‘Roommates / Coinquilini’ is an ongoing project initiated by curator Constanza Paissan at Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma’s (MACRO) recently renovated Via Nizza site. The gallery chooses two Rome-based curators and two Rome-based artists to share a second-floor gallery, building upon the dynamics that emerge out of the act of sharing a space. A platform for young artists to exhibit and to engage with the museum context alongside local curators, the three previous exhibitions in the series have been testament to the MACRO’s commitment to the city of Rome and its community.
For the current project, which is curated by Benedetta Carpi de Resmini and Benedetta di Loreto, Marinella Senatore is displaying the results of her work with students from the Liceo Amaldi, a secondary school and sixth-form college located in Tor Bella Monaca, a deprived area on the outskirts of Rome. Senatore – best known for her epic film projects, created with amateur actors and set in locations as diverse as Enna, a Sicilian mining town (Nui Simu, That’s Us, 2010) and New York (How Do U Kill the Chemist?, 2009) – shares the gallery space with Guendalina Salini, who presents Non Troverai Mai i Confini dell’Anima (You Will Never Find the Boundaries of the Soul, 2011). This installation – a mandala composed of the shadow cast by children’s building blocks (of a type commonly used for teaching mathematics in Italian schools) onto a monochromatic appropriation of an Italian landscape painting – provides an esoteric flipside to Senatore’s installation comprising sound with objects found and made in collaboration with the Liceo Amaldi, Electric Theatre (2011).
Non Troverai Mai i Confini dell’Anima is lit by a projector that grows and dims in intensity in a repeated circular motion, like the rise and fall of the sun. It can be viewed from across the room, from inside the ‘theatre’, which is demarcated by the kind of makeshift sign or barrier that divides a shared student bedroom. Amongst drawings, paintings and photographs the ‘theatre’ hosts a sound installation in which texts written by La Pantera (The Panther), a student movement that occupied Palermo University in December of 1989, are read by students of the Liceo Amaldi who are preparing to start university. The similarity between demands made by student protesters in the late ’80s and those made by students in Italy today is striking. What is made clear by the presentation of the concerns of past protestors in the gallery space is the cyclical nature of political engagement. Yet, of course, it is not solely cyclical, because the current generation bemoans cuts made to an education system that, in its earlier incarnation, was unacceptable to the previous generation.
Put simply, the cycle of legislation, protest and counter-legislation is carried forward by a linear tendency towards less state funding for education and the arts, as big business grows exponentially in influence. Protest within the movement cycles around to no avail. In this sense, Salini’s mandala, comprising hundreds of units of coloured counting blocks that represent no discernible mathematical equation or figure, wryly mocks the good intentions of students from one generation to the next. Yet this does not read as an excuse for apathy, but, rather, as an invitation to rethink the current situation – for Salini’s installation, like any mandala, resists rational inquiry. And whilst it may not have the answers that successive generations of students might seek, it encourages the reflection which may one day produce them. The ‘Roommates / Coinquilini’ series allows for young artists to collaborate and to promote such reflection. It is hoped that the project continues under new direction at the MACRO.
Mike Watson is an art theorist and curator based in Italy. He holds a PhD in Philosophy from Goldsmiths College and has curated for Nomas Foundation and at both the 55th and 56th Venice Biennale. He is completing a book entitled ‘Towards a Conceptual Militancy’ for ZerO books.
First published in Issue 142