Ramdom: planning, sustainability and imagination
The province, generally speaking, has always been an extremely interesting place. 1 Powerful and fragile at the same time, it has been a catalyst for some of the most important and significant artistic experimentation since the late 1960s. It is enough to say that Arte Povera stems from the event, Arte Povera + Azioni Povere, held in Amalfi (near Naples) in 1968.
Although with some differences compared to its past, the province, with its social, cultural, political and economic difficulties, remains a gathering point for artists interested in exploring unique conceptual terrain. Consider a few elements: an awareness of art world dynamics; the social and economic impact on the territory (although never really explored in Italy because of a deep deficit of vision and perspective on the national and local cultural policies); the opportunity (or the illusion) to reach the entire community of citizens2 during the process; the attempt to build a collective awareness; the freedom to act in an alternate space where surely different mechanisms prevail compared to the big cities. A place, definitely, where you can experience new models and formats and where the impact on the communities could be really powerful. These varied dynamics potentially posit a mutual identification between this extreme territory and its institutions.
The story of Ramdom, a cultural and an artistic project born in the Puglia Region in 2011, is extremely significant for the relationships it has generated after five years of activity within the territory and the local community. Ramdom has been a project with a nomadic and volatile soul (which is also the reason of its name Ram+dom3) until it found a fixed location – the last train station on the extreme southern heel (if we consider the shape of Italy as a boot) of the Italian peninsula in a little town called Gagliano del Capo.
Lastation, as the two founders of the project Paolo Mele and Luca Coclite called it, imposes on the project itself a different setting that creates a more structured and layered cooperation with the territory. The space requires a greater care, a greater attention to what happens not only inside but also around it. Lastation aims to become an artistic point of reference and a platform to observe and think differently with the ambition to consider new perspectives. A platform capable of also providing hospitality and cultural tourism as well as an educational program in an area that, confined by the Sea (Extreme Land), has always suffered a strong cultural migration. Starting from this need, Ramdom, which is constantly in contact with other national and international networks, try to create an absent infrastructure for local artists, who often have no possibilities to travel abroad, giving them an opportunity to collaborate with other colleagues coming from around the world.
That is where Default (their masterclasses in residency) comes from. It was born from the deep need to bring in Puglia another possible vision. Another possible reality. Now in its third edition, with around 50 artists from 46 countries around the world and 25 guest-teachers, Default is a biennial research project and a discussion platform to share ideas and projects. Only one of the projects presented by the artists participating at the masterclass is then selected by a committee and produced. For instance, this year the selected project was Remapping Extreme Land by the Italian artist Alessandro Carboni, a project that will also be part of Investigation of the Extreme Land (another project by Ramdom which I will talk about later). Thus, since the beginning, Ramdom developed a performative4 attitude that pushes its approach far beyond the limits of the works just produced into the public space: the project engages in fact its position towards a public role.
Imagine, recognize and engage with the public, is at the base of what could be defined, according to Foucault, as the “production of knowledge.” The educational aspect developed by artistic institutions in this sense plays a key role. They become, in fact, a bridge between different disciplines (art, craft and tourism in this specific case), but also a vector capable of imagining a different model – a model able to open up the perspectives of the younger generations and concretely activate a local micro-economy. Following this direction, the resident workers could be actively involved in the production of the projects by providing all their experience. This can create a mutual and fruitful exchange that contributes to make an art project a sort of transitional arena of alternative proposals able to act as an intermediary between different fields, different ways of perception and thought, as well as different positions and subjectivity.5
Art becomes, in this sense, a place where things can happen. A place able to generate ways of thinking that contribute to create different signs, a different imagination without predetermination and, at least, to develop a practice that could determine another way to organize. A privileged way that explores and nurtures an imaginative and symbolic power, creates new values, a new language, new tools and, finally, even new procedures.6
This is a picture of what Ramdom has been so far: a complex but well-structured project that, being based on the extreme periphery of the south of Italy, looks primarily at the sustainability using the creativity as tool rather than commercial exchange.
A challenge, launched by Ramdom, can be read on at least three different levels: the institutional, which shifts the Art object into the Art project – from an aesthetic to a poetic experience, according to Boris Groys.7 This corresponds to a precise intention to generate a social, political and economic dimension with the aim to (re)stage the reality (perceived) by providing the imagination of new models and formats. The educational, with the ambition to recognize and identify a more generic audience not only made by artists; and, last but not least, the artistic level, a bridge among the others.
If we consider the perspective to escape from the daily routine and the common vision of the places, the last mentioned level is indeed the biggest challenge that Ramdom launched. The artworks perform in this sense a crucial role in terms of a constant re-negotiation of the relationship with an extremely peculiar territory that geographically ends where the rocks fall into the sea and nothing else is beyond: the Extreme Lands.
Their investigation – Investigation on the Extreme Land – is another project, arrived last summer at its second edition, which, along with Default, is at the core of Ramdom’s plan. Investigation on the Extreme Land is thus a sort of open process that counts on philosophers, scientists and geologists as equally as on artists and curators. So, these are the Extreme Lands: “lands of landing and not lands of passage”8 because “from the extreme lands, you can get to or you can part from, but you cannot pass. [They are] The last boundary between land and sea, the extremities of the peninsulas. Lands far from the urban centers, from the core of the city and very difficult to reach. A geographical dislocation that became a socio-anthropological characteristic of the people who live there.”9 Moreover the Extreme Lands are, as announced in the project’s statement as well as in the words by Paolo Mele, “strategic points to observe the world through, to even go beyond the limits of our imagination and beyond our knowledge” – points where, turning the gaze to the unknown, the presence of the sea will appear as a detector, to investigate on our ignorance and limits. Hence, the Extreme Lands do not only provide a privileged point of view to understand our environment, but above all they “allow us to understand ourselves while we look forward with fear and respect.”10 The Mediterranean has always been a land of civilization whose cultures have been at the same time safeguarded and stimulated by the waters that have connected them. Today, however, the limits of the maritime borders are synonyms with frailty and exploitation. Finally, the Extreme Lands is a place that requires risks and experimentation; a place where we must imagine and re-think a different mental, territorial, and anthropological geography; a place where we activate, along with the territory and local communities, a constant dialogue of intense agonism.
This is actually the challenge launched by Luca Coclite with his work Imaginary Holidays, an action held at Colonia Scarciglia at the top of the promontory of Santa Maria di Leuca. Colonia Scarciglia, one of the temporary colonies abandoned but still present with their preponderant architecture in the south of Italy, is a symbol of the Italian economic boom that took place during the late 1950s and early 1960s. These former colonies were usually used since the 19th Century as a therapeutic refuge for children mainly suffering of bone or articular tuberculosis. The buildings have been later abandoned and they became a symbol of the contemporary failure of the social utopias as well as a symbol of the local landscape. Coclite’s action consisted of temporarily concealing the building with a smoky colored mass in order to visually weaken the structure. This act aimed to put the emphasis on its cumbersome physical presence that, at the moment of the disappearance, revealed the processual and symbolic act of the representation.
In the case of Parade for the Landscape by Andreco – a performance, formally a parade – the objective was to open a wider reflection on the environment and the geology of the territory (specifically on Leuca’s public space) with a precise focus on the notion of border as well as its geographical and political meaning. The parade crossed the city from coast to coast, trying to symbolically connect the two seas (Mar Ionio and Mar Adriatico) and finished just in front of the abandoned Colonia.
Compared to the previous two works, the action initiated by Alessandro Carboni is structurally more complex. Remapping extreme land according to my personal geography is indeed a sound and body mapping of the territory developed of different times and moments. The artist starts his investigation sailing the coast with a pirogue or a boat producing a sort of audio-video file archive. With its interdisciplinary approach, the work operates on different geographical scales becoming a poetical investigation able to describe not just the places but also the practices and the communities he met all around. This introduces the processual approach of Carboni’s work in its anthropological phase that basically consisted of meeting and sharing stories with people in order to deepen the knowledge of the local territory, but people did even more than just be part of the discursive side of the work. Starting from one of these meetings, the participants contributed to also create a map and a sort of maquette of the territory together with the artist. Two extremely important tools to geographically position and describe the venues, the practices, the communities and the manufacture of the map itself. The meetings have been indeed a sort of shared “archive of the local territory’s memory” also used by the artist for the final outcome of the project itself.
The work Derva by Giuseppe De Mattia and Luca Coclite (who shot the final video) is an interesting process that tells us about an intimate ritual. De Mattia gathered the clothes found between the stones and the rocks, nearby the old Colonia of Capo di Leuca and started to wash them in the sea. With this simple gesture, a sort of secular baptism, he gave the clothes a new life. Later, he washed them again and sewed them up as if they could be used again. Indeed, with a romantic and metaphoric act, the artist took care of something that, lost or abandoned in front of the sea coast, has been transformed into a relic of everyday life. The work has been in fact presented in its final outcome in a sort of glass case as we are used to see in the museums to protect precious objects.
Finally Carlos Casas, a Spanish artist whose work consists of research into some of the most extreme conditions of the planet, from the Patagonia to the Aral Sea and Siberia. In Beyond the Landscape, he worked on the concept of extreme as a strategical point to observe the world from. With few words the artist has been able to summarize the meaning of the investigation that Ramdom is conducting on the Extreme Lands, “looking ahead from the extreme lands, is a way of calibrating our limits and a way to meet our expanding abilities to understand the world beyond our comprehension. The extreme lands not only provide us with a privileged point to understand our environment but, most of all, they allow us to understand ourselves while we stare at them with awe and respect.”11
The importance of a project like Ramdom, based in the periphery of the south of Italy, is the courage to engage the territory and the local community in a long term political and concrete perspective (awareness, cultural tourism, micro-economy) with new and evolving challenges. Ramdom has, in fact, not only produced many new projects in its five years, but also increased, in this last year, its presence on the territory with a stable house (Lastation).
With its challenges, finally, Ramdom contributes to nurture a new and different narration of those places that, for their own nature, are in a continuous and progressive evolution. But what has made Ramdom a precious project, is above all what it has been able to create with its challenges: different perspectives, different opportunities and new symbols within an extreme land.
- In Italy, a province is an administrative division between a municipality and a region. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provinces_of_Italy ↩
- A.Pioselli, L’arte nello spazio urbano, L’esperienza italiana dal 1968 a oggi, Johan & Levi editore, Monza, 2015 ↩
- Ramdom is a composed word. Ram refers to a volatile type of memory and dom to the root of the ancient latin word domus that means house. ↩
- With performative approach I mean the role that artists, curators, institutions and public (in its active function), perform in the contemporary society at large. ↩
- S. Sheik, Talk value: culture industry and knowledge economy, in On Knowladge Production in Contemporary Art ↩
- S. Sheik, Instiuting the Institution, Kunsthalle Lissabon, Performing the institution(al) volume 2, Lisbon, 2012 ↩
- B. Groys, Going public, Sternberg Press, 2010 ↩
- http://www.ramdom.net/en/2014/05/nelle-terre-estreme/ ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- http://www.ramdom.net/en/2015/04/carlos-casas-extreme-land-2015/ ↩
- http://www.ramdom.net/en/2015/04/carlos-casas-extreme-land-2015/ ↩