TOUCH OF JOY – a workshop by Peter Friedl

Istituto Svizzero di Roma presents Touch of Joy. Exercises in Imagination, a workshop conceived by the Berlin-based artist Peter Friedl for Studio Roma – Transdisciplinary Program on the Contemporary. The two-week program (March 31 – April 12, 2014) will include presentations, lectures, readings, debates, free association, film screenings, as well as field research and site visits in Rome and Sabaudia. The common denominator is an interest in imagination: its history, myths, and methods.

For the occasion Friedl has created the website Daydream Factory (from a concept developed in 2012, in the course of his teaching at NABA in Milan) where to gather daydreams as research material.

On the 1st of April, a public reading of daydreams will open the program. All events are free and open to the public.

Touch of Joy. Exercises in Imagination
Crises are not a 21st-century invention: 1816, for example, was the “Year without a Summer,” when temperatures fell drastically in many parts of Europe and North America. Climate researchers later blamed the massive 1815 volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora on the island of Sumbawa in present-day Indonesia. In Bologna, an astrologist prophesized that the world would end on July 18, leading to riots and suicides. Due to the permanent bad weather, a group of young English poets sojourning near Lake Geneva gave up on going outside. They decided to write ghost stories and read them aloud to one another. Mary Shelley created Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. Lord Byron, who had rented the Villa Diodati, wrote the poems “Darkness” and “The Dream,” in which he questions the nature of dreams.

We know about the career of nightly dream activity from Romanticism through Modernism in art, culture, and science. One of the first to problematize the dream text was arguably Gérard de Nerval. For psychoanalysis, which arose at exactly the same time as cinema, the dream became a language requiring decoding, and like every interpretation, it reduced what was interpreted. The surrealists largely ignored the difference between dream and dream text. In “Dream Kitsch” (1925), Walter Benjamin’s first published commentary on Surrealism, the archaeologist of modernity clear-sightedly declared, “Dreaming has a share in history.” The path to the dreaming collective was hereby sketched out. In deliberate distinction from Sigmund Freud, French philosopher and epistemologist Gaston Bachelard placed reverie opposite dream. His gay, poetic science revolved around the border realms of rationality and their availability through images. The dark side of history can be found in Charlotte Beradt’s anthology from the 1930s, first published many years later: In The Third Reich of Dreams, dreams become historical documents.

The neglected little brother of the night-time dream is the daydream. Its biotope can be found in modernity’s backyards and unspectacular niches. Daydreams are both means of subversion and subordination; they remind us of our freedom and confinement under given circumstances. Daydreams belong to those forms of “doing nothing” that compose the everyday world of the uneventful. As a reference point for their examination, we can use the question asked by German sociologist Georg Simmel in 1908: “How is society possible?”

What are the politics of dreaming and daydreaming? How can we talk about imagination today, and how can we learn to use it? And finally, how much pleasure and knowledge is possible beyond academic capitalism and self-reflexive routine? These are some of the questions to be addressed in various formats in Touch of Joy—the phrase is from Byron’s dream poem—a two-week program conceived by Berlin-based artist Peter Friedl in collaboration with the Istituto Svizzero in Rome including presentations, lectures, readings, debates, free association, film screenings, as well as field research and site visits in Rome and Sabaudia. The common denominator is an interest in imagination; its history, myths, and methods.


Marco Avena and Eleonora Planera (psychologists), Billy Ehn (ethnologist, Professor Emeritus of Culture and Media Studies, Umeå University), Jean-François Chevrier (art historian, curator, Professor of the History of Contemporary Art, École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts, Paris), Tonino De Bernardi (filmmaker), Gianluca and Massimiliano De Serio (filmmakers), Angelo Del Boca (historian), Elena Esposito (Associate Professor of Sociology of Communication, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia), Peter Friedl (artist), Mia Fuller (Associate Professor of Italian Studies, University of California, Berkeley), Karen Pinkus (Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature, Cornell University, New York City).

Screenings will include films by Michelangelo Antonioni, Maya Deren, Haile Gerima, Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi, Jia Zhangke, Buster Keaton, Satoshi Kon, Akira Kurosawa, Richard Linklater, Edwin S. Porter, Hans Richter, among others.


Istituto Svizzero di Roma
Villa Maraini, via Ludovisi 48, Roma
Sala Elvetica, via Liguria 20, Roma

Teatro della Cometa
Via del Teatro Marcello 4, Roma

Film Studio
Via degli Orti d’Alibert 1, Roma

Sapienza – Università di Roma
Sala Lauree, Facoltà di Scienze Politiche
Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, Roma

Sabaudia (LT)
Various locations


Peter Friedl
Born in 1960, is an artist working in situ. His work has been exhibited internationally in venues such as documenta X (1997), and documenta 12 (2007), the 48th Venice Biennale, 3rd Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art (2004), Manifesta 7, Trento (2008), the 7th Gwangju Biennale (2008), the 28th Bienal de São Paulo (2008), La Triennale, Paris (2012), and recently the Taipei Biennial (2012) and the 10th São Paulo Architecture Biennale (2013). Solo exhibitions include luttesdesclasses, Institut d’Art Contemporain, Villeurbanne (2002), OUT OF THE SHADOWS, Witte de With, Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam (2004), the retrospective survey Work 1964–2006, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Miami Art Central, Musée d’Art Contemporain, Marseille (2006–07), Blow Job, Extra City Kunsthal Antwerpen, Antwerp (2008), Working, Kunsthalle Basel (2008), Peter Friedl, Sala Rekalde, Bilbao (2010), King Kong, Le Lieu unique, Nantes (2013), and The Dramatist, Artspace, Auckland (2014). Since the 1980s he has published numerous essays and book projects such as Four or Five Roses, Working at Copan, and Playgrounds. A selection of his texts has been released under the title Secret Modernity: Selected Writings and Interviews 1981–2009 (Sternberg Press).

Marco Avena
Psychologist with a holistic approach, he uses different techniques to construct the relationship between the psychologist and persons. He works with many Italian, Swiss and European associations and universities.

Jean-François Chevrier
Art critic, curator and, since 1988, professor of Contemporary Art History at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des beaux-arts of Paris.  His main interest is the interaction between art and literature in the 20th century, in particular the relationship between photography, architecture and visual art since the Sixties.

Tonino De Bernardi
Internationally acclaimed Italian filmmaker. His works concentrate on the tensions and enthusiasms in affective relations, and the places where they happen.

Gianluca e Massimiliano De Serio
Directors and artists and documentarists. The protagonists of their works are uprooted identities, coping with ongoing redefinition of the self, or the collective, unsung and interstitial identities, in a hybrid path between staging, memory and performance.

Angelo Del Boca
Writer and journalist, previously professor of Contemporary History at the University of Turin. His research to learn the truth about the crimes committed by the Italians in Africa led him to found the field of studies of Italian colonialism, in which he remains the most authoritative exponent. 

Billy Ehn
Professor Emeritus of Ethnology in the Department of Culture and Media Studies at Umeå University. He is interested in ethnographic research and cultural studies, widely investigating themes of socialization and academic culture.

Elena Esposito
Professor of Sociology of Communication at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. She is considered one of the leading representatives of systems theories in the field of sociology.

Mia Fuller
Cultural anthropologist  and professor of Italian Studies at University of California at Berkeley. She is a who combines field research and archival research in her studies on architecture and urban planning in the Italian colonies.

Karen Pinkus
Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature at Cornell University (New York). Her intense research activity has crossed a range of different areas of study: from the role of work, automation and repetition in art, literature and Italian design in the 1960s, to the recent idiosyncratic research on energy (Fuel) and on climate change.

Eleonora Planera
Family psychotherapist and psychologist. She works with many agencies and associations to create experiences and psychoeducative groups for children and adults.