Getting closer to two very important people like Giorgio Rodari and Bruno Munari is a very difficult task.
Munari affirmed that if one thing cannot be said with a few words, it cannot be said with many. So let's give up, for the moment, the word but we ask you to work with your imagination in this small exhibition itinerary.
Go beyond what you see to imagine what lies behind with the hope that, when you reach the end, everything you have seen stimulates your creativity, makes you want to say: "I want to try too, I want to play with my son and my daughter with the most incredible words and materials, I want to have fun, I want to laugh because it is not true that the "I want” grass grows only in the king's garden (we give this to Rodari) the "I want” grass grows everywhere an adult and a child decide to play together.
The beginning of this journey can only start from here: from the two books that have represented a real revolution in the ways of relating to childhood, the "Grammar of fantasy. Introduction to the art of inventing stories "by Gianni Rodari and Fantasia by Bruno Munari, two master promoters of teaching methods based on play and inventiveness.
For Rodari, the very first spark of the book dates back to 1938 when he was struck by a fragment of the poet Novalis (1772 - 1801). While teaching Italian to the children of a German Jews refugee family, he found a fragment of Novalis poetry that says: "If we also had a Fantastica, like a Logic, the art of inventing would be discovered".
A few months later, having met the French surrealists, he believed he had found in their way of working the "Fantastica" that Novalis was looking for. Here was born the beginning of this very precious book that Rodari titled Quaderno di fantasia, defining it as a scrapbook where he begins to collect the stories that tells, how they were born, the tricks he discovered to put "words and images in motion".
In 1962 he began to make public what was written in the columns of the newspaper Paese sera by inventing an unlikely young Japanese scholar, "known in Rome during the Olympics” from whom he would have received a manuscript containing the English translation of an operetta that would have been published in Stuttgart, in 1912 , from Novalis-Verlag, author an unlikely Otto Schlegel-Kamnitzer entitled: Foundations for a Fantastica-The art of writing fairy tales.
But only in 1973, after a series of meetings to be held in Reggio Emilia, the city to which the book is dedicated, was the revolutionary text published with the aim of creating "a new relationship between imagination and rational construction"
On the genesis of the book Fantasia, published in 1977, Munari says that one day he wanted to make a book on Fantasy so he went to look in all the most important bookstores to ask if there was a book on fantasy, receiving only negative answers. "There was only a book - he says - by Rodari, Grammatica della Fantasia, relating to literature but not to images. So I told myself that I had to do it and I put myself in front of all the uncertainties that are related to this way of working”. With his book Munari draws a precise design of what creativity and imagination are, and the relationship they have with intelligence and memory. To be creative we need to be flexible and open to stimuli. A child born in a design culture is a better person, because he can be more useful to the community.
How do we teach to children to be free and creative? Munari proposes in this regard a series of games and ideas to start from. Vary the size of the sheets to draw on; making origami; project different materials to discover their textures; build something with torn pieces of paper ..
In short, all that fantasy can imagine, because "Fantasy”, he says, "is the freest faculty, in fact it can also ignore the feasibility or functioning of what it has thought. She is free to think anything, even the most absurd, incredible, impossible ".
Children fantasize, invent, create, imagine. For them to become good designers and good visual communicators, they must first of all be able to know well the instrument and the technique they play with. And in the end, destroying everything and redoing to continually update and not to mythologize the work [...] it is not the object that must be preserved but the way, the method ... the mind must be ready, free and elastic, it must not keep any model if not for cultural and study purposes.
In theca publications that refer to movements (such as Futurism, in particular Munari, and Surrealism referring to Rodari), schools of thought and authors who have been part of the personal path of the two creatives.
Case 2 - Children’s literature
"We made Italy now we have to make Italians" this is one of the most famous phrases of the Italian Risorgimento, uttered by Massimo D'Azeglio. But how to make these Italians, how to standardize a politically united country since 1861, but linguistically and socially fragmented?
To create new Italians, you need to start with children, and, in this process, children's literature will have a fundamental educational role with stories that do not tell a reality but tend to construct it.
Italian literature for nineteenth-century children is dominated by the moralistic-didactic vein. An example can be found in the case in the famous book Cuore by Edmondo De Amicis published in 1886 by the Treves publishing house and explicitly dedicated to elementary school children.
The text contains prerogatives and common elements: the exaltation of the good child-citizen and the didactic purpose, that are expressed through a deep sentimentality and a pathetic tone (the protagonist, Enrico, is very observant to the rules of behavior, to the goodness of soul, to patriotism and the sacrifice of the individual for the homeland).
An important role, also in spreading the use of the Italian language, will be played by the various children's newspapers such as the "Giornale per i bambini” founded in 1881 by the Hungarian-born publisher Ernesto Emanuele Oblieght of which two pages are exhibited.
The first page displayed contains a story in which the protagonist is educated by the elderly nurse to learn the correct Italian terms by replacing those in French, more frequently used by the bourgeoisie of the time, boys and girls to whom these newspapers were addressed both for the cost and for the large number of illiterates (without neglect that child labor was a consolidated and accepted thing).
The second page, on the other hand, concerns the serial publication of the adventures of Pinocchio (published in volume in 1883) which took place precisely in this newspaper and represented an overwhelming novelty: for the liveliness of the action and the more graphic design (which included illustrations artistically inserted in the body of the text) and for the contrast with the then dominant didactic literature.
At the beginning of the 20th century the educational system has undergone major renovations: new themes and topics, colour illustrations and better typographical choices. An attempt at renewal that was abruptly interrupted with the First World War and the advent of fascism. The imperative at this stage was to educate Italians creating a mentality made of patriotism, of exalting Italian strength and purity, of rhetoric glorifying myths and warlike rites. A small but significant example is the book Una favola vera by Hardouin di Belmonte, published by Hoepli in 1933, (inside the case some pages) which tells children, in a captivating graphic format and a fabulous and demagogic form, the life of Mussolini. The purpose is twofold: on the one hand to enhance the figure of the dictator, on the other to trace the characteristics and rules of conduct to which every child and young person had to comply.
Case 3 – Tales
Can you tell me a fairy tale? - One of the most frequently asked questions from children. For a long time, talking about fairy tales, the thought went to Perrault, to the Grimm brothers and to Andersen. Starting from the 1950s, many studies on the fairy tale began and our two creatives did not miss the opportunity to work with that rich heritage of stories handed down from generation to generation, some of which are lost in the mists of time such as the story of Little Red Riding Hood, one of the oldest and most widespread fairy tales in the world published for the first time in 1696 by Charles Perrault, here emblematic of the great fascination it exerts and which Rodari and Munari do not escape.
With Rodari and Munari it undergoes the innovative intervention of a writer and an illustrator who love to modernize the themes and the language, adapting them to a completely different context, to a reality, the Italian one, in sudden change.
Rodari, in taking up this fairy tale and as he will do throughout his career as a writer, puts his creativity in the foreground by manipulating it, updating it and projecting it into the historical reality and social context of Italy in the 1950s and 1960s, so that he reaches, with disarming clarity and concreteness, the young reader. An example of this is "To make a mistake with stories” in Favole on the phone published for the first time in 1962 with Munari's illustrations.
The protagonist is a distracted grandfather who distorts the fundamental elements of the story so that Little Riding Hood turns yellow, then green and maybe the wolf was a horse? In short, a completely wrong but incredibly perfect story because, as Rodari teaches, mistakes are fantastic opportunities to let the imagination fly.
Bruno Munari is also fascinated by this ancient fairy tale and the little hoods become three: one yellow, one green and one white, perhaps the most fascinating. The white of the snow covers everything: characters, benches, woods. The story proceeds without images and, then, the imagination is free in imagining everything that is not there but is there.
In the display case a short editorial journey of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale from the 1960s to today.
Suggestions to tell two personalities that cannot be defined in a single portrait for the innate curiosity that distinguished them, for the versatility of their interests and work aspects
"A lot has been written about Rodari - Mareschi writes - Even the endless quantities of articles in "Paese Sera" or in other newspapers for adults and children deserve to be read, dug up, analyzed even more precisely: by topics (Rodari television critic, sports, costume, etc.) and by different formal points of view. I think the history of Italian journalism would also benefit from it, in which Rodari has left pages of considerable effectiveness, especially in some crucial moments in our recent history.
"Sign and seal of Bruno Munari's art, of all Bruno Munari's art is the totality, - affirms Luciano Caramel in Munari or of the art of totality - For the all-encompassing range of its manifestations, from painting and from 'sculpture', and obviously from drawing, to graphics, to illustration, writing, environmental intervention, performance, theater, up to the related theoretical and dissemination activities in the field of vision and teachings, in particularly last fifteen years, grown in children's workshops, museums and schools."
In the display case some of the publications for which Rodari wrote and published his first nursery rhymes. The publication Turista in Cina collection of articles written by Rodari for Paese Sera with reports dedicated to school, health, daily life that the journalist sent to the editorial staff during his trip to Chinese Republic in 1971.
Munari was one of the most original protagonists of Italian art, graphics and design of the twentieth century. Eclectic artist and designer, since his beginnings in the 1930s with the Second Futurism he has always dedicated his creative activity to experimentation, declining it in all its forms and ranging from painting, sculpture, design, photography and teaching. Here he takes into account some of his many projects including the design of the Falkland lamp.
The name of the lamp, Falkland, comes from a tribute to the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic, whose main source of livelihood is fishing. Its material, in fact, recalls the "keepnet" that is a tool used in traditional fishing, consisting of a foldable and easily transportable fishing net. Munari says: "One day I went to a stocking factory to see if they could make me a lamp. - We don't make lamps, sir. - You will see that you will make them. And so it was". In 1964 the suspension lamp was created whose shape was born from the tension of a filanca tube and from the weight of some metal rings
A brilliant idea. One of the many wonderful insights that this great designer has given body.
Bruno Munari (artist, illustrator, designer, teacher, writer, observer) and Gianni Rodari (writer, journalist, politician) make, each for his sector, a real revolution for what concerns the children's book, and not only .
Bruno Munari will do this through an editorial work that will modify, since the 1940s, the "visual communication" aimed at children and as regards the writer from Omegna, the "revolt" will instead concern the word.
Rodari and Munari met for work in 1960 when the Einaudi publishing house brought together the two creators for the first edition of the book Filastrocche in cielo e in terra.
It will be a real publishing revolution implemented through the invention of lines and words, rhymes and colors, making future publications real works of art that will enrich Italian publishing thanks to two real game engineers. In fact, both make a universal language of the game, which dismantles labyrinthine abstract concepts, guiding us through images in an undefined time, which is therefore always current.
"The decisive meeting between children and books takes place at school desks. - says Gianni Rodari in The Grammar of Fantasy - If it happens in a creative situation, where life counts and not exercise, that taste for reading can arise with which one is not born because it is not an instinct. If it happens in a bureaucratic situation, if the book is mortified as a tool for exercises (copying, summaries, grammatical analysis, etc.), suffocated by the traditional question-judgment mechanism, the reading technique may arise, but not the taste. The children will be able to read, but they will only read if obliged ”.
Munari, who with the birth of his son Alberto in 1940 begins to take an interest in childhood realizing the need to give his son more suitable books than those on the market at the time, begins to publish a series of very innovative books such as the first multisensory little books for children of preschool age which will also be followed by the production of some toys, such as the Zizì Monkey.
Designing children's books is a great responsibility - he will write in Art as a profession in 1966 - the society of the near future is made up of adults who are now children; what will remain etched in their minds today will shape their character tomorrow. A good children's book can prepare an individual for anything that leads to good social behavior, not in the sense of blind and absolute obedience from superiors and fear of authority even if it is bogus; but respect for one's own personality and that of others, for teamwork to solve common problems, for the development of one's thinking, for the possibility of making decisions, for aesthetic education.