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Gerunds

by Cristiano Seganfreddo

“Amongst these fragments of landscape there is no semblance of form. They have only one thing in common: all supply refuge for diversity. Everywhere, elsewhere, this is driven out”.
The words of gardener-philosopher-traveller Gilles Clément in his “Manifesto of the Third Landscape” (quodlibet, 2005) introduce the theme of biodiversity as necessary for natural development. A lack of biodiversity impoverishes nature, weakens it and diminishes its richness. It makes the landscape dramatically monotone. At every latitude and longitude, only the hardiest species proliferate and are therefore appreciated. This results in less colour and a less varied environment. A metaphor that can also be read in the Italian cultural landscape – and beyond – a landscape often governed by tired institutions unable to read what’s in front of them. A situation that is common in many regions, and which results in the inability to establish relationships with a global and connected reality. We have built territories that are closed and impermeable, fortresses designed with power and security in mind. Often extraordinary in the past, too often deliberately conservative and bureaucratic. Whether we like it or not, in a world remarkably different to that of just 10 years ago, there is a need to update the systems through which we operate. And it’s not a question of type (class, modern or contemporary; museums, galleries or centres, regions or state), but of attitude. Of vision. Weak and peripheral signs of the system emerged and came to the rescue, at the moment at which the system entered crisis mode. The world of “off” in Italy is extremely vast. It has interesting and varied colourings. It is irregular, unpredictable, often elusive. The “off” has always suffered, it is in its nature. Nomen omen. It has no representation. You cannot see it. It does not exist. It is marginalised to the role of planning’s handmaiden, to guarantee localism. It does not appear to generate consensus, it does not produce specific social economies. Consequently, it does not have political weight. Its reality is cultural. This means decision-making capability and capital. Even if it is well-liked or comes from public administrations, it is always at risk of extinction and therefore of being programmed. It is scarcely able to last three years. Sometimes only three months. With one advantage. It is very resilient. It fights and it reproduces, it changes shape. But it remains.
At the margins and in the hidden fringes, in between the cracks in the pavement, jumping out in disasters or in the desert, small episodes. Quantitative rather than qualitative rules apply, here. Something that will horrify someone. It is important to see that there is a “heap” (sacco) of people (Pierluigi Sacco was one of the few, first, real cultural game changers in this sense) that make and move with an average, high quality. Sometimes even a very low one. But it’s okay this way. There are many experiments by people that take time for granted, in primis, and then scooters, pizzas or bills, to try and pursue the marginal as much as the central, attempts to spread contemporary culture in their communities. Or culture, or fragments, potentially disconnected. There are reserves of energy of varying sizes.
They do it everywhere, in a way that is both senseless and unprepared. Without rules, without strategy, without tomorrow. Maybe without even realising the hardships and the consequent disappointment, which will come. We experiment, we try, perhaps we live. Blogs, spaces, residences, actions, activities, galleries, coworking, basements, occupations, warehouses, apartments, publications, libraries, cafeterias…
These are the independents. Everywhere. You will find them in the deep south of Scicli and the warehouses of Arzignano in Vicenza, in Settimo Torinese, in Abruzzo and in villages in Campania.
Even the names should not be underrated. They retain the freshness of Flaiano: puns, onomatopoeia, oxymorons are testament to the desire to break the institutional sequence of the establishment.
The game that I thought of a few years ago, seven by now, for ArtVerona, the first art fair that had space for such projects, aimed to make independents more noticeable and perceptible. Not for communication processes or for a classification of vital statistics for a new Istat code, but out of an obvious cultural necessity of moving and changing territories. To generate something similar to a natural short circuit. And, on the other hand, to help the independents to get out of self-referential short circuits, small and large. Putting them together, in a space like a trade show.
The subject was up in the air. In other parts of the world it is and was the norm. Practically a system integrated with real estate in the style of Richard Florida.
Today real independents, and there aren’t many of them, are helped to become new institutions. To integrate themselves with institutions and to regenerate them with a look that is connected and innovative, and with new software. To create open cultural innovation. The independents are like start-ups in the world of business. They are the future of the economy. The natural mortality of start-ups, higher than 90 percent, nonetheless generates a strong and innovative economy, if backed up by a system that understands the power of regeneration. It grows competencies, networks, diversity.
We must support the true connectors of contemporaneity. With the formal obligation to not reduce them to local experiments at the mercy of ambitions for territorial innovation, but instead to always put them into competition on an international level.