Somewhat mysteriously announced and completed with what can be perceived as a complete spectacle, the artist residency Seth conducted in Rome does not disappoint. On the contrary, the glory of the once lively factory of Mira Lanza, one of the most exciting industrial archaeology sites in Rome is restored in an unexpected way. The factory opened in the distant 1899 was redone in 1999 but not in its entirety. The site of Teatro India was consequently abandoned and set on fire, leaving a vast structured space of decay and debris, seemingly beyond help of anyone. Only Stefano Antonelli, the street art curator and the man behind the 999Foundation, saw the potential in this unappealing place.
In a conspicuously complicated action, Antonelli coordinated an art project, thus expressing the civil disobedience, but also the concern for the urban environment. He invited the acclaimed street artist Julien Malland aka Seth of the Etam Cru to breathe the life back into the fallen walls and the cracks of Teatro India. This top secret art endeavor lasted two months, engaging both Seth and Antonelli, as they practically lived in the space.
It is not right to call this action an act of vandalism, because it reaches far beyond the commonly understood meaning of the word. If a site is completely rejected by the community, how can it be the subject of vandalism? Is the discarded still relevant? Seth made sure that Teatro India becomes a place once again, while the entire site of the former factory is now seen as the Ex Mira Lanza Museum.
Contemplating the art project, Seth has chosen a particular name of this comprehensive site-specific installation. "Range ta chambre" - or "Clean up your room" is the concept familiar to everyone with overly keen mothers, who often remind their daydreaming kids of the reality, but then delve into the unpleasant cleaning job themselves. Similarly, Seth embarked on a challenge to clean up and enliven the space and bring back in that, which was once present at Mira Lanza in abundance - the life. Extracting the soul of the factory, of the people who once inhabited these walls and courtyards, of the workers and the supervisors, the artist applied his fanciful poetic, describing the imagined characters in a recognizable manner. In the desire to paint the abandoned part attached [there], the Etam Cru member populated the Teatro with his pensive, innocent characters, touching particular moments in the history of the space - the people, the burned library. Still, Seth does not escape the present in its entirety, as his works openly refer to the global issues we all are affected by - the refugee crisis in Lampedusa and Europe in general, the Syrian war, the Brexit... A unique inspiration can be found behind each wall, behind each of the rainbow-colored installations and read through their universal titles. Largely dealing with the past, Seth's characters do keep their heads in the clouds quite literally, with turned backs and tangible melancholy. Still, they do open their vision to various portals, which we might interpret as the windows to the future.
For all of those who wish to visit the Teatro India and walk down the memory lane with Seth's lost children, it won't be as if walking into a regular art gallery. You will need hiking boots, sporty clothes and the readiness to get a bit dirty. The entrance is possible through a wall gap at Via Amedeo Avogadro, but do not expect a gift shop or a welcome of any kind. The very act of visit is meant to be an act of civil disobedience, a statement against urban neglect and a support to revitalization of the existing segments of the city environment. For the squeamish ones and the rule-lovers, the visit still may be worth it, since such a collection of the in situ artwork by Seth is singular and only existing in this space. So, do dare, head to Ostiense and enter another world without changing dimensions.
Finally, the message of this vast artistic memento is clear, positive, dedicated to the Roman community and beyond. It is the hope and the determination to make a better future, especially by the means of art in what will now be called the Ex Mira Lanza Museum.
Slider images: All by Seth - Temet Nosce, 2016; Palmyre, 2016; Oculos Habent et Non Videbunt, 2016; Macedonia, 2016; Lux in Tenebris, 2016; Into Vinceres, 2016; Palmyre, 2016; Lux in Tenebris, 2016; Felix Qui Potuit Rerum Cognoscere Causas, 2016; Brickseat, work in progress, 2016; Macedonia, 2016; Finis Coronat Opus, 2016.
All images courtesy of 999Contemporary/Stefano S. Antonelli