culture nor Buttafuoco himself have expressed concrete ideas on what the Venice Biennale should be and how to make it evolve. However, it is the most important cultural institution in the country with La Scala. At the head of the famous Milanese opera has just been appointed Fortunato Ortombina. He is a prepared and honest person who does not flaunt his political opinions. But the only comment made by the Minister of Culture was to welcome the fact that finally an Italian was once again directing La Scala after three foreign directors in a row. It’s appalling provincialism.

You are not exactly kind to the Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano, whom you nickname “Genny the Gaffe”…

I'm not the only one ! It’s holy bread for journalists. As soon as he opens his mouth he makes a blunder, hence the nickname that the profession has given him. He has no clear and defined project. His appointment is strange because the one who was expected and more suitable to occupy this position was Giordano Bruno Guerri. This great writer, historian and director of Vittoriale, Gabriele D'Annunzio's home on Lake Garda, has proven that he is both a distinguished intellectual and a very good manager. It is unknown why Gennaro Sangiuliano ended up winning the chair of Minister of Culture. Certainly, he is not totally incompetent to fulfill this function, as were his predecessors Sandro Bondi under Silvio Berlusconi or more recently the populist 5 Star Movement Alberto Bonisoli. He has a greater intellectual stature but he is incapable of developing a cultural policy. He doesn't even know where to start.

Alberto Mattioli, Destra Maldestra2024.

© Chiarelettere

Giorgia Meloni, however, declared that she would immediately start by putting an end to “the cultural hegemony of the left”…

The far right in power has remained very attached to a 20th century ideology and the concept of “cultural hegemony” that it claims was paradoxically forged by a communist intellectual, Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), well before the advent of television and of course social networks. The government is focused on the past and clashes from bygone eras like those between the fascists and the communists. This is also valid for the Italian left. The proof is that the first concern of the far right upon coming to power was to promote television programs as if we were still in the 1960s and that the small screen, with its single channel, defined the cultural imagination. from the country. A role that she has obviously lost today.

What can we say about the ruling class in business today?

Giorgia Meloni does not have a worthy ruling class around her. She is an excellent propagandist, which does not mean that she is a “good” politician. His close entourage is truly embarrassing and caricatured. Silvio Berlusconi was also in many ways, but there is a big difference. For the Cavaliere, culture was a mysterious element and without importance or influence. On the other hand, Giorgia Meloni and her Fratelli d'Italia party, although not possessing the culture and not knowing how to handle it, harbor a reverential respect for it. There remains one point that the right and the extreme right must clarify. Which cultural family do they refer to? The fascist? the conservative liberal? the moderate liberal? the Catholic?

Berlusconi's Minister of the Economy was criticized for having declared “that we do not eat with culture”; today we have the impression of a frenzy of valorization of the heritage of the Peninsula to take advantage of the economic opportunities of mass tourism…

The right sees culture only as the preservation of heritage, never with a desire for innovation. In the absence of any new project, Gennaro Sangiuliano continues to demand measures or reforms launched just before his accession to the head of the ministry. He is content to defend the past when we should invest in the future to build the culture of tomorrow. This is the big difference between France and Italy. You had the courage to build the Louvre pyramid, which was not just an architectural gesture but shook the institutions. Here everything is frozen. Italy has been a country that has been culturally dead for decades. The debate only concerns old, obsolete chimeras without looking towards the future to prepare for it. Serious investments should be launched urgently to support and stimulate contemporary creation which is completely neglected.

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