Musagetes began researching Lecce as a site in early 2010. This was followed by several additional meetings through 2010 to understand the complexity of Italian politics, cultural specificity and regional boundaries for our engagement. In June 2010, Musagetes convened approx. 8 international guests and 25 local cultural, political and social leaders to brainstorm what our engagement should focus on or relate to.
Salento’s greatest asset is the enthusiasm, commitment and creativity of its artists and cultural mediators who are dedicated to making the world a better place for everyone. During our visits we met with artists who are working with women prisoners to establish micro-economies through social enterprise; we met with artists creating music with Albanian refugees; we met a filmmaker who is directing a film about the difficult living conditions among Nigerian immigrants; and we met sound artists who established a world-renowned residency program.
The lack of a physical hub for socially engaged artists was identified very early in our research as a priority to ensure the sustainability of the work after Musagetes’ concludes its multi-year project there. Thanks to government cooperation, Musagetes and the collaborative team (dubbed Gruppo Musagetes) acquired a 16th-century villa that was once a school of philosophy focussed on the social dimensions of culture. Now surrounded by residential complexes, the Ammirato Culture House (named after the leader of the school, Scipione Ammirato) will be our hub for a program of dispersed initiatives in the Salento region.
Campagna Urbana (translates to Urban Campaign) is a cultural and artistic project committed to Lecce, a Southern Italian city located in a region that has been one of the Mediterranean centres for economic and cultural exchanges for centuries.
Campagna Urbana is a project of Cohabitation Strategies − a Rotterdam/New York-based cooperative for socio-spatial development − in collaboration with the Ammirato Culture House and Loop House. It is the latest contribution to the long-term involvement of Musagetes in the region. Musagetes believes that art strengthens social fabrics of cities. This organization, based in Guelph, Canada and active internationally, mobilizes artistic actions and ideas as tools for social transformation, with a particular focus on developing these actions in mid-sized cities such as Lecce.
Campagna Urbana is a collaboration of artists, activists, urbanists, scholars, cultural producers, associations and citizens who have agency to germinate new possibilities for social and political engagement in the city. Through various artistic and cultural actions, the campaign enables cultural producers and citizens to re-appropriate and re-imagine their neighbourhoods and the city.
In order to confront the complexities of the urban condition and to be context-sensitive,Campagna Urbana begins with research into the specific problematics of Lecce through interviews with community leaders and residents in an under-represented area that lies between the historical inner city and working-class housing districts. The accumulated research material will inform subsequent artistic actions that together develop an alternative vision for the future of the city — a vision that will eventually be communicated through the traditional figure of the storyteller or cantastorie.
While the research phase (Summer 2012) investigates local problematics and establishes relationships with local inhabitants, the second phase (Fall and Winter 2012) tests new models for exposing and debating disreputable public issues and proposes new ways to build better communities. This second phase develops an urban campaign that engages the areas surrounding the Ammirato Culture House (see below for description) and the Santa Rosa neighbourhood with various artistic interventions and public actions.
The actions in the neighborhoods involve groups of citizens and associations as active participants alongside local and international artists who build collaborative platforms through visual campaigns, public performances, and the temporary use of public space as a stage for experimentation with alternative models of citizen participation. These projects engage under-represented groups of society, through constant feedback from a wide range of different voices from the local community.
The third phase of the ongoing campaign will culminate in the Spring of 2013 with a public performance of cantastorie. The cantastorie (minstrels and jesters) were a traditional presence in Italian culture. Traveling from town to town they reported to villagers a popular vision of current and historical facts, usually in clear contrast with the official history written by rulers. As investigated extensively by the Nobel-Prize-winning writer and actor Dario Fo, the giullaresca (from giullare, jestler) is a clear political act, a citizens’ gesture of appropriation of their own history. Their tools were usually their voice, a podium, and a cartoon billboard to illustrate visually the story. In recent times, as a form of subsistence, the cantastorie were also selling small pamphlets with the transcription of the story they narrated.
By revisiting the role of the cantastorie, Campagna Urbana designs and choreographs a contemporary history of Lecce with words, pictures and videos. In an age in which the popular stories are the ones of telenovelas and reality shows, we return to these ancient techniques to experiment with a new approach for public engagement. The aim is to reactivate public consciousness about the importance of sharing a vision for the future of the city — a common vision that will be developed through a participatory process in direct dialogue between international and local cultural practitioners and local inhabitants.
At a moment when economic drivers seem to be the only measures for understanding and moulding society, Campagna Urbana has the ultimate objective to elevate the role of culture as an agent of transformation in Lecce.
Two Project Phases
Campagna Urbana consists of two action phases in the neighborhoods surrounding the Ammirato Culture House and Santa Rosa. Momentum for the campaign will continue between the two phases through initiatives to be designed by the members of the Ammirato Culture House with Cohabitation Strategies.
1. Campaign Actions in the Neighbourhood (September 17 to October 9, 2012)
A series of artistic initiatives will take place in and between the neighbourhood of Santa Rosa and the Ammirato Culture House. A “relational object” will be installed in a defunct 1950s fountain between two major streets in Santa Rosa. A type of platform that combines private thinking/working spaces with public presentation spaces, the relational object will be the stage for an array of events led by local cultural producers such as Ippolito Chiarello, Gianluca Marinelli, Laura Perrone, non-mercato, and others, as well as four international artists/collectives: Kai Zen, Chto Delat?, Jeanne van Heeswijk, and Daniele Pario Perra.
The relational object will host a program of events, debates, performances and workshops that will deal with the problematics of everyday life in the neighborhoods, in context of global crises. The program will be launched with a parade from Ammirato Culture House to the fountain in Santa Rosa, chanting “Prendi in mano la tua città — Take the city in your hands.” Pamphlets will be distributed to announce the daily program, along with announcements on local radio, in newspapers, via megaphones, word of mouth, etc.).
The international artists are invited to enrich the program with their contributions. Chto Delat? will create a mural on the side of a residential building and will lead a workshop about art activism; Daniele Pario Perra will offer a workshop on spontaneous creativity and food production; Jeanne van Heeswijk will enable community empowerment and discuss the politics of space. The graphic designer, Peter Zuiderwijk, will create an identity (further described below) for Campagna Urbana and will help with the dissemination of the program.
2. Performance of the Cantastorie (April/May 2013)
A fictional scenario will be composed during the months between the two phases and will be performed in April/May 2013. The story will draw on the research prepared primarily by Gianluca Marinelli and will be the result of a collaboration between various contributors including local inhabitants, workshop participants, the members of Kai Zen (writers’ collective) and Cohabitation Strategies. Interviews with prominent community leaders and personal stories from neighbourhood residents will be the inspiration for the story which aims to reveal dysfunctional aspects of Lecce and the inhabitants’ vision for how culture can spark new grassroots movements.
The scenario will lead to a dissemination strategy that will include live performances around the city, and especially in Santa Rosa and the area around the Ammirato Culture House. Jeanne van Heeswijk and Ippolito Chiarello will work with a team of storytellers and actors to make the performance a reality. A videographer, Mattia Epifani, will document the performance and aspects of the campaign.
The research, which began in May 2012 and will conclude in early 2013, forms the content for the campaign and a narrative for the cantastorie. Cohabitation Strategies designed a research strategy that consists of official data, interviews with prominent political and cultural leaders (conducted by Cohabitation Strategies, Luigi Negro, Alessandra Pomarico and Mattia Epifani) and a collection of stories from citizens (conducted by Gianluca Marinelli and Simona Cleopazzo). These three levels of narratives (official data, visionary observers and neighborhood stories) complement each other to form the base of the storyteller project. The writers, Kai Zen, will bring together in a larger scenario these three different layers.
Visual Campaign and Identity
The Campagna Urbana project will have a specific visual identity that will make the project recognizable and that will keep together all the different programs that comprise the project. Dutch campaigner and graphic designer Peter Zuiderwijk will build a communication strategy for Campagna Urbana including posters, stickers, actions, parades, musical performances, and so on.
Ammirato Culture House
Ammirato Culture House (ACH) is a cultural organization founded in February 2012 by individuals involved in art, culture, design and social practice (local and international), and by cooperatives and cultural organizations in Salento. The objective of ACH is to strengthen relationships between different cultural actors and to apply new knowledge, skills and resources in the Salento region in a collaborative, synergistic way. ACH intends to transform urban conditions in Lecce’s neighbourhoods and communities through participatory artistic practices and process-oriented, context-based projects
From its genesis, ACH has worked to build a network of partnerships between cultural actors and producers in the region, applying a methodology that welcomes ideas and suggestions from everybody and fosters collaborations for the creation of participatory projects. ACH is housed in a 16th-century villa that was once a philosophy school led by Scipione Ammirato who believed in the transformative potential of art. In its first phase, ACH is experimenting with practices of co-working, co-sharing, and co-managing the space, its facilities and its resources.
To Build a Fire: Collective Writing Workshop with Kai Zen
What is the most noble, true meaning of “narrative”? To drive attention? To become characters? To publish books? No. The real purpose of narration is to tell sories about the world or specific parts of the world that matter to us such as our neighbourhoods and cities. Like Santa Rosa in Lecce. Telling stories, anecdotes, myths, narration is for citizens and inhabitants. Kai Zen, a collective of collaborative writers who live in a “global neighborhood”, will lead a workshop on how to link observation with narration.
Jorge Luis Borges, in his many reflections on the power of storytelling, had imagined a “total book”, a book that could contain infinite alternatives for potential narratives, based on an open structure of the novel, where a wide variety of voices are mixed, and the network of connections becomes a sort of encyclopedia, a form of knowledge of the world.
A similar approach can be usefully exploited as a strategy to reproduce a place through the inspiration and the personal experience of those who live in it, developing a circuit of possible alternatives, in a real work in progress. If we can tell the stories of the city, we can also transform it.
Kai Zen, who made the “open book” the starting point of its activity, will guide the participants of the workshop through a shared process of re-imagination and re-presentation of the city. Starting with significant spatial elements such as historic buildings, neighborhoods, and streets, Kai Zen will encourage participants to incorporate their memories, their technical skills, and their emotions to collectively write a new story. Eventually this writing will demonstrate how the place where we live can be modified by our ability to represent it from various points of view. A new perspective will emerge from the interaction between participants and will be modeled and staged through a process of elaboration that uses traditional narrative techiniques but in the service of an open concept of representation.
Kai Zen is a narrative ensemble of four gentlemen who came together by chance, waverers and wanderers by nature but concrete and permanent in their commitment. They are writers, gonzo-journalists, former players of blackjack, and would-be surfers if not for their birthplaces. They live scattered across Italy, from Milan to Bologna, from Bolzano to Messina, and their differences help them get along. They previously published the adventurous and gloomy novels, La Strategia dell’Ariete (Mondadori 2007) andDelta Blues (Verdenero, 2010).
Where: Ammirato Cultural House via di Pettorano 3, Lecce
When: September 22-25, 2012
The collective writing action will be conducted in Italian. Basic writing abilities required. Open to anybody who wishes to contribute to the collective writing project.
Pasta-Commons: Urban Action — Spontaneous Creativity Workshop with Daniele Pario Perra
Pasta-Commons is an urban action based on the production of pasta. It is an opportunity for congregation and a time for celebration. The action begins with an introduction to the food, the banquet, and the tradition of fresh home-made pasta in the region Emilia-Romagna. Following the introduction, there will be a moment for the collective preparation of the dough, during which the participants will engage in a dialogue about issues such as spontaneous aggregation, and will help to identify shared values. The relationships that will develop during the preparation of the pasta will bring a moment of shared personal and collective emotions and memories, and lead to an open and unifying discussion. The urban action will begin in the afternoon and continue in the evening with a dinner of pasta and local organic produce, followed by music and dancing.
Daniele Pario Perra is a relational artist, researcher and designer engaged in exhibitions, research projects and teaching. His work ranges across different disciplines: art, design, sociology, anthropology, architecture and geopolitics. For some years now he has been exploring spontaneous creativity, cultural trends and patterns of urban development in a constant relationship between material culture and symbolic heritage. In 2001 he started the Low-Cost Design database, which contains over 7000 photographs of the transformations of objects and public spaces in Europe and around the Mediterranean. He studied the performances and rituals of street trading in Sicily in the “Economic Borders” project. He investigated spontaneous communication in various European cities with the “Fresco Removals” format, teaching people, in real urban actions, how to store notable examples of wall writing and graffiti before their cancellation. His first monograph, Politics Poiesis, was published in 2005: it contains a long list of ideas, stimuli and projects devoted to contemporary art in urban contexts.
Where: At the relational object in the public fountain in the Santa Rosa neighbourhood
When: September 29, beginning at 4:00pm
The workshop aims to create an inter-generational dialogue. The dinner will be open to anyone, but only people under 25 and over 60 years old are invited to take part to the preparation of it.
Subverting Forms or Methods of Instigation: Urban Action — Radical Campaign Workshop with Peter Zuiderwijk
This workshop will try to re-experience the local. Which story has what kind of voice? In what manner are messages communicated? How are these messages perceived by a possible audience? The importance of the indistinct observation will be explored through unplanned bicycle trips in and around Lecce. While being on the move, local stories and experiences will be collected. At the same time, reactionary plots will be debated. Which methods provoke, instigate or run counter to the community approach? What forms of storytelling excite or activate an audience in a positive manner?
After a quick review and run-through of found forms and methods we will reflect upon existing contemporary visual analysis. How do other artists, designers or campaigners use narratives and experiences? What is the power of the well-worn formula of repetition or the risk of becoming chaotic and saying nothing? How should one question counter or use uncharted forms of propaganda and populism? We will examine the relationship between form and message in a series of public exercises and tests.
In a final joint effort we will attempt to elevate one local story in the public realm. What story needs to be communicated and why? How does one formulate a collective voice, address a specific issue or activate a local audience? What are the effects of visual translations and how do they resonate in public space?
Peter Zuiderwijk is an independent graphic designer based in The Hague. His work is mainly focussing on analytical processes that raise questions about perception and interpretation. Through observation and the re-interpretation of existing information, proposals and counter-proposals are formulated. This research-by-design methodology is used in a semi-independent and commissioned context, is discussed on a theoretical level, and is passed on in educational settings. Since 2002, Zuiderwijk has been teaching Research-by-Design at The Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam.
Where: At the relational object in the public fountain in the Santa Rosa neighbourhood
When: September 29 to October 1, beginning at 10:00am every day
Bicycle trip / start @ 10.00 o’clock till the end of the day.
Bring your own bike, wear good shoes, don’t cary too much luggage, bring a small notebook, a camera and an open mind.
On location / start @ 10.00 till the end of the day.
Lecture and reflection on forms and methods followed by a series of public exercises and tests. Make an image, write a text, put it on the street and see how it works. How do content and shape relate to each other?
On location / start @ 10.00 till the end of the day.
We join Campagna Urbana.
A Learning Mural: Urban Action — Radical Activism Workshop by Nikolay Oleynikov of Chto Delat?
Several years ago Oleynikov initiated a series of obschezhitie-projects grounded in collective creative living. (“Obschezhitie” is the Russian word for “communal living.”) Since then, bringing together practitioners from different fields and organizing temporary communities in constant dialogue became one of the essential elements of his artistic practice. This initiative was elaborated and developed in activities of the Chto Delat? Group and supported by other collectives. It has now taken the shape of experimental, continuous seminars, congress-communes or learning plays and have been recently presented at the ICA in London, Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht, at SMART and SCOR in Amsterdam, among others.
In Lecce Oleynikov will conceive of a specific temporality for the upcoming learning mural. The process will take about 10 days from the first brainstorming sessions to its actual “visible” result. During this time, the mural design will be developed with inhabitants, integrating the narrative developed by Kai Zen, and will include talks, and informal exchanges. All this will result in the collective writing of a program for the mural which might take a fictional form, culminating the actual creation of the mural on the side of a three-storey residential building in Santa Rosa.
Nikolay Oleynikov is a Moscow-based artist and activist, member of Chto Delat?, editor for Chto Delat? newspaper, co-founder of the Learning Film Group and May Congress of Creative Workers. Known for his didactic murals and graphic works within the tradition of soviet monumental school, comics, surrealist-like imagination and punk culture. Represented worldwide with his solo projects as well as with a number of collective activities, Oleynikov has had numerous international shows including Fargfabriken, Stockholm; Kibla, Maribor; Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris; Città dell arte – Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella; X Baltic Triennale, Vilnius; State Tretyakov Gallery, and Paperworks Gallery, Moscow; Komplot, Bruxelles; and others.
Where: At the relational object in the public fountain in the Santa Rosa neighbourhood.
When: October 2-9, 2012
The workshop will take the form of a laboratory on public art. It will be a “collective camp” during which the group will work, discuss, listen to music and eat together. Participants should have a basic knowledge of painting techniques and a basic level of English.