Enrico Prampolini and Fillia, Le comunicazioni (1933)
In 1933, when the construction of Palazzo delle Poste in La Spezia was almost finished, the architect Angiolo Mazzoni commissioned the Futurist artists Enrico Prampolini and Fillia to design the internal decoration of the clock tower. Thematically related to the building’s function (a post office), Le comunicazioni is a majestic mosaic representing the means of transportation and communication existing at that time. Five main scenes make up the continuous composition: while Fillia designed the ones representing land-based and maritime communications, Prampolini was responsible for the telegraphic, telephonic and aerial ones. Both the building and the mosaic were recently restored (2009).
The Sacralisation of the New Man’s Total Politics through the Arts
Shaping the New Man’s Reality by Fashioning National Myths
Monumentalism: Visualising Subjectivity and Objectivity
'Buildings related to the communications industry – railway and maritime stations, post offices – suited modernist architecture and Futurist contributions in line with the ideals of progress and technology' ('L’edilizia delle comunicazioni, concernenti le stazioni ferroviarie, marittime e gli uffici postali, era più idonea a scelte architettoniche moderniste e ad apporti futuristi allineati alla poetica del progresso e della tecnologia'; Colombo 2013, 65). This is exactly what happened with Palazzo delle Poste in La Spezia, Liguria, which moved from Mazzoni’s severe architectural style on the outside to an explosion of colour on the inside with Fillia and Prampolini’s gigantic mosaic. The artwork, located in the upper part of the tower, is spread along the wall as a continuous and ascending cycle dedicated to contemporary means of communication (Le comunicazioni) – land-based, maritime and aerial. Despite being a collective work, a sort of ‘embracing tale’ of modernity, different artists were responsible for specific sections, which were harmonised as part of the same vision. For example, while Fillia (Le comunicazioni terrestri and Le comunicazioni marittime, 1933) was more focused on a simple but poetic language, Prampolini (Le comunicazioni telegrafiche, Le comunicazioni telefoniche and Le comunicazioni aeree, 1933) based his representations on broad perspectives.
Overall, this elegy to the communication system can be read as a futuristic reinterpretation of Trajan’s Column: a geometric and stylised depiction telling a story about movement and velocity and symbolically ascending towards the sky. Architecture and art ultimately combine in an all-encompassing project, each complementing the language and references of the other. Le comunicazioni is a sort of meta-representation, showing images of the services and functions offered by the postal institution. Cutting-edge vehicles and instruments of the time such as aeroplanes, telegraphs and telephones are thus represented side by side with more traditional ones like trains and ships. Communication was now faster and the news could be spread easily – but always controlled and reviewed by the Fascist censorship, which had already started in the mid-twenties. The real myth here seems to be the Fascist State itself, capable of supporting modern public initiatives useful in everyone’s daily lives. In order to impact upon the people using this building – both employees and clients as well – the artists employed a monumental language referencing both ‘then’ and ‘now’ with an impressive iconography. If on one hand the technique used – mosaic, with tiles in a ceramic supplied by the company Ceramica Vaccari, in Santo Stefano di Magra (La Spezia) – indicates continuity with tradition, on the other the themes and the Futurist language herald modernity. The brilliant colours of the composition, placed within a stylized context dominated by lines and geometry, become images dominated by a few, representative elements, occasionally tending to geometric abstraction.
Colombo, Nicoletta. 2013. '"Pittori di muraglie". Voci e vicende della pittura murale negli anni venti e trenta'. In Novecento. Arte e vita in Italia tra le due guerre. 59-67. Cinisello Balsamo: Silvana Editoriale.
Evangelisti, Silvia (ed.). 1996. Fillia e l’avanguardia futurista negli anni del fascismo. Milan: Mondadori.
Lista, Giovanni. 2013. Enrico Prampolini futurista europeo. Rome: Carocci.