Montag, 18. Januar 2016
Text by Pietro Rivasi*
In spite of being often considered or looked at as site specific, graffiti writing and street art interventions on public walls most of the times are not. Pieces are actually just applied to surfaces with no further attempt to make them fit to the surrounding area, to its history, to the tastes, interests or dreams of the people living in the neighborhood.
That is even more true when we speak about modern muralism: many artists in spite of the time and the tools they have, just paint the picture prepared at home as they were dealing with a canvas in their studio, wherever in the world they are. That approach results for example in huge walls painted not even taking care of the narrow space the viewers can rely to to take a look at the painting so the shared pictures on the web are taken with wide angles or on top of other buildings or scaffolds etc, giving a totally fake perception of the piece itself.
Between the ones that operare with a different sensibility and will to create artworks that dialogue the more possible with the surroundings, there is a very active italian team.
This "case study" would like to introduce "Collettivo FX", a "street art crew" whose work could probably be referred to as really site specific wether they work "wild" in the streets, in an abandoned factory or for a commisioned mural.
Collettivo FX is based in the Reggio Emilia area, in the rich and left wing Emilia Romagna, located in the "mid north" of Italy. Their works range from huge murals to hand drown posters and is mostly "uncommisioned", wether it's done along the streets with markers or paint brushes, in abandoned factories or in dangerous and poor suburbian areas with the “permission” and help of the block people.
They usually paint characters with a style that can be defined as pretty rough, both for the very limited use of colours and for the stylized and synthetic way of rapresenting pictures; also, they do not use automatic scaffolds but just sticks so the sizes of the murals depend on the length of the stick and on the wall itself (eg. if it’s possible to paint upside down, they will).
About colours, one of the group trademarks are "buona la prima" pieces: pictures painted with just one colour that leave no room for corrections.
Street bombing in 2014 collettivo FX started a "campaign" painting municipality's gas/powerstation concrete boxes very common in italy's streets with portraits of the people giving names to the streets themselves. the series in the pictures is mamed “la storia sotto casa” (that can be translated as “the history downstairs”). That project brings to the often unaware citizen's attention, and expecially the block inhabitants, the existance of these people, often important for the history of the city itself.
Officine Meccaniche Reggiane (http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Officine_Meccaniche_Reggiane): one of the most important crew's “project” is the one involving a huge abandoned factory right next Reggio Emilia’s main train station and to the small city airport. The enormous area used to be a steelworks from the early '900 building train cars, planes, heavy duty machines and other different prodoucts. It has been one of the most important steel factories in the whole europe and gave jobs to thousands of men, that's to say, a quite big slice of the working class of the whole town; it was theater of the longest strike in Italy (one year, 1950-1951) during wich the workers self organized themselves, being able to project and produce an heavy duty tractor, making that place a symbol of self-management and leftwing politics. It was also used during WWII to produce planes for the fascist and nazi army, but the high presence of partisans working in the place, lead to a high rate of tampered vehicles and other kinds of rebellious acts. The area started being dismissed in the early nineties and got completely abandoned in 2012. Since then collettivo FX transformed it into a street art working space/atelier, being able to bring there dozens of artists from all over italy and europe, without any permission. The love and respect for the history of the place drove them to live the place so much, they ended up making friends with the homeless and drug addicts that literally lived inside. That again, drove to some very site specific artworks e.g one of the homeless living the place got a huge portrait of him on a wall.
Now the place is full of artworks and got various "reviews" on national newspapers that got interested in the phenomenon; the access to the place, even if still not legal, is "de facto" tolerated, probably due to the very good "social" value of the whole project.
Hot neighbourhoods collettivo FX habitually paints with no authorities' permissions in hot neighborhoods like Palermo's infamous “Zen”. The approach they have is to go in to the place and start dialoguing with kids living the streets, having suggestions about what they would like to see on their blocks' walls and asking them help to realize the painting, free styling the subject and with no control on the walls that the people decide to share with the artists. The same happens often when invited to festivals: instead of arriving with a sketch, they try to get ideas from passers by who often get also involved in painting with them.
* Pietro Rivasi is curator and critic from Italy. He co-curated projects such as "bookshow" at "The bridges of graffiti show" in 2015 or ICONE - Modena . Rivasi published in numerous publications and works with d406 gallery) in Modena.