The ‘Option’ aftermath in South Tyrol

In November 2019 visual artist Riccardo Giacconi obtained the doctoral degree with the research project 'The Variational Mode'. This summer Giacconi has been awarded a LUF (Leiden University Fund) grant for the research project 'The ‘Option’ aftermath in South Tyrol'. The research will be conducted at the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts (ACPA), Leiden University.

The ‘Option’ aftermath in South Tyrol: A textual and radiophonic investigation in artistic research

South Tyrol, for centuries an integral part of the Habsburg territory of Tyrol, was inhabited mostly by German-speaking people and was annexed by the Kingdom of Italy at the end of the First World War, in 1919. On 21 October 1939, Adolf Hitler and Mussolini reached an agreement on the assimilation of the ethnic German communities in South Tyrol, as well as communities of Ladin, Mòcheno and Cimbran speaking people. The members of these communities had to choose before 31 December 1939 between remaining in Italy and losing all minority rights, or emigrating to the Third Reich territories, the so- called “Option für Deutschland”.

Taking the South Tyrolean territory and the frontier between Italy and Austria as a case study, this research project aims to question ideas of citizenship, borders, identity, language communities, Heimat, nativism, minority, migration. The Option Agreement period and its aftermath may serve as a paradigm of how such ideas are constructed, manipulated, instrumentalized, fictionalized and revoked following whims of institutions of power – and of how they entail concrete, dramatic and indelible consequences on people.

The project will try to establish resonances between those ideas – and the way they were used in the linguistic and visual discourse of the Option Agreement period – and the use of the same ideas in contemporary political discourses in Europe. In this sense, the project will not be configured as a historical investigation, but as a constellation between two moments in time – as a commentary on today’s European political discourse through the lens of a past event.