Museum Review: A Future Woven in Rayon

Torviscosa. VideoEngineering - Gorizia, 2005.

The Museo Territoriale Bassa Friulana showcases the history of rayon production by Italian textile manufacturer SNIA Viscosa and the impact the SNIA factory had on local community life. VideoEngineering - Gorizia, 2005.

This and other multimedia exhibits form the core of the museum, whose spirit hovers between homage to past glory and a detached interpretation of Torviscosa’s place in history. Items on display include films of Mussolini’s inaugural rally and visits by later dignitaries, along with a recording of the “Poem of Torre Viscosa,” written by futurist F. T. Marinetti to celebrate what he considered the utopian “City of Cellulose” where “the goddess Geometry” devours the cane and, with bisulfito di calcio, extracts the cellulose.

The museum’s enthusiasm for gimmickry sometimes seems to exceed what is called for: for instance, a “video-book” of documents, in which a visitor waves a hand over an image projected from above to “turn” the page ahead or back, gives little hint of what materials await and whether they justify patience with the contrivance. More useful are touch screens offering presentations on the architectural design of Torviscosa and interviews with retired workers. The architecture presentation’s images, combined with the written material (posted in English throughout), make clear how Fascist theories promoting “proletarian ruralism” and an elaborate social stratification were made concrete reality, shaping the lives of thousands of people—for many of whom it was a welcome improvement on alternative rural prospects.

After visiting the museum one can walk the streets laid out by De Min and view the buildings and spaces—apart from the factory—as they are in use today. The Museo Territoriale itself is but one exhibit in a larger de facto museum of architecture, technology, geography, and social history, made up of the entire built, and otherwise manipulated, landscape.

Jonathan Taylor is an editor and freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Believer, BookForum, and The Nation.