RETHINKING PUBLIC ART.
Resilience, Love, and Subversion
“The verb to read, like the verb to love and the verb to dream, does not support the imperative form”.
Jorge Luis Borges
Upon entering Via del Turchino, you can read the three monumental letters A, M, A, on the facades of the Quartiere Ettore Ponti, a housing unit located in the Calvairate / Ortomercato area, a suburb of the city of Milano, Italy, known as a troubled zone, inhabited mainly by migrants, veterans and survivors of World War II and their descendants.
As you enter the avenue, the word AMA dominates the landscape, with its large letters. However, as Borges pointed out, more than being an imperative voice, the message read here is an invitation, a polyphonic call that proposes a change in attitude, an openness to listening, to bond, to share.
The word love has been conceptualized in very different ways throughout history and is the subject of all kinds of discourses: poetic, literary, religious, moral, among others. It has been spoken of many types of love. Some have been considered sinful, forbidden, even dissidents; others, on the other hand, have become the norm and the model that sustains the main social institutions. However, in this work, Said Dokins raises a notion of love from a different perspective: not as an internal state of the individual, but as a social action, as a weapon of resistance against a context that isolates us within the mass, where forging solid bonds of empathy, and solidarity is subversive
Stories of a Word
To carry out this intervention, Dokins immersed himself in the history of the residential complex – a consistent example of the fascist and rationalist architecture of the late 1930s – and of its inhabitants through his celebrated series Stories of a Word. This project, which has been developed in very diverse countries, in unique contexts, consists of the recovery of community narratives in order to inscribe the collective memory. Through dialogue and coexistence with local people, the artist collects the words that will serve to develop his mural proposals.
On this occasion, through interviews, meetings and activities organized by Dokins in collaboration with Biokip Lab, he managed to establish a deep dialogue with the community that allowed him to learn about the history of the neighborhood, mainly through the elderly, who related the disasters of war and fascism, as well as the new experiences they are facing. Young people and children also participated, sharing their wishes and expectations for the future.
“This project is about creating a comfortable place for knowledge and memory. The dialogue with the inhabitants of Via del Turchino, made me think about anecdotes and personal stories as a source of knowledge, when a person feels comfortable telling something, they can share very deep information, that in another situation they wouldn’t reveal… The process wasn’t easy, first, they believed that I was another politician of those that promise lots of things, then they realized that it was just about sharing”
The result of this collaborative experience was an assemblage of meaning: Arte, Passione, Rispetare, Fraternità, Resilenza are some of the words and phrases that make up the framework of the background where it is wrapped in the AMA palindrome, which includes three of the great facade walls.
These words refer to the place, to the stories lived there, to the wishes and hopes of its inhabitants, and of course, to their names, recognizing the importance of each and everyone who is part of this place; thus, the Dokins murals give an account of the tensions and contradictions of the neighborhood, at the same time that they position a message of connection, respect, memory and freedom within the community. Through art, AMA reveals the radical and transformative potential of love, as Hartl would say, as a collective generating force.