Traces of fascist urban iconography in the Latina Province, Italy

2016-07-15T14:35:26Z (GMT) by Robert G. Harland Antonia Liguori
The colonization of the plain of Agro Pontino to the south of Rome and the reclamation of the notorious Pontine Marshes is said to be the most ambitious programme and grandest display of fascist power in Italy. Now known as the Latina Province but then as Littoria, the region is a potent symbol of Mussolini’s ambition to build Italy’s future based on Roman ideology and the ‘Myth of Rome’. Aside from bringing under control the region’s problems associated with climate, topography, hydrology, and ecological degradation, and the building of infrastructure such as public roads, bridges, electricity cables, and telephone wires, five modern cities and 18 satellite villages, were established in the 1930s. Today, the province can be interpreted as a ‘symbolic resource’ by which fascism attempted to facilitate transition through the deployment of symbolic elements across a macro-micro continuum. Rejuvenation of the province is perhaps the largest indicator of Mussolini’s fascist revolution, and the urban fabric of the region is adorned with fascist iconography manifest in the monuments and memorials on public display. But at a smaller scale, visual elements reinforce the identity, meaning and structure of fascism in the form of manhole covers, inscriptions and commemorative plaques on buildings. Many of these symbolic elements have since been removed in the light of attempts to disassociate the place with that time in Italy’s past. But there remain traces of fascism that still serve to stimulate the urban graphic memory. In this paper we report on the use of historical methods combined with photo-documentation and screen analysis to examine some of these symbolic resources as traces of fascism in the twenty-first century modern metropolis of Latina. A review of the literature and screen-based propaganda on Latina Province will identify the extent to which symbolic resources were deployed to promote Mussolini’s ideology, and reveal some of the more discreet and unacknowledged representations of fascist power. Analysis of the numerous newsreels, documentaries, and films from the Istituto Luce – the ‘Educational Film Union’ provides a resource to demonstrate how the visual language of fascist propaganda changed from 1932–1943. In doing so, we explore the overlooked iconography that worked to reinforce the mythology of the ‘reclamation’ and combined the rural and the urban dimension as a double-faced identity to be shown differently depending on the audience, the message ‘piloted’ by the propaganda and the intended emotional impact.