On building memories and personal legacies vol. III: the things, the feelings

Some more thoughts on a heritage site in my hometown, a sculpture that has been about to be removed entirely in November 2018 to make space for a parking lot.

Time is a deeply relevant factor in the shaping of feelings, emotions and attachments. Affecting the development of spaces and natures, it spreads around and involves people and their memory. It marks materials and objects to the point that they can be transformed, embody and afford the most different perspectives.

Every cultural objects has a brute materiality and a social materiality, and hard to believe, little we have cared for materials as such and not as a mean or symbols nor as part of analysis of material cultures until just recently.

The Monument for the resistance in my hometown was literally forged in the 60s by the workers of the city harbour, men close in time and space to World war II, the memory of which the monument intended to commemorate. That physical space, though, had grown over time into a neglected area outside of any pedestrian route in the middle of traffic. In the dispute about the position of the monument that took place in November, different levels of attachment to ideas and materials were traceable.
By attributing an emotional and civic value to the site, a specific sensibility shaped around an historical context became defined: one in which public space serves a purpose, and that implies that emotional attachment is strictly linked to a collective and agreed memory. The sensibility of those close in time to World war II, or with a direct connection to it, either by family or studies – social links.
This opposed to two different positions:

  • one was of general indifference toward the topic altogether, as heritage is not part of any discourse for some citizens, and the knowledge about facts happened in the city does not go beyond the last 20 years;
  • a second one was of support for the proposal of moving the monument and create a different way of remembering the events. This was well spreaded among younger people (25-45) for what I could perceive, and I could personally see how the topic was considered not relevant inside the self estimeed cultural élite of the city (doctors, laywers, university professors and so forth) of a supposed left. Because, who is nowadays attached to a form of celebration that implies occupying public space with the representation of an idea embodied in a huge sculture? How can a piece of iron embody any deep meaning? Regardless of the idea, a growing sense of private celebration and private memory is far more important. The simplified narrative of old-static-visible Vs new-invisible-fast I think was behind this, and therefore a general neglect for the real matter was carried on.

Interestingly, in the city almost all roundabouts cointain work of arts by local artists, sponsored not by the city hall but private companies. There is a complete separation between what is considered to be a decorative value (not even functional) of an object and the possible additional meanings it might have.

It is difficult to create an attachment out of nowhere, to make sure that a material embodies ideas that are understood, since that specific material inspires not much beyond rejection instead. This was curiously commented by a person in the “defendors” group, saying she never really felt at ease there and was looking for ways of making it understandable, transmissible. (lot of literature on this topic 🙂 )

In an attempt to build said connection and recreate a sense of community, the group of people defending it started to organize some initatiatives around it.

  • A professor from the Academy of Fine Arts in Urbino (the nearest high education institution for art education) brought his students to the monument and gave a class on the artist, the work and its context.
  • The group installed a Christmas tree in the space, and invited via Facebook the citizens to decorate it with balls with their own names or poems or thoughts about the topic. I do not know how popular or felt this action was, but the tree had quite a lot of balls.
  • Additionally, via two local associations (one working with refugees, the second one the local committee of the national partisans association) some representatives of the group met immigrants and refugees from Gambia, Pakistan, Nigeria and Somalia in the sort-of-square the monument creates and explained the history behind the work of art and what it represented. Interestingly (or obviously) some of them were familoar about Italian recent fascist colonial history and had an idea of what the resistance the monument celebrated was.

Local elections will take place this spring in Pesaro: the mayor will run again and local politicians required already to put the removal of the monument into his program.

I am very curious to see if by then the group will have grown big and strong enough to assign a new position to the site within the city landscape or not.
One additional paradoxal aspect of the story is that Pesaro has long tradition of sculture and claims(ed?) to be a city fancing art: Giò e Arnaldo Pomodoro, Eliseo Mattiacci crossed the city when young, there is a huge community of illustrators gravitanting around it and that is basically omnipresent in the city initiatives (Emanuela Orciari, Alessandro Baronciani, Mara Cerri, Simona Mulazzani just to name a few) but the link between that heritage and its historical contexts fails to be represented.

Picture: Pesaro, potential art piece, September 2017

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