Stefano Romano: Insurgent flâneur seeks intellectual community
One of Stefano Romano's most recent works, realised
in Tirana and Prishtina, is titled landscape 151205, and consists of
an unusual urban scenery. The vertical elements that compose the skyline
of the city are not buildings, but names of the people the artist met
and had a conversation with during the span of a day. It is a landscape
made of meetings, in which you can visualize - in just one panorama
- time, space and human relationships. At the same time you can zoom
into the chain of unwritten dialogues, and read the recurring names
of the individuals that shaped one day of the life of the artist.
Through relatively simple gestures Romano generates
multiple relationships among individuals and groups, and instigates
debates on political and social issues.
The same year another site-specific wok, Flags,
was inspired by the spontaneous gesture of many individuals who hung
flags or banners outside their windows in order to express their position
on the war against Iraq. For his participation to a group show at Viafarini
gallery, Milan, Romano approached the people leaving in the flats overlooking
the internal courtyard where the gallery is located. He asked them to
choose an image they wanted to have printed on a flag and hung from
their windows, as a symbol of their personalities and beliefs.
In Noi Aminamo l'Albania (We Love Albania), exhibited
at Tirana Biennale 3, 2005, the journey of Stefano Romano goes through
the history of the relationship between two countries connected and
divided by all major events of the recent history of our continent:
war, cold war, economical exploitation and immigration.
Noi Amiamo l'Albania is an intelligent, witty and ironical work. It shows how complex is the relationship between two countries that are so close and historically so different, the country of origin of Romano and the country where he has recently chosen to live. On one side the history of a nation that started late and ruinous campaigns of colonisation during fascism; that have a history of exporting businesses whose irresponsible management is dictated by cynicism and greed; and is represented by a prime minister whose position on immigration has never contributed to diminish the social fear of 'the other'. On the other side a chaotic and energetic country that in 1990 ended 47 years of isolationist communism; where traditional values live together with the dream of owning a powerful car, or a least an old Mercedes; were most people can already speak a bit of Italian, if they are not even fluent in it; and where the dream of going to Italy dominated and still dominate the life of many, despite the desperate journey of many fellow countrymen experienced across the Adriatic sea, and despite the constant cases of repatriation.
Since his arrival in Tirana in the autumn 2004,
on the side and as part of his artistic practice, Stefano Romano has
also been running a curatorial programme under the name 1.60 Insurgent
Space. The project was born out of the desire of spreading artistic
initiatives throughout the city. These have materialised in exhibitions,
performances or ephemeral interventions, and the project has been operating
on a regular basis despite the nearly complete lack of funding. The
spaces used until now include private apartments, empty buildings, public
spaces and the street. These initiatives normally last only one day,
carving a brief but always challenging presence within the city. While
contesting conventional definitions of artistic practices, these projects
aim at generating a debate about the present role of the artist.
Among the projects curated by Stefano Romano,
was the public reading of Albanian artist Alban Hajdinaj's Manifesto
beyond the expiration deadline. The text, already published in 2005
in an Albanian newspaper, Metropol, was presented to the general public
and passersby on the evening of 25 January 2006, in an empty building
in front of a post office in Tirana. The text, in ten points, expresses
the need for Albanian artists to become aware and take part to the international
art scene without forgetting that the core of their discourse, as a
point of departure and arrival, is Albanian culture.
For another project curated by Stefano Romano on December 2005, Invisible City, Albanian artist Dren Maliqi stenciled in various spots of the city of Tirana the phrase "I need a radical change". Romano explained that this outcry first relates to the failure of the rebellion of the students of the Fine Arts Academy. No change was realized within the Academy, and Maliqi's desire for innovation was unfulfilled. At the same time, the need for a radical change, expressed and spread around the city, seems to reflect a deeper and more personal desire for transformation, and the awareness that any important change is first private and individual.
As these two curatorial projects illustrate,
Romano is interested in supporting artistic initiatives that insinuate
into the tissue of the city, occupying its surfaces and unused spaces
in order to give visibility to national and international artists' voice,
not just among the artistic circuit, but potentially to all citizens.
Moreover, this project is particularly fascinating
because it takes place in a city, Tirana, whose spaces have not yet
been completely colonised for private and commercial uses.
Since the end of 2005, Stefano Romano has also
started an editorial project, publishing number zero of 1/60 Insurgent
Space on paper. The publication is a disarticulated collection of texts,
interviews and visual contributions on the relationship between art
and urban activism. While number 1 is expected to come out shortly,
a PDF version of number zero is available on the web: www.1-60insurgentspace.org.