Mappa di Roma – Rogelio López Cuenca
La storia è sempre contemporánea, cioè política.
Mappa di Roma is a project organised by Carla Subrizi and Anna Cestelli Guidi, and coordinated by Caterina Iaquinta. Mappa di Roma is the result of research carried out by a working group which originated in a workshop on art in the public sphere directed by Rogelio López Cuenca in Rome in 2006 and ended up becoming the main theme of the 4th Seminario de Ricerca e Formazione at Fondazione Baruchello, held under the title of Roma 77 between April and June 2007 with support from the Regione Lazio and patronage from the Ministero dei Beni e delle Attivittà Culturali.
Taking part in this project were the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna di Roma, the MACRO- Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Roma, the Instituto Cervantes, Academia Española de Bellas Artes in Rome, the Archivio del Movimento Operaio, the Casa Internazionale delle Donne, Derive Approdi publishing company, La Sapienza Università di Roma and the Studio Colombari & De Boni.
The following all took part throughout the different stages of the seminar: Nanni Balestrini, Gianfranco Baruchello, Sergio Bianchi, Silvia Bordini, Luigi Ciorciolini, Tito Marci, Renato Nicolini, Franco Speroni, Luisa Valeriani, Giairo Daghini, Maurizio Lazzarato, Maria Serena Sapegno, Beppe Sebaste, Emilio Fantin, Cesare Pietroiusti, Maria Vittoria Marini Clarelli, and Angelandreina Rorro.
From the working group the following have formed part and worked on preparing www.mappadiroma.it: Alessia Anitori, Valentina Bagnoli, Laura Basco, Francesca Busellato, Barbara D’Ambrosio, Bruno Di Lecce, Valentina Fiore, Silvia Garzilli, Simone Giampà, Cecilia Guida, Michela Gulia, Arianna Lodeserto, Paola Mancini, Silvano Manganaro, Arianna Piacentini, Valentina Puja, Laura Romano, Francesca Santamaria, Nordine Sajot, Alessandro Nico Savino and Roberto Teotti.
The website www.mappadiroma.it was prepared by Agnese Trocchi (June 2007).
The political events that occurred shortly after –the return of Silvio Berlusconi as leader of the government of the Republic and the extreme right-wing winning in the city of Rome– have so far blocked the publishing of the catalogue-report of this work.
We had the experience but missed the meaning, and approach to the meaning restores the experience.
Mappa di Roma is part of a series of projects which over recent years, since the late 1990s, presented in several cities and with differing degrees of collaboration with neighbourhood groups, students, visual artists, members of citizens’ associations and people interested both in recovering the collective memories and reinterpreting ways of reinterpreting certain events or aspects excluded or relegated by the official history, discovering and showing these other hidden topographies, striking up a dialogue with the various cities which beat and move within the city.
In a giant city such as Sao Paulo (2002), in working class suburbs of Barcelona, such as L’Hospitalet (1988) or Mollet del Vallés (2001), in a small coastal village which has been radically changed by tourism (Nerja, in Malaga, 2004) or in a city which was the scene of an internal war for over a decade, Lima (2002)… we have suggested “other” routes through the city, along its outskirts, its limits, the hidden fragmented faces of the picture of the place: other narrations and depictions, maps which attempt to provide a view and voice of the other things – the social disputes which have not properly healed, the history of several migrant movements linked to the economic changes and the social and cultural consequences of these processes, the successive redesigning of the city and its image, the rewriting of history by the winners, the oppression of the cultures of the losers and the strategies used by these in turn for their adaptation and survival.
These projects are distinguished not only by their attention to a specific place but also, quite clearly, by a time, a specific era focused mainly on the historic period comprising the 1930s and the present.
The ideas of “other narrations” do not aim to simply substitute one subject of study for another, but also raise doubts, undermine the power of a unique authoritarian opinion, offer a polyphonic text, like a dialogue, which does not reject contradictions but rather underscores and accepts them by means of an assemblage of quotations (visual and verbal, literary and advertising, popular songs, idiomatic expressions) which are activated and denied: let the differing views be the ones to weave a network of glances, of stories that shed light –or darkness, provide contrast, the excessive light providing the argument, the cold statistical data, the official document eventually often ends up being, blinding– and lighting up underlying issues, despised or hidden by the official version. We must bear in mind these absences, the ones that were overlooked, ellipses as a file of unexpressed intentions.
All these works could be included under the slogan of “Now/Here” at the same time as nowhere, a place or journey that does not exist or which is considered to be inexistent as it is ignores “other worlds within this one”, is excluded from tourist routes, without any postcards or souvenirs, memories devoid of history, without a place in history since the story of the protagonists is intertwined with that of their historic failures and by the persistence of their resistance to all attempts at normalization, standardization or control.
When in Rome […] the traveller fears contributing to expand the long list of Europe’s beautiful pale cities which empty when night falls and where life is nothing but a performance that starts up every morning when you open the souvenir and postcard shops, the restaurants with tourist menus and museums
Rome has been a tourist city since long before the term or the idea of tourism even existed –and of course before this became the world’s major industry. The image or series of images which the name Rome automatically brings to mind (the Coliseum, the Pantheon of Agrippa, the Forums, the Vatican…) are the result of a thorough historical manufacturing. In constructing these images a series of features is used which has been carefully selected by the groups who hold the power, or rather, powers, and among these, quite clearly, the power of narrating, of building this mythical, unified, tautological image.
In this story purged of traumas and disputes one must base the circuit, the sequence of milestones, also made easier, devoid of the continuous and coherent surprises which meets the tourist industry demands: a route, at first glance unique an unrepeatable, exceptional, exotic, but also clear and immediately legible and perfectly predictable and possible to exchange for another (no) place, such as the design or signposting of a shopping mall or airport.
As Luigi Ciorciolini writes in Il senso del luogo, “l’accelerazione, con la sua realtà fatta di un continuum di «qui ed ora», nega ciò che è successo ieri e l’altroieri, nega cioè la memoria, base stessa della coscienza individuale”.
Crossing the city we are constantly going through terrae incognitae, unmapped land, no legends, texts we can’t interpret or even see: elusive, secret, short-lived, temporary outside territories which require other cartographies to enable them to be seen, to be read.
In the elements left aside –which were not cho-sen to form the panoply of emblems of the local identity or age– and on the list of what has been excluded and denied is where the most revealing source lies, because what they do (not) express –or do so silently and muted– are the fears and obsessions of a community that hides everything they fear could damage the perfection of their ideal image, as a universe without contradictions, as a territory finally made peaceful.
It is from these voids, these wastelands that we draw up maps so as to give them back the word, making the place talk and bringing it to the core of the collective debates to re-socialize the telling of the city.
Neither the maps nor tourist guides invite you to look closely at that grand house in via del Governo Vecchio whose occupation by squatters marked the beginning of a feminist movement that thus saw the light, something outside an order that accepts it, uses it and neutralizes it in schools and institutions thirty years later; the same as the speeches on the “difference” between the sexes and sexual “freedom”, whose scope of simply exploiting it commercially overlooks the attacks –bombings with blood and victims–against the first porn cinemas in via Montebello, legalized in 1977; the same year that the private TV channels began to broadcast –with sex, of course, as the main dish–, a medium that was vehemently denounced by Pier Paolo Pasolini as a death sentence for popular culture: his dead body in the Idroscalo de Ostia is not just a point on this map; it is not just condemning hypocrisy and expelling to the territory of the underworld the lusts of others, but permanently denouncing the power of the media for constructing reality –a power that empties them with great violence by means of dirty wars and secret police and bombings carried out by the “uncontrolled” fascism from the streets (Piazza Belli, Independeza, Repubblica) to later fill them with the masses, of course, in front of giant screens (the Roman Summer in the Massenzio) which inaugurate the city like a show– or in the football stadiums where the ultras will inherit the frozen, narcissistic rhetoric and gestures of the political movements–. But in 1977, i movimenti, in plural, hidden behind the screen of armed violence –the image that opens and closes any digression: Aldo Moro’s body in the boot of the R4 parked in Via Caetani, and the tautological expression “years of lead”, anni di piombo– testify to a wealth that covers the environmentalist groups –radically, adamantly anti capitalist– to the antipsychiatrics (the abolition of madhouses which was carried out at the time, with its emblem being the demolishing of the walls of Santa Maria della Pietà) or experimenting with new communication channels (Free radios, Radio Alice in Milan or Radio Onda Rossa in Via dei Volsci) and the first squatter movements (in San Ambrosio, public housing; in Centocelle, the centro sociale Forte Prenestino) or perhaps what is the most radical transformation of the time, the crisis of the industrial capitalist system, the factory closures, the institution of dispersed factories, without any doors or work times, integrated into each and every one of us. All are intertwined and linked as if it was an inextricable network.
Just as May 1968 in France is now rated as a melancholic epic operetta about the shortcomings of the class struggle, other Mays (…) such as May 1968 in Italy left corpses beside the roadside and people fleeing … and lasted until the decade of the 1980s, with capitalism already close to winning a war that was not quite that cold.
Manuel Vázquez Montalbán
Around nineteen seventy-seven we decided to limit the time frame on which to work, taking this date as core and axis from which (from then) to focus, plan and read both toward the immediate past and toward later years.
The seventies are by no means neutral territory, but the scene of a true mutation of the capitalist system, and not only in Italy, a thorny area, opposed to operations of simplification and packaging which returns, as usual, the oppressed, without being called or expected; a ghostly presence, uncomfortable, a contradictory catalogue of errors and failures, but permanently underlying as a culmination of a cycle and also as a field of experimentation of the overflowing of borders between theoretical thought and creative action, of rehearsing the anti-hegemonic practices which anticipate the future of discourses and attitudes such as resistance to an exclusive logic which divorces the intellectual from the sensitive, or the urgency with which humanities retake control of technologies, or the acknowledgement of the creative power of lust s a driving force and thought or that happiness can only be enacted in its public, common and shared dimension… and, quite clearly, the assumption of the transversal, linguistic and political characteristic of our nature –the impossibility of even imagining a society without a language, and on the contrary, a language without society: when we begin to suspect that being a poet may be the most radical form of being political.
To attempt to certify all this one must test non authoritarian, polyphonic, multiple, open ways of storytelling; by exploring ways of approaching knowledge that is normally disregarded, interstices and outskirts, relying on personal memories to compare history and build a path under its alleged linearity: thus drafting a polyhedral discourse which includes missing links, the forgotten, the voids, all the things excluded from history. What you don’t see doesn’t exist.
And without abandoning oneself to the sad self-indulgent passion of nostalgia, where everything becomes flat and undistinguishable, and where everything is accepted, in other works, worthless.
Commemorating the mistakes and horrors of history must be rejected more than ever now that the cultural industry offers it to us in the form of cyclical events designed to be exploited by the media and cultural tourism: creating myths from catastrophes, hiding more than it shows, encouraging us to file the events of the past in a way that makes them impossible to understand, presenting them as something unique and unrepeatable –an extraordinary event compared to everyday habitual ones– or remembering tragic events that were clearly anchored in a past so remote that this exempts us from all real responsibility: the slogan ¡nunca más! (Never again) turns the legitimating, immobilising rhetoric into a perfect complacent alibi for the uncritical acceptance of the present order as definitive.
We live at a time when the difficulties of thinking about ourselves from a historical viewpoint are obvious, where words like hope or illusion seem to be dispatched only in packages wrapped in cynicism –nothing can be changed and any attempt at changing the order only leads to suffering– while the frustrating perception of the present as a random succession of inexplicable and unconnected perishable facts seems to be unquestionable. One might say that we have lost the power to put any meaning to the future by being tied down to our fatally post-historic condition.
There is a word which is synonymous to remember, that is to recall, which emphasizes its artificial, contrived character and is exercised and constructed by inserting personal memories into a greater story to which they are integrated, weaving links to allow us to understand what happened and what is now happening as being related. Only this way can we be capable of imagining what is to come.
The last section from the volume Brigate Rosse (Red Brigades) (1998) entitled The Courage to Look, the Courage to Close included in a series of interviews conducted by Carla Rossana Mosca and Rossana Rossanda with Mario Moretti, a former member of the Red Brigade, ends with the following question and answer:
– What you called the State ran after you while the Mafia grew and grew and behind the Mafia flourished the Tangentopoli, always after an enemy. Listen, you’ve been living outside society for twenty-two years, nine as an outlaw and thirteen in prison. Until now you’ve faced jail and the destruction of memory. If a bad angel offered you freedom and oblivion on one plate, and on another prison and memory, which one would you take?
– Such wicked angels don’t exist, only man could propose two equally cruel ways of dying. However I would say give me freedom and memory. If you are not capable of that, my dear angel, then you are flying too low, lower than the level of our defeat.
Rogelio López Cuenca