Città effimera
16 giugno - 10 ottobre 2015

Mapping the recurrence of penises within a given urban context – sketched randomly on walls, shutters or benches – can elicit various reactions in the observer. It will make the more mischievous smile and perhaps the more prudish turn up their noses. It is certainly a curious operation, all the more so when carried out by an artist and when the context in question is the historic centre of Bari, a maze of architectural treasures both great and small, of arches and votive shrines, of alleyways and churches, where age–old rituals and traditions weather, as best they can, the onslaught of postmodernity. Ephemeral City is not looking to excite salacious smiles, however, nor to shock the more conventional among us. SAM3, the inventor and executor, has accomplished something that has illustrious anthropological precedents. In 1910, Georges-Henri Luquet catalogued similar drawings, gathered here and there around Paris, from barracks to public baths. He noticed a link, at once aesthetic and psychological, between these obscene drawings, primitive art and children’s drawings; and he gave the name réalisme logique to the human capacity, which he believed was innate, to represent those bodily attributes which were considered the most important. Many other scholars have followed suite in later decades; and SAM3’s work seems to be on the limen between anthropology and urbanism. Not by chance, this particular mapping has ‘accidentally’ generated others – like the map of hearts, the map of arches, the street map of the old town – of things which aren’t usually mapped. From here to an aesthetic discourse is a short step. Above all when the mapping aims to catalogue, not so much an architectural element as the existence of a practice which, no matter how banal it appears, is actually many things all rolled into one. It is the recollection of an age–old and primitive symbology – from the caves to today, via Pompei – which has not really undergone mutations. Much more simply, it is one of the many forms of appropriation of an urban space. The city, that heterotopia, finds in art, and in artists like SAM3, not a solution perhaps to its thousand age–old conflicts, but certainly the best key to its interpretation and transfiguration.