I hear the monotonous rumble of the expressway. I slowly sink myself into a universe of blue bands. Within 1400 km I will fall into a deep sleep.
Twelve days ago, I was thrown, all 65 meters of me, into the Viale Dei Bambini. There was no plan. Everything was a combination of luck and improvisation. The encounters with the people. The interventions. The school. Emma’s and Cosetta’s houses. The conversation after the city council. The cafés in the marketplace. The banks of the Arno and the actions in the Viale dei Bambini. Unconscious choreographies arose. Temporary meeting places in public space. Playgrounds. Disturbances.
I’m too big. I did not know what to do with myself. It was fierce to be thrown into a world like this. But this might be the best way to find meaning. Now I think my too big size is my strength. I’m too big, but just because of that I can do something. Being too big everywhere, I can get the same things seen in a new way. Like a different mirror. For the architecture of a place. For a landscape. For a community.
There is still so much I want to do. Climb into trees. Swimming. To be held between people in crowded squares. Enter and exit windows of an apartment building … For a longer period of time, stay in one house or organization. As I see the snow, everything quiets down. Another 1200 km to go. I am aware of my entire 65 meter length. Images keep wandering in my mind. I fall slowly into a deep blue sleep.
We left Isolotto after 11 days there. Anna-Lisa had heard of me through social media and invited me to do something in honor of the inauguration of a new square.
El Piagge is a suburb of Firenze, on the other side of the Arno River. Here there is a different and much less romantic reality than in Isolotto. Around us there were about six unbelievable apartment blocks in the form of ships, a lot of sloping ground between, train tracks on one side and above our heads were planes coming in for landings, making conversation unintelligible every five minutes.
Nobody knew what they would do with me here. I was so nervous that I would rather have stayed by myself, wrapped on the bobbin. Ief walked around looking for possibilities and ideas. Several people walked with him. Vincent, Cielo, people from Fabbrica Europa. It was a strange sight, all those unknowns investigating the place. They spoke to different people, and they walked to the middle of the lawn.
I’d be laid in a spiral, people would sit on me, and Ief would tell what I had discovered on the other side of the Arno River, and then in the middle of the spiral a Romanian boy would sing a song.
I lay down on the grass in my full length. The sun was shining. I could have stayed here for much longer. I was picked up. Ief carried my head and stepped to the center of the lawn. Some 50 people carried me. He stopped in the center and encouraged people to continue walking around and around. Slowly I felt that my own outer sides were to be laid against each other, meter by meter. It was the first time I lay this way. The people sat down on me.
Ief told me that I had discovered across the Arno a wonderful neighborhood. He told me that I had brought a word and many memories with me. That the word and memories might not be visible anymore, but he said that they are still inside the rope. That they passed the Arno and brought me to this square because Isolotto might be an inspiration for this neighborhood. I felt like a transmitter of a soul.
The Romanian boy stepped to the middle and sang a song. I felt his leg against me, trembling.
Maurizio carried my head, and so 40 people drove me in and out of the Comunitat de Isolotto, where the archive and history of Isolotto are also kept. We walked further to the Viale dei Bambini, to the lawn below the terrace of Cosetta’s house. They laid me down in a circle. Ief asked everyone to sit down and told me what I had done the last 10 days: the city council, Emma’s house, the Piedebus, … Afterwards, everyone presented themselves. It was the first time we had a conversation after an improvisation.
They brought me to the archive so I could take one word and memory from all the history books: Fiaba. Bout, Ief and others put me in the grass so I could form this word. I can write I thought. Should I have to bring one thing from Isolotto, it was this memory and this word.
We kept the children at a distance and took a picture of the word. Once this happened we went away. The children played and rewrote the word.
Today I was part of the city council. Our suggestion was to re-discuss one agenda item from a different perspective. I invited the councils participants to discuss the project of the mosque with me outside, after the end of the city council, starting from my perspective as a strange visitor of Isolotto.
Ief shared posters and flyers before the start of the city council. Sylvia introduced us. At the end of the city council we welcomed the councilors at the emergency exit of the boardroom.
Although we certainly took into account the fact that no-one might want to participate in this odd initiative, almost all members took place on me. Silvia was the moderator of the conversation.
Kids respond to me, without a doubt. When I’m laying somewhere, it seems as if a temporary space is created. Like this. Or like a few days ago on the banks of the Arno river. But more things are happening, though I do not know exactly what. I always seem to leave a story in the places I’ve been.
Every morning, a row of about 40 children walks from the beginning of the Viale De Bambini to school on the Montagnola: the pedibus (footbus). Valentino invited me to join. This morning I was worn, for the first time in my full lengths, from the beginning of the Viale to the school.
We arrived on the mountain. People applauded for each other. I was laid in a circle so that a fully enclosed space was created. And so I stayed all day on the lawn for the school.
In 1969 the neighborhood protested against the construction of a disco on the Montagnola, an artificial (waste) mountain. In stead of a disco the neighborhood wanted a school. They placed a tent on the Montagnola, occupied the mountain, and won the battle. The paper on the tent says: This is the primary school.
Today, we called Emma with the question of whether I could visit her. No problem said Emma. They brought me all the way in. Afterwards, Emma is getting her children from school. They came home, played and ate cake. We drank coffee and spent time in the apartment.
Relaxing on the banks of the Arno. We had no plan before we came here and only a few contacts in Isolotto. It’s not easy to get a place within the network and time schedule of the neighborhood. Ief has been able to capture various arrangements with residents, the mayor, school staff and someone from a district across the Arno. A young guest who passed by asked if I could come to him, in the center of Florence.
When I’m deposited in public space, I immediately become a public object or a social sculpture. People keep halt, take place on me to pounce, kids try to finish my full length.
They took care of me all morning. After the first day, I needed some little repairs here and there. Especially my ends were weak points.
In the afternoon we went to the square. This was a second experiment, after the first day’s roller coaster. This was different. We were alone and had full freedom to choose what we would do. In the square there was a long gallery with columns. On the right side it was empty but on the left side was a bar and terrace with some older men playing cards and drinking coffee. I wanted to meander in and out of the gallery between the columns, but I particularly wanted to go among the men’s legs and chairs. What would they do when I arrived?
We started at the right side. I was still on the bobbin. The easiest way to get me off the bobbin was to move the bobbin between the columns as I was rolled off. We came closer and closer. The men became uncomfortable. They stood up because they wanted to make way for the danger that seemed to be approaching. Ief spoke to them, but nobody spoke English, and he does not speak Italian. He could only show with his hands that they could stay and play. Someone walked away. They played an animated battle? I did not want them to make way, I just wanted to lie between them.
After many gestures, they understood that they could stay. The bobbin was pushed towards the street so I completely got rolled off the bobbin, and afterwards I was further put between the pillars, through and under the tables and chairs of the coffee-drinking and card-playing men.
What a manifestation. It was the first time we realized an intervention in a direct way from the energy of a place. Ief sat down on me. Bout went to get coffee. Meanwhile, five young people asked if they could make a lot of me again. Like two days ago. Before I got into it, Ief had my ends turned into five circles, and five of them were squeezing down on me. I can earn my money as a professional child animator. That is already clear. And so on the one hand I was a playground for teenagers, and on the other hand … a strange visitor. We shared the flyers, which were in four languages. Flyers as big as a poster.
Tomorrow there is a yard sale on the square. I would like to be draped in and out of the windows of an apartment across the street. People could see us at work. We have visited one apartment building. Most doors stayed closed. Tomorrow early we try again. In the afternoon we want to be here in the square.
When you reach an unknown place, one person can make a world of difference. Emma has made a world of difference today. She has taken Vincent, Niko and Ief around for hours and initiated them in the history of Isolotto.
Isolotto (Island) is the district I have been in for three days now. It is located next to the river Arno, on the outskirts of Florence. When it comes to urbanization, this is a utopian place. And that will be clear if you walk around here. It is as if everyone knows each other, and as if everyone lives outside in the tree-lined and car-free Viale Dei Bambini, which extends broadly between two rows of low city blocks. Besides this modernist urbanization, Isolotto has a an incredibly rich history.
Take for example the story of Don Mazzi. In 1959, Pastor Mazzi gave all the buildings that were meant for the priests and himself, to a school, a place for disabled people and a factory: Fabrica Italiana de accesori. Fiaba in short way, which means as much as fairy tale. The building of the factory was rented for a symbolic rate, on condition that it was used for people from Isolotto, ex-prisoners and people with disabilities. Fiaba produced handbags, various accessories for clothes and ropes!
In 1959, Rome took down the keys from the church from Don Mazzi and forbade Don Mazzi to continue the eucharist. For 8 months that the church remained closed, eucharist, marriages and baptism simply happened outside. After eight months, Don Mazzi got back his permission to use the church. All people came together on the streets and showed their keys: Le chiavi della chiesa chiavi di tutti (The keys from the church are the keys from everyone)!
Ideas slowly begin to take shape. Everything I hear and see, Ief writes down in a small book. Through facebook we get more and more requests and messages. Several people in the Viale Bambini asked why the rope was rolled up. It was very hot today. All day I take in the smell of the warm plastic that protects me from the rain. Dogs find me a very interesting sniffing object. Children pull on everything that is loose. They get underneath me and call me ‘house’. Tomorrow is a new day. I feel like doing something.
Ropes, prisoners, factory. What a Fiaba, what a fairy tale. This can not be a coincidence. And this is just one of the stories Emma told me yesterday.
10:17. We arrived at the place where we would start: Via Dei Bambini. They rolled me off the trailer, took away the tarpaulin, and with the help of relatives they have tried to make a pavilion.
It did not quite succeed. My lower pieces can not carry the weight, causing me to collapse. I am completely handed over to people who do things with me now. I trust that good Ideas are coming, that there will be points of access, and that people will provide interesting input. With just one valuable contact or input you can create a world.
Around five o’clock many people started to come. And almost everyone stayed. Suddenly there was one of my ends with around fifteen children jumping up and down on it. On my other side, they dragged me over the grass and stuck sticks through the blue ribbons, while ten other children just walked over and over me. And while all of this was happening, my other end was pulled with a strap two floors up into an apartment!
Leaning over the edge of the balcony, with my first meter in an apartment, I started thinking. Is this where I am made for? To be a sort of playground for kids? At the same time I looked into the bedroom and and in a flash other options crossed my mind. I saw the personal stuff on the bedside table. Photos of people you do not know. Objects that are meaningless for me but probably for great value and meaning for the resident. I wanted to find out more. I need to dive in to the heads and harts of the people and the place here. That’s where I will find material with which I can do and become something.
Fifteen meters below, the violence continued. I felt I lost more energy than I could give. There was no plan today. They just jumped into the depths, and we completely surrendered ourselves to the energy of the moment. The tree of us felt completely empty at the end of the day, but it was a great start. Tomorrow I will stay on my bobbin. Ief is going to visit residents and search for points of connection, material, stories. He is going to dive in to the worlds I saw when I leaned over the balcony.
20170504_163228 from ief spincemaille on Vimeo.