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#01 espais i xarxes creatives

Contemporary Art Network

Creative process and territory

Romolo Ottaviani

The profound transformations in the use and perception of space, the dissolution of the assumption that space was the manifestation of identity and the crisis of public space are elements that highlight the more-than-formal structural crisis of architectural design as an instrument of integration between Urbs and Civitas. Multidimensional society is atopic, disconnected from the architectural formalisation of space, and the territory is dotted with non-places and hyper-places, fragments of spaces identified by the networks and connoted by elements that are foreign to the architecture and characteristic of media advertising, productions, signs instead” [1]. The geographical space contains the social space that, in turn, transforms it via a network of complex relations, both tangible and intangible, that are part of the social space. Our plural, unstable society characterised by the exponential multiplication of information and networks reflects the complexity in the organisation of space in general, and of the public space in particular.

The public space, a place traditionally dedicated to representing univocal and shared community values, presents itself today as a showcase of multiple experiences related to the different practices that coexist on the same territory, connoting it beyond urban definitions or destinations.

Contemporaneity conveys the exchange of information and the comparison of a multiplicity of attitudes and feelings. Therefore, we can say that while public spaces in industrial city refer to the space as is, public spaces in a metropolis is the space that shows how it changes. [2]

The way in which this complex process of change is developed calls for a deeper analysis on the subject of representation, which includes the concrete experience of the territorial dimension, together with codified uses.

From this perspective, public spaces assume the relevance of a mental place as well as a physical one, a changing, temporary place defined by specific uses: we can walk around the mental place where territory finds representation, through paths that call for the activation of creative processes as a cognitive activity capable of conveying knowledge. The recourse to creativity is functional to a sort of non-cognitive explanation of knowledge; it stands as its formal guarantee and integrates it.

It is in relation to the creative process that the attempt to satisfactorily transcend the ordinary psychological scheme of the linear paradigm of representation of reality is updated, human perspectives are broadened with the discovery of new dimensions, and the individualities of people are enriched giving them the possibility of experiencing these new dimensions for themselves.

Going back and forth from traditional to new, the path there coincides with the disposition of the individual mind, which comes into contact with a physical place to place itself in the mental place of summative integration, of separation, rather than in that of complex integration. The path back is instead is completed using an orientation strategy that allows us to establish links between apparently incongruous elements, which, precisely by establishing this relation, can rather connote themselves in their further entity to organise an integrated experience of the same space.

The dialectic of the mind in the construction of representations of reality is articulated via procedures and tools of the cognitive-affective process.

The representation of space is a thought, and as such, it requires processing all the emotions arising from the specific experience of the space created in the specific space.

However, in reality, the experience of emotions is immediate, while it takes time to elaborate a thought from the emotion that, in this case, contains the representation of space.

The mental place of complex integration is necessarily located at a certain distance from the actual space.

The mental place where the transformation from the emotion to the integrated representation of an experience takes place coincides with the definition of an instance that is placed at a metalevel, in an intermediate, transitional space, a transition from the specific experience to its mental representation.

The process of representation of public spaces from this perspective is like a monitoring centre where the tendency to cultivate an integrated and continuous dimension of how spaces are experienced and lived rather than divided and defined is constantly developed, a perspective that is further amplified by a collective, community-focused meaning of territory.

This monitoring centre is presented as one of the places of the utopia, as it constructs a representation of social otherness, of a space located elsewhere, which corresponds to the imaginary of the group mind.

Therefore, as a place of utopia, it is listed among the desires of social groups, of communities that marks the desires of an era as a leading idea that guides projects, mobilise hopes, stimulates collective energies.

Acting on a territory and transforming it means, first of all, to observe how the space reacts to the impact of the group that explores it, when the group emits signals capable of coagulating energies, and to bring out a tendency inscribed in the material that makes a society: the signals that are expressed via gestures. The research proposed by Stalker (1990) addresses, in fact, the space of the media-driven metropolis: how gestures and their ability to change the perception of space through relational devices and their media representation influence its specific transformation.

As depicted in the works “Vivilerive” [3] (1993) and Al-Quantara [4] (1994), parks and environmental installations set up in abandoned areas of the city of Rome, interventions that able to bring a large number of people to places that were previously considered. An unexpected variable from the cultural codes of society and implemented through a journey, as shown in the works on the circumnavigation of Rome between the railway ring and the GRA (“Stalker, attraverso i territori attuali”) [5]: (Stalker, through current territories” 1995) 5 days and 4 nights through the system of voids we call “territori attuali” (current territories) trying to communicate a contemporary image that mirrors our adventure thanks to the complicity of a famous Roman radio station and many newspapers.

Up to “Il valore dei territori metropolitani, Archivio in uso [6]” (The value of metropolitan territories, Archive in use), a project that Stalker completed for the third edition of “Studio Roma” (transdisciplinary programme on the contemporary of the Swiss Institute in Rome, 2016) or “Xeneide, mito, storia e futuro dell’Ospitalità a Roma [7]” (Xeneide, myth, history and future of hospitality in Rome), another Stalker project in collaboration with Noworking in Rome (2017) via Paris (1997), Milan (1998), Miami (2000) or “Wall(k). Indagine e azione urbana sull’area dell’ex-muro di Berlino [8]” (2005) (Survey and urban action on the area of the former Berlin Wall” (2005), a Spacexperience project (2001) with Stalker in collaboration with

The potential for self-organisation of each of the subsystems involved in the network that characterises a territory strongly diverges from the usual conditions when a project is planned on the territory.

Therefore, on any physical territory, unexpected resources can emerge if we look at them through the desires of a social group, where useful spaces are clearly distinguished from useless ones, those valued and those abandoned, those centripetal and the marginal aspects, spaces that, instead, assume the overall meaning of a public space starting from the use that is made of those spaces, as in the case of the project “Ararat, Campo Boario [9]”, (1999-2003) where in May 1999, Stalker occupied, together with the Kurdish community of Rome, the Campo Boario veterinary building (a former slaughterhouse) to experiment with a new form of contemporary public spaces based on reception and hospitality through the creation of a cultural centre for political refugees. Or in the Spacexperience project “Laboratorio Angelo Mai, lo spazio dell’esperienza creativa [10]” (2006-2008) (Angelo Mai Laboratory, the space of the creative experience 2006-2008) that culminated in the architectural project of a space of cultural production and fruition – a fully reversible pavilion – inside the Parco San Sebastiano, in front of the Terme di Caracalla (Baths of Caracalla) the new headquarters of the Laboratory Angelo Mai of Open Art and Culture, a collective mostly engaged in the theatre, musical and performing arts.

The impact on the territory of the group that explores it can be described in terms of a structural coupling, [11] a process from which the organised universe where we live arises in a perspective that overcomes Newtonian causal determinism and in which each encounter, rather than representing an influence that modifies the context in a linear way, represents an historical event that allows the system to transform itself while ensuring that its self-organisation structure remains unchanged.

This is the theoretical approach that guided me on my research work on territory within the multidisciplinary groups I worked with and coordinated, groups characterised by the interaction generated by mutual influence between artistic and scientific components. This is the planning experience of different collectives with a “variable geometry” that in the early 90s worked on the imaginary through relational processes: the idea of complexity, the systemic-relational model, the concept of entropy, inhabiting, understanding and critically describing transient, marginal and border environments intended to contribute to the evolution and creative transformation of contemporary public spaces through practices and events of conscious participation and through the planning of spaces for cultural production and enjoyment. These research groups/collectives have been configured as network organisations of artists, architects, researchers of different disciplines and video-makers both from Italy and overseas that combine fieldwork, planning and training.

On an epistemological level, this approach tends to overcome the pattern of classical gnoseology, which makes knowledge coincide with recognition, while it proposes knowledge as a creative construction and defines the creative process in terms of format. In this sense, the idea of creativity as something super intellectual, or even opposed to the intellect is overcome in the actions of the collective by rule-changing creativity, by an approach that opens, in addition to the recursive meaning proposed by structuralism, a transforming, diachronic perspective at a signification-code level.

This is the purpose of tracing transformations on the territory that are not limited to changing its urbanistic and socio-environmental features, but that also have the relevance of real mutation forms of the genetic code, which is the matrix of territorial identity.

The exploration of space through a group is a form of presentification of this attitude of the mind to place itself in a metaposition with respect to the experiences of relations with the territory and has inevitably relapsed on projects and interventions.

The creative activity is a meta-operation that proposes constructive operations: it is not a matter of choosing the form at the expense of the meaning or vice versa, but to graduate the two levels from time to time taking in account the fact that they cannot be separated.

In addition, an inhomogeneous groupality by culture, motivations, personal and professional events, gives the process of representation its identity as a laboratory of transformation at the various and interrelated levels of perception and construction of maps until the creation of scenarios. The most significant aspect with respect to metacollocation can be found in the complexity of the relationship between the group that experiences and the group that builds a representation, in a network of meanings that are an expression of the quality of the experience and the representation emerging from the observatory of the group mind. This is a relational approach that privileges processes as opposed to content, and that treats the network of personal and disciplinary contributions that converge in the laboratory as symbolic equivalents of an originally divided thought and that, in terms of the experiences on the territory, is oriented towards creativity rather than the self-referencing perspective. The participation in the group’s mind that the laboratory leads is activated from the exchange with the territory and from a comparison on specific aspects of the exchange experiences that, from time to time, change sign from disharmonious, annoying, and extraneous to good shape, familiar and comfortable or the other way around. The action on the territory expresses all these components at the same time, and the metareflexion is connoted as an element of mentalisation that produces the distancing from which forms of observable self-organisation arise.

The group that observes the territory and explores it in the perspective of composing a meaning, introduces in that place a gaze that inevitably includes a project proposal. As the open debate in the professional community of architects about the presentation of the experience of “USE” [12] (Uncertain States of Europe, 2003) has highlighted, this view is as much broader and more perspicuous as the most substantial of a multiplicity of approaches, oriented in an integrated way that disregards the specific disciplinary commitment for the conventional time of group work as an observatory. In this sense, the observatory is the dynamic, nomadic seat of a heterogeneous group that recognises in the interest for the transformation of the territory, the common element that originates other interests, ideas, life habits and shared uses. It is therefore the connective tissue of a human aggregate, characterised by interactions carried out through a peculiar code that is different from corporate codes, and, again, contains a community whose members are bound by a strong sense of participation in the experience. In short, it is a community that designs the creation of a social imaginary that promotes the birth of new relationships and new political values. In the new objects in which the creative process promoted by the community finds expression, not only the element of novelty is realised, but also the need and the search for particular situations of existence and experience that contribute to giving a new definition to public spaces.



[1] Desideri, P.: Tra nonluoghi e iperluoghi verso una nuova struttura dello spazio pubblico (Between non-places and hyper-places towards a new structure of public space) in Desideri, P.; Ilardi, M. (edited by): Attraversamenti, costa&nolan, Genoa, 1997.

[2] Canevacci, M.: Culture extreme, Meltemi, Rome, 2000.

[3] “Vivilerive”, Allestimento/installazione ambientale, manifestazione sulle rive del Tevere nell’area ex-industriale Ostiense, Roma 1993.

[4] “Alqantara, la città del ponte sul fiume”, Allestimento/installazione ambientale, destinata ad ospitare il festival di interventi artistici e paesaggistici nell’area ex-industriale Ostiense Roma, realizzato con l’associazione “Oltre il giardino” e “Radio Città Futura”, 1994.

[5]“Stalker attraverso i territori attuali” (Stalker through current territories), 5-8 October, Walking tour of Rome through abandoned areas of the city. The archive was purchased by the FNAC (Fonds National d’Art Contemporaine), and by the FRAC PACA (Regional Fonds d’Art Contemporaine – Provence Alpes Cote Azur). 1995.

[6] “Il valore dei territori metropolitani, Archivio in uso” (The value of metropolitan territories, Archive in use), Stalker – Urban art workshop, research carried out on the occasion of the third edition of «Studio Roma» transdisciplinary program on contemporary art. The results of the research were shown in the homonymous exhibition at the premises of the Swiss Institute in Rome. Studio Roma 2016 2 February/31 March 2016.

[7] «Xeneide, mito, storia e futuro dell’Ospitalità a Roma” (Xeneide, myth, history and the future of hospitality in Rome», a Stalker and No Working space. With the participation of: Piccoli Maestri – Echis – AMM Archivio delle memorie migranti, Civico Zero and Save the Children, MAXXI – Ufficio Public Engagement, corso Arti Civiche Università Roma Tre. From 10 March to 17 April 2017 at the l’AuditoriumArte, Rome 2017.

[8] “Wall(k) – Indagine su i Territori Attuali di Berlino, analisi dell’area dell’ex-muro” (Wall (k) – Investigation of the current Territories of Berlin, analysis of the ex-wall area) Spacexperience with Stalker and, research project promoted and financed by the Ministerium fur Infrastruktur und Raumordnung des Landes Brandenburg and the Italian Institute of Culture in Berlin 2005.

[9] «Ararat Campo Boario», Stalker research project, financed by the Adriano Olivetti Foundation and the French Academy in ROME Villa Medici.

[10] “Laboratorio Angelo Mai, lo spazio dell’esperienza creativa” (2006-2008) (Angelo Mai Laboratory, the space of the creative experience) (2006-2008), Spacexperience research project and architectural project of the Romolo Ottaviani Architecture Studio Building renovation project, (Demolition and Reconstruction) reuse and transformation to experimental theatre and test rooms of the “Bocciofilo comunale” building in Rome located in the San Sebastiano Park, New home of the “Angelo Mai occupato” collection, historical centre of the Municipality of Rome, a totally reversible and bioclimatic project, client: Municipality of Rome, Dep. XII – Lavori Pubblici e Manutenzione Urbana (Public Works and Urban Maintenance), VIII Unità Organizzativa (Organizational Unit), (Incarico Pubblico del Comune di Roma) (Public Office of the City of Rome).

[11] Maturana, H.R.; Varela, F.J.: Autopoiesi e cognizione. (Autopoiesis and cognition) La realizzazione del vivente Marsilio, Venice, 1985.

[12] USE Uncertain States of Europe – Viaggio nell’Europa che cambia (Travel in a changing Europe), Multiplicity, Skira, 2003.

Romolo Ottaviani

Architect and Ph.D. in Architectural Composition and Urban Planning with the work “Temporaneo (Temporary). Lo spazio nomade dell’esperienza e della sua percezione” (The nomadic space of experience and its perception). He is a professor of Architectural Design and Equipment at the Faculty of Architecture of the "Sapienza” University of Rome, and collaborates in research on urban settings and the musealisation of archaeological sites, at the Department of Architecture and Project (DiAP).

His areas of research include urban planning, public spaces and mobility, developing surveys on the territory and its perception in art, architecture, history and the environment. Among the most recurring areas of his research we can find the changes in the perception and use of public spaces by scientific innovations, the implementation of communication technologies and the design of reversible, temporary architectures and installations for the enhancement of public spaces and of historical/archaeological and environmental heritage.

He founded, organises and manages several independent research groups: Stalker (1990), Spacexperience and Stalker Research (2001), Osservatorio Nomade (2001), Self Made City (2008). He exhibited his research at the most prestigious international architecture exhibitions including: VII and XI Venice Architecture Biennale and Archilab 2004. Participated in the Roman Holiday project at the International Architecture Biennal, Rotterdam, in 2007.

He collaborated with the ABDR Studio associated architects in several projects including the New Roma Tiburtina AV Station, participating in the international competition, and subsequently as project coordinator alongside Paolo Desideri in the preliminary and final phase (2001- 2004).

Since 2006 he has collaborated with ROMA METROPOLITANE for the documentation and communication of the construction of Rome’s new metro and surface lines and the consequent urban transformations.

His works better known as the «Planisfero Roma» of 1995 and the photographic work «Stalker - attraverso i territori attuali» (Stalker - through current territories) have become part of these public collections: Fnac of Paris, Frac Paca of Marseille, CAPS Musèe d’art contemporain, Bordeaux and the Museion of Bolzano.

He was editor of the magazine “Gomorra - Territori e culture della metropoli contemporanea” (Gomorra - Territories and Cultures of the Contemporary Metropolis), quarterly magazine of architecture, urban planning, anthropology and sociology (1998-07). He is a visiting critic at numerous art and architecture schools. His design activity, theoretical essays and exhibitions are documented in the main Italian and foreign art and architecture magazines. Among his publications: The Temporary/Alternative Use of Public Space and the volumes: Il sublime urbano - architettura e new media (The urban sublime - architecture and new media), 2007 with L. Altarelli and Allestire l'antico. Un progetto per le Terme di Caracalla, 2013 (A project for the Baths of Caracalla, 2013).