Como is currently hosting the 6th edition of the street and urban festival called Streetscape – a total of 10 (+1) installations are dotted around or just outside the old town. Well established in its 6th year, Streetscape now forms part of the changing seasonal agenda when the city shifts focus from the lake attractions of high summer to a more cerebral celebration of its urban structure in autumn. This year Streetscape runs from mid-October until 19th November, coinciding partially with another art/technology event, the 8208 Lighting Design Festival, which also consists of art installations dotted around the town. Whilst the Lighting Design installations can only be appreciated after nightfall, Streetscape is ideal for those looking for a good reason for walking around the old town during the day. Just pick up a copy of the exhibition’s brochure, unfold it and follow the map! Last year I was unable to track down at least two of the art works. This year I have found all of them except the one flagged as being in Via Petrarca.
However I did discover the +1 unlisted in the brochure which officially is unattributed but has the hallmark of Como’s resident street artist and polemicist – Mr. Savethewall. Full details of this work are available on the Facebook site of Pierpaolo Perretta – aka Mr. Savethewall. (Follow this link for CC’s recent interview with Mr. Savethewall). ‘The Great Wave’ has all the characteristics of a Savethewall classic, namely ambiguity, iconic referencing to other artworks and cultures, political polemics and social awareness.
Viewing art seems by necessity to include a degree of personal evaluation ranging from emotional or aesthetic impact leading possibly on to personal interpretations of ‘meaning’. Part of this process for street art may well include considering how the work fits into its urban setting. For example the work by Alberonero entitled ‘Dicotomia’ is described as ‘using squares as a means of pure expression of single colours chosen to reproduce the modularity of the architectural elements present on the site’. If this is the case, are we left to judge the work negatively if we don’t ‘get it’?
One work whose setting most definitely sparked off a lot of consecutive thoughts for me was ‘Spiderman’ in Via Volpi. I loved the contrast between the domestic scale of its Como location to the original Marvel Comic habitat of its superhero antagonists. And it prompted a warm glow of affection for the human scale and warm colours of this Como environment compared with the distopian vision of Gotham City or wherever it is that Spiderman normally hangs out.
One challenge for the curators of an exhibition of this sort must be balancing the needs for security with the sometimes conflicting need for free access. After all, the nature of street art is something freely available to all, to be enjoyed almost accidentally and accessed with the minimum of restriction. But these are works by professional artists who may not take kindly to public modification or outright vandalism of their work. Maybe the one work from a well-established artist which manages to maintain all its street credentials including spatial impact without the need for additional security is the work by Ukrainian street artist Waone on Via Castelnuovo. Installed as an advertising hoarding on a nondescript section of dual carriageway on the periphery of the old town, this is a truly accidental treasure for those who come across It – a gem of fantasy to brighten the day of those driving to and from work on this stretch of road which offers little else in the way of visual stimulation.
Unfortunately the need for security has in most other instances driven the installations behind railings or within the secured grounds of the art gallery or Civic Museum.
If your art is installed behind railings, it should preferably be two dimensional and bright – as is the case with Andrea Fiorino’s work behind the railings of the old greenhouse in Piazza Martinelli. Last year’s installation in this spot was two dimensional but not colourful and so had the impact of a dirty rag slung across a clothes line.
You can also look through the railings of the Museo Archeologico to view Francesco Diluca’s work in the museum’s courtyard but do try to go inside to view this sculpture in the round so as fully to appreciate it.
Icio Borghi’s work in cardboard is safely installed within the Chiostrino Artificio under the portico thus protected from the elements. Here the restrictions on access (only visible when the Chiostrino is open) are of less importance than the fact that the artwork is upstaged by the charm and beauty of its setting. The Chiostrino is a glorious architectural gem worth visiting at any time or for any reason.
Security gets even more severe to the point of paranoia at the Pinacoteca where Filippo Borella’s wooden sculptures are not just accessed within the inner courtyard of the art gallery but in addition close contact is barred by a security tape as used to partition off crime scenes. The sanctity of their display area was also reinforced by the lady on reception warning me to respect the taped-off ‘scene of the crime’.
However the ultimate security arrangements are reserved for Nei Alberti’s piece entitled ‘I.C.’ for Italia Como dislocated from below the Broletto. This work has been removed ostensibly due to problems of bad weather and has been replaced by a photograph of the original installation. This goes beyond irony .
Yet perhaps I am not being fair in making fun of the security conscious curators particularly when considering the installation on the stone wall of Como’s Lago railway station. This installation consists of a variety of shoes stuck to the wall to make the word GO. Some of these shoes have already either fallen or been taken from their setting – thus underlining the fragility of art put before the masses, or the need for some people to match up a much-loved but singular shoe.
Fears of vandalism seem not however to have afflicted the curators of the 8208 Lighting Design installations. This urban exhibition went live on Friday 4th November and runs until the 27th November with 6 different works to be seen. These also offer a good excuse for walking around the city although obviously after dark. Two of the installations are in the Giardini di Tempio Voltiano, and at Porto Torre, Molo di Sant’ Agostino, Via Pretorio and finally at the Villa Bernasconi in Cernobbio. ‘Horizontal Interference’ by Kasjo Studio is also interesting enough during the day without artificial light!
The Comune di Como is to be congratulated for their imagination in supporting these urban art initiatives but maybe the Streetscape curators need to be just a little less risk averse when seeking to protect the authenticity of their artists’ works.
After all, Street Art should by definition be open to public modification yet as it too assumes ever increasing commercial value, its authenticity requires greater protection which in turn causes it to become ‘gallery art placed outside’. Street artists need to be prepared in the manner of Mr. Savethewall, to have their art modified, vandalised or even removed as the price to be paid for true street credibility.
Streetscape 6 runs until the 19th November. The 8208 Lighting Design Festival consists of the 6 installations around town, an exhibition at the Pinacoteca Civile named ‘Black Light Art’ and a number of other events. Details are available on their website.