[eng] Beyond the walls: Naples' bridge of art

Article published on July 17, 2014
Article published on July 17, 2014

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Though nei­ther attractive nor central, the un­der­ground sta­tion of Chi­a­iano/Mar­i­anella is nevertheless a vital hub be­tween the city cen­tre and the north­ern sub­urbs of Naples, and is al­ways crowded and bustling. It is here that artists and as­so­ci­a­tions have joined forces to trans­form drab con­crete into colour, decay into beauty, and walls into pil­lars of hu­man­ity.

On leav­ing Chi­a­iano metro sta­tion just one month ago, one would have en­coun­tered the decay and ne­glect typ­i­cal of the sub­urbs. The drab­ness and frag­men­ta­tion of the area just height­en­ing a sense of un­ease and dan­ger in the daily com­muters. Again, just one month ago, the red logo of the as­so­ci­a­tion LET'S THINK LIV­ING AN IDEA (http://www.letsthink.it/sito/) ap­peared on the walls of the sta­tion, herald­ing the change to come. A few days later, the first brush­strokes of colour ap­peared on the grey con­crete, the start of the work which would trans­form the metro bridge at Chi­a­iano into a BRIDGE BE­YOND WALLS (https://www.facebook.com/oltreimuri?fref=ts).

"One day as we were dri­ving under the metro bridge at Chi­a­iano, I looked up and it struck me that this was a place that could make peo­ple feel anx­ious and fright­ened" ex­plains Gi­an­luca Di Maro, pres­i­dent of Let's Think.

Ac­tive in the Naples area for a num­ber of years, the association's core is made up of vol­un­teers dri­ven by the need for in­ter­ven­tion in the 'non-places" of the city, with pro­jects and work­shops cov­er­ing top­ics such as law, art, ed­u­ca­tion, and the so­cial in­te­gra­tion of peo­ple with their sur­round­ings. "Be­yond the Walls" in par­tic­u­lar seeks the joint par­tic­i­pa­tion of dif­fer­ent strands of so­ci­ety: at-risk young­sters, the dis­abled and also the gen­eral pub­lic, using art as the means to ex­press what words sometimes can­not.  These aims have taken on a tangible form under the bridge at Chi­a­iano, where those in­volved have been work­ing tire­lessly and en­thu­si­as­ti­cally over the last few weeks bring­ing colour to the walls.  The imaginative con­tri­bu­tion of artists not just of local but also Eu­ro­pean sig­nif­i­cance has been cru­cial and can be seen through­out. Lelia An­dreoli, Marco Matta, Raro, Omar Mo­hammed, Sner­vantes, Va­le­rio Tuc­cillo, Teso and Gola are some of those who have left their original mark completely voluntarily, fol­low­ing the theme "from the sub­urbs to the cen­tre" and depicting im­ages of a pre-in­dus­trial past. The pil­lars of the metro have thus been trans­formed into trees, the con­crete has sud­denly been pop­u­lated with both im­ages of cows and flo­ral pat­terns, but also com­plex me­chan­i­cal gear sys­tems.

"The aim of the pro­ject was also to in­te­grate dif­fer­ent artis­tic re­al­i­ties, and we have suc­ceeded in that de­spite the tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties we have come up against" ex­plains Raro, "work­ing under both fi­nan­cial and time con­traints has been hard. We have worked at night for 15 days, and it has been a race against time to get it finished at all." In fact, as Di Maro em­pha­sises "the artists have willingly given us their time and work for no pay­ment. We didn't have a for­mal con­tract, so we haven't ben­e­fited from pub­lic funds, we have just had per­mis­sion to go ahead from theNaples town coun­cil and the Naples Metro who have pro­vided us with just enough means to com­plete the pro­ject. The small amount of money we have re­ceived from spon­sors has been di­rectly in­vested in buy­ing paint."

But the diversity represented on the bridge at Chiaiano goes way beyond artistic pastiche. We enrich ourselves through our mutual differences” is the message written on the wall in front of the station entrance by disabled youngsters from the AugurAbile Association (http://www.augurabile.it/sito/). “Working with paints and colours always gets the children excited. Art is immediate and can overcome the difficulties of using words” explains Valentina Maisto, president of AugurAbile. It is not coincidental that A bridge beyond walls has also earmarked 50m for the artwork of at-risk youngsters and for the re-education of young people in the "home detention" scheme used by the associations Set Me Free (https://www.facebook.com/associazionesetmefree) (Giugliano in Campania) and Let’s Think.

"Neglect, diversity, indifference, rejection and doubt" These are the obstacles that A Bridge beyond walls is trying to overcome, and a month or so before the project's inauguration, changes are starting to be felt. Raro is in no doubt: "I think that, despite the technical problems, we have succeeded in shaking up people who had got used the way things were, showing them the difference that positive action can make in our area. Thanks to our project they have put in new lighting and repaired the road. Now it's up to the citizens to look after this space." Valentina Maisto is also pleased with the response "passers-by stop, curious to see what we're working on, and, more than once, they've offered to lend us a hand." 

The technical difficulties encountered by the artists, such as the lack of response to a call for funding for the project, show how institutions and people's views are still not quite ready for change. It is precisely for this reason that the bridge at Chiaiano shines out as an example of how a run-down area can be turned around, able to show how the most fragile and marginal realities actually constitute a city's most fundamental resources. The bridge "from the suburbs to the centre" has been opened up, now it's up to us to cross it.