25 04 08

"Reds against the wall" - Bad News from Isola, Milan

Bert Theis

Isola district is struggling hard to survive in a difficult political and cultural context, being the target of capitalist and neo-nazi aggressions. Two days after the victory of right wing parties at the Italian elections, the Isola Art Project has once again been aggressed.
Neonazi-tags covered the Rosta Project #1, a series of drawings on shutters against the real estate projects in the district by Dan Perjovschi, Andreas Siekmann, Marco Vaglieri (out) and Marco Colombaioni.
"Rossi al muro" ("Reds against the wall") they wrote.
One week before, there had been a robbery in the same building in the rooms of the left wing cultural association Punto Rosso (Red Point), who allowed us to make meetings and to use their shutters for shows. Several computers were stolen, among which that of Vittorio Agnoletto, known for his engagement in Genoa for the G8 summit.

One year ago, in April 2007 we have been aggressed by the American multinational real estate company Hines, who destroyed the factory building la Stecca where out, Isola Art Center and several neighbourhood associations worked for years.
They also destroyed and damaged a big number of art works (Ressler, Potrc, Pistoletto, Papadimitriou, out...). Since then we are carrying on our work in other venues offered by the neighbourhood, in the streets and on the shutters of the district. The current show Permanent Green/Verde Permanente on twenty shutters is a big success in the district (see The local school and several shopkeepers and associations asked to be in a next edition of the shutters show. A public picnic of the inhabitants on one of the main squares, held in order to protest against the privatization and closing up of the public gardens, also met a lot of success, and will be repeated on may 25th.

Isola has become the battlefield of a symbolic, economic and cultural total war.
The aim is, no surprise, the gentrification of the district with high tech towers, luxury dwellings, a mall and “creative spaces”. In this operation the American real estate company Hines and their Italian Catella Foundation are acting very cleverly to cannibalize the opposition movement.
As parents’ associations defend the public parks against privatization, the Catella Foundation started holding events for children, and producing toys for disabled children.
As artists are a lot involved in the movement, they started hosting shows and art events.
They engaged Stefano Boeri, artist and architect, to build "green" skyscrapers on the Isola site, to build....a new Art Center called "Incubator of Art". The fences around their building sites are now decorated with photographs by Gabriele Basilico and several artists and curators accepted to work with them.

These are only two examples of what is happening in this very unequal fight, wherethe inhabitants of the Isola neighbourhood, organized in the Forum Isola, are fighting for the “Parco Possibile”, an alternative development project allowing to save the parks and create a Center for Art and Community life, and to avoid or at least limit gentrification of the district. The struggle’s first positive results have been obtained in the neighbourhood council and in the Regional Administrative Court. The neighbourhood inhabitants have filed five complaints to the Court, which has ruled against the construction of a 30.000 m3 shopping mall in place of the present park. Inhabitants and artists are engaged in a face-off with the city government and private developers; but its conclusion is, as of now, impossible to foresee.


Bert Theis