Napoli / Dossier ENG


I should create a work like this every day, it is just a matter of good will, or if I will not do it, someone else will, and, I hope, in a deeper and more complete way, focusing any of the inhabited places in Italy”.1

We find these words in the first pages of Cesare Zavattini’s great book Un Paese (A Country), published in 1955. This work combines literature and photography and features a collaboration between Zavattini himself, who worked on the texts, and the American photographer Paul Strand, for the images. It is deeply rooted in the spirit of Italian Neorealism, and in narrating the reality of the small village of Luzzara it also provides a testimony to the connection and mutual influence between American and Italian art.

This is part of the legacy I am taking up, it is the bequest of two great men whose work remains necessary and relevant to the present day.
Their work is only one of the many projects that have actualised a specific gaze on reality, world and life; a gaze I want to apply to the city of Naples. A gaze of love.

My attempt consists in inserting myself into a tradition, understanding the past and its reasons as the only way to realise poetic innovation and recount the spirit of time, that flows through the instants we are given to live. Hence, I understand artistic creation and representation as acts of testimony and memory, which, starting from the past and inserted in a present that constantly runs away and evolves, can be useful for future choices.

Obviously, Strand and Zavattini’s project is not the only one I am taking into consideration and through which I ponder my destiny. In tracing a genealogy, to which my studies and my life path draw me, I refer to multifarious sources of inspiration: Walker Evans and the photographers of the Farm Security Administration; personalities such as Giuseppe Pagano, Alberto Lattuada, Paolo Monti; the reasons and the gaze on the world and reality that are strictly connected to photography and literature in the States, and that generated Italian Neorealism in various artistic forms; the other work on Naples by Zavattini, Napoli – Una città nei suoi personaggi (‘A city through his characters’), realised in 1968, with texts by Vittorio De Sica and images by Herbert List; the whole generation of photographers, such as Mimmo Jodice, Giovanni Chiaramonte, Guido Guidi, Gabriele Basilico, Luigi Ghirri, Vincenzo Castella, Fulvio Ventura, Mario Cresci, Olivo Barbieri and others, who emerged in the 70s and 80s (some also before); Luigi Ghirri’s projects like Viaggio in Italia (‘Journey to Italy’), Esplorazioni sulla via Emilia (‘Explorations on the Via Emilia’), or other projects such as Archivio dello Spazio (‘Archive of Space’), by Roberta Valtorta and Achille Sacconi; finally, and I intentionally left it to the end, another great project must be mentioned, which is perhaps the main source of inspiration as concerns my intention to try to reproduce faithfully the spirit of a city like Naples. This consists in the series of books and exhibitions curated by Cesare De Seta in the first five years of the 80s, which in some instances anticipate the projects mentioned above.

Being aware of the complementarity of the different forms of art and expression, and of the need for a gaze on reality characterised by respect, care and love, which in the past years have become necessary in order to represent the complexity of reality (a complexity that perhaps is not possible to grasp in its totality, but towards which its representations tend, seeking to “bring it to light”), I would want to represent the city of Naples by bringing photographers, writers, filmmakers and musicians into its streets and inviting them to produce their artistic vision of the city.
Specifically, in the context of this cultural and artistic inheritance in which I place myself and which I have just partially mentioned (and it is precisely for this reason that I can think and imagine such vision), starting from the series of initiatives on Naples, my aim is to create a project of synthesis between the various modalities of approaching the representation of Italian landscape and society that were adopted in the past decades, and to provide an image and a representation of Naples that combine Photography, Literature, Cinema (also comprising video-art and video-poetry, or audio-visual poetic forms in general) and Music.

I then formed a group of young authors from different parts of Italy, which at the moment consists of seven photographers, four writers, three musician and a filmmaker, with the objective of realising an exhibition and a book (that will obviously also include a support for multimedia material). All this wants to be just the first step of a series of further projects that, with the same hope that characterised Zavattini’s intentions in Un Paese, will take this gaze (or these gazes) to other places, in Italy and beyond.

I decided to realise this project in 2015 in order to allow plenty of time to develop and structure it, but also and more importantly because 2015 is the 30th anniversary of De Seta’s last project of the Neapolitan series, Napoli ‘85 – Cartoline da Napoli (‘Naples ’85 – Postcards from Naples’). Moreover, Expo Milan takes place in 2015, thus allowing to form a strong cultural connection between the two cities. With this objective in mind, parallel to the search for potential interlocutors, I am currently working to put together a scientific committee that would give its cultural and artistic support to the project. So far, I received confirmation of their intention to participate from: Giovanni Chiaramonte (photographer who took part in De Seta’s project in the 80s); Maurizio Gemma (Director of Film Commission Campania); Gianni Canova (Professor of Cinema History, Head of the Faculty of Communication, Public Relations and Advertisement of the IULM University of Milan, Cinema Critic, Writer, Curator of numerous exhibitions); Cesare De Seta (Architect and University Professor).

I want to do something for my city.

This is an ambitious, large-scale project with great impact; but it is equally necessary.

Necessary like the love that sustains it.

Marcello De Masi

  1. Cesare Zavattini, Paul Strand, Un Paese, Einaudi, Turin, 1955