Constellations of Communities
An Eye on Rome

Any bid to capture an artistic community in Rome is bound to come up against a critical methodological problem, given the multiplicity and layering of languages typical of such a large and plural city. Indeed, we would more accurately speak not so much of a single artistic community — i.e. one understood as an organic, combined whole — as of a constellation of community experiences which operate on several levels. Setting out our research approach thus demands that we first identify a precisely oriented analytical plan. Our intention is that in this text, this analytical grid will coincide with the aggregations of artists that have arisen in the city — ones born of the need to operate in synergy, in a perspective of sharing and exchange as well as project-development processes which are themselves open to the collective dimension. So, here we would like to outline the most relevant experiences that have emerged in recent years, within the context of a new wave of projects in this territory.

First off, it is useful to offer an outline, and hence non-exhaustive, reconstruction of the genealogy of this phenomenon. Going back in time, a well-known example, indeed one that has already become a focus of historical attention, is the Pastificio Cerere,[1] famed thanks to the stories of the generation of artists who met in its spaces. Of these, some would later became driving forces in the archipelago of studios in the Via Arimondi, in the Italian capital’s Portonaccio area.[2]

Among the various stories of communities originating in the aggregative logic of the collective, but also interested in sparking interdisciplinary and participatory practices, we cannot fail to mention the example of Stalker.[3] It remains active in Rome, pursuing ever new and articulated programmes.

Finally, it is worth mentioning the long-standing activity of the Edicola Notte, created upon the initiative of the artist H.H. Lim. We may note that in this case we are speaking not so much of a space driven by a collective of individuals, as of a catalyst for a community of artists.

As has been suggested already, after several years it has recently been possible to discern a certain movement setting underway in the Roman scene.

The watershed moment for this phenomenon, as well as for the related interest it has aroused, can be identified in the post-pandemic period, and more particularly in the autumn of 2020. In this context, facilitated by expanded temporalities and the interruption of the frenzied travels of those involved in this work, the blossoming of new spaces presented itself as an opportunity for the recognition of projects and groups that had already been active for some time — or, more generally, of a generation of artists which had already been operating in Rome, but probably not hitherto received adequate attention.

All this has provided an incontrovertible expression of artists’ tendency to come together, as they seek out opportunities for engagement and exchange on a day-to-day basis. They do so animated by the desire to create synergies in conceiving new exhibition proposals, as they strive to actively participate in this territory’s cultural life.

This period also corresponds to a certain attention devoted by those most directly involved in this work, which has led to several initiatives for mapping out this phenomenon. These include the book Vera, edited by Damiana Leoni (2021), the exhibition Materia Nova curated by Massimo Mininni at the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Rome in 2021, as well as a series of meetings in various institutions, such as Mai visto a Roma (Roma Arte in Nuvola, 2021) and Area condizionata (MACRO, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Roma, 2022). But how much has the desire to create a community been proven to be the driving force behind certain projects — or is this outcome instead experienced as a chance occurrence?

In the panorama described thus far, these motivations are sometimes linked to the need to develop a collective practice and rituality. Or sometimes, to the desire to offer a concrete response to the undeniable systemic and institutional shortcomings of this territory, compensated by certain specific initiatives.[4] In other cases, however, the aggregations are driven by affinities of vision and language. This is surely true in the case of Numero Cromatico, in which the main purpose of the aggregation corresponds to that of artistic creation itself. The collective’s convergence of aesthetic visions, but also its setting itself an advance objective of defining a community of action, makes this example especially worth investigating. It was formed in 2011; it would over the years draw into its ranks an increasing number of artists and researchers with the aim of creating a “community of people who share intentions and ideals”,[5] while also gradually turning its practice towards an action understood as the expression of a “collective identity”.[6]

This basic matrix has gradually oriented the collective’s practices towards the creation not only of their own artistic projects, but also other initiatives, open to a broader involvement of external audiences and collaborators. These include the Nodes editorial project (a magazine focusing on the relationship between art and neuroaesthetics) and the organisation of exhibitions, workshops, performances and curatorial projects.

From the outset, the collective has questioned the role that science might play in understanding what happens at a cerebral level during the observation of a work of art, as well as more generally interrogating how the mechanisms of perception operate. Keeping such questions as a permanent focus, many of its initiatives have delved deep into the contexts and practices of the enjoyment of art such as visiting hours and environmental and climatic conditions, while also experimenting with the poetic and linguistic possibilities linked to the use of artificial intelligence.

It is also worth mentioning the examples of SPAZIOMENSA and Spazio in Situ, two experiences of rather differing traits. We will here delve into these cases in order to stimulate reflection on the concrete role that these artistic aggregations can play in activating community practices, starting with the definition of a new artistic and cultural landscape.[7] 

SPAZIOMENSA, a group originally made up of five artists and two curators, has pursued an intensive exhibition programme in the Ex Cartiera on the Via Salaria, especially over the course of 2020–21. It can be said that this space’s activities have helped trace the contours of something of a vacuum of projects, which has now become evident in Rome’s contemporary art scene. It further demonstrates — albeit more markedly so in the short term — the potential for the convergence and circulation of alternative energies.

As a more structured and long-enduring reality, Spazio in Situ is characterised by its meticulous organisation. It offers an organic and functional image, through the sharing of an exhibition and creation space. This expresses the value of a structure which can take the form of a true community outpost in a Roman periphery otherwise largely excluded from the possibility of artistic fulfilment.

However, these sparks of activity — the harbingers of possible transformation strategies — have perhaps not been adequately registered in the relevant institutional forums, and especially in municipal ones, as examples of a viable best practice.

A general critical element in this panorama could be identified in the formation of communities that often do not extend beyond specific groups or those who frequent them. Yet there surely are experiences that have made clear their interest in a relationship with the territory, with a shared intention of fostering the recognition of a broader sense of mutual belonging. This is, for instance, the case of SA.L.A.D. (San Lorenzo Art District), an initiative for mapping and networking the different artists and realities of the San Lorenzo neighbourhood. Even in its brief spell of activity thus far, it has aimed to develop a dialogue between the different actors, spaces, and cultural operators there, while encouraging the ever-greater involvement of local inhabitants. For instance, the efforts at popularisation carried out by means of guided tours, are pursued within an inclusive perspective, addressing mainly people who are not involved in the artistic context.

The work of SPAZIO GRIOT can also be taken for such a case in point. While in its derivation it is more akin to a curatorial model, in recent years it has been particularly active on the Roman territory, orienting its activities towards a greater involvement of non-artistic communities.

In the projection of a desirable sense of community over the long term — that is, one capable of putting the collective interest ahead of the mechanisms of individual ambition — the question is posed as to what conditions need to be fulfilled in order to generate a suitably fertile artistic ecosystem.

The flourishing and vitality of such a conspicuous number of artistic realities outside the spaces officially dedicated art may be read as symptomatic of weakness, and even the absence, of a common strategy, in a system that does not often prove able to help the new generations develop and pursue their projects. If this is indeed the case, then a solution must be sought in a sustained and dialogic effort including both operators and administrations.

If institutions gradually became more conscious of the role which they can play, this could surely contribute to unblocking mechanisms which today, unfortunately, appear jammed at several points.

[1] The Pastificio Cerere’s artistic adventure began in the 1970s. The first to set up his own studio there, in 1973, was Nunzio, followed by Bruno Ceccobelli, Gianni Dessì, Giuseppe Gallo, Piero Pizzi Cannella and Marco Tirelli (members of what was later called the San Lorenzo school). Over time, other spaces were used as studios, hosting artists such as Myriam B, Ottavio Celestino, Giovanni De Cataldo, Ileana Florescu, Rossella Fumasoni, Roberta Mariani, Meletios Meletiou, Michele Melotta, Leonardo Petrucci, Gianni Politi, Pietro Ruffo, Andrea Stoger and Alessandro Valeri. In 2004, Flavio Misciattelli created the Fondazione Pastificio Cerere, giving fresh vitality to this experience. Bringing together different generations, this has underscored the undisputed cultural continuity that has arisen from the continuous, reciprocal exchange between artists.
[2] The beginnings of this aggregation date back to 2004, when a group originally involving Gianni Dessì, Piero Pizzi Cannella and Angelo Cricchi moved into a former warehouse in the Portonaccio area. This initial core was joined, over time, by Claudio Abate, Elisabetta Benassi, then Mauro di Silvestre, Marco Colazzo, Veronica Botticelli, Caterina Silva, Seboo Mingone, Francesca Romana Pinzari, Alessandra Amici, and later by Claudio Asquini, Ivan Barlafante, Alice Paltrinieri, Dario Coletti and Paolo Bonfini.
[3] A collective of artists and architects created in 1995, including founders Francesco Careri and Lorenzo Romito. Over the years, it has involved the public in community projects, particularly aimed at residual areas and those undergoing transformations.
[4] In groups characterised by extremely diverse research approaches, the general tendency seems to be that of preferring a community of doing rather than the development of a common aesthetic vision. Meeting points such as Post-Ex, Paese Fortuna, Ombrelloni, Condotto 48, and Rione Placido, have arisen first and foremost from the desire to find a place to work together. Practical considerations, such as reduced space costs, can certainly contribute to the emergence of this phenomenon; however, on their own, they are not an exhaustive explanation for such a clear generational trend. But we should not underestimate the value of such spaces in the expansion and consolidation of an already existing art scene that can be enriched, even if temporarily, by external interlocutors and participants. In this sense, we could also cite the activity of Post-Ex with its recent EX PRESSO and CASTRO artist residencies.
[5] Arte falsificabile e assenza di significato. Principi estetici e fare collettivo nell’azione di Numero Cromatico, text by Numero Cromatico available as a pdf on the home page of (February 14, 2023).
[6] Ibid.
[7] The sharing of projects and the exchange of opportunities for experimentation among the groups’ members has surely helped them each to present their own artistic and curatorial work. These spaces have often provided the stages in which determinate aggregations of artists and curators have conducted their first experiments, in a dynamic climate of self-organisation.

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