I have been known to really struggle with certain aspects of Rome, and I often wear my complaints on my sleeve, especially in relation to the way in which people comport themselves in this city.
But on the other hand, one thing that continually captivates me about this city is not so much its glorious history, but more its extremely layered and complicated history, the physical manifestations of which are often stacked one layer atop the other. It's mesmerising and inspiring to find yourself living in a city where medieval sits side by side with classical and contemporary, giving the city its unique identity. In a way, its like living at an archeological dig site, where you are constantly considering the people who were here before you, the fleeting nature of human life and the legacies that we leave to future generations. I know that sounds a little corny, but I can't think of any other city in the world where this sensation is so evident, as if every street has an older story under its wobbly surface in contrast to its present day existence.
One of the inspiring things about Rome 2011, is that you can see that it is a city that, with a fair bit of punching and screaming, is trying to push its way forward, out of the shadows of other European cities who are seemingly more at ease with the 21st century. New layers are constantly being added to the city; some complex, some monumental, and others, subtle, a little hidden and a welcome surprise.
Last year, Space Invader, supported by a gallery in my hood, the WunderkammernWunderkammern, carried out a residency in Rome, adding his little touches to some of the city's oldest (and, occasionally, ugliest) parts. One of my joys was, heading home along the Casalina (lets just call it a brutal thoroughfare) on my scooter and zooming by one of his hard to spot works. Imagine my utter sadness when I noticed it had 'disappeared'. :( Space Invader's plaques were at a certain point ubiquitous throughout the city. In fact, a google map created by his supporters locates not only his little mosaic masterpieces that continue to stick to their old and crumbling supports and those that are no longer with us, but those that were also put up in imitation. The list on the official website, is reasonally up to date, and, worldwide, but oddly enough doesn't seem to incorporate his Roman stay. That said, Australians in particular might be interested to hunt down the old stock image on the map to see how utterly brilliant his initiative can often be. For the more photographically minded, head to Flickr instead to see just how widespread the infestation has been.
As for the disappearing act that seems to be becoming more and more widespread in Rome, I expect to see some of these little masterpieces springing up soon at Porta Portese or some of the other black markets. Unfortunately, this is one of the selfish behaviors of locals that from time to time make me want to throw my hands up in the air and moan about. :(
Dave Di Vito
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Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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