Rivers of people flood Rome everyday to collect memories and absorb something out of its the dense history. Under the cold waters in center of the squares of Rome, for few seconds, the loud busy city becomes quiet again, suspended in time.
Utopia: a desired land, appearing as a vision just in the dreams of the pilgrim.
The monumental white marbles and statues spitting fresh jets of water become in this way the catalyst for a series of stories and journeys, including mine, and enables us to disconnect from what we see. The bottom of the fountains becomes a symbolic territory where thousands of underwater stories take place.
The work was created during a Fellowship at the British School at Rome,
and awarded with an honorable mention at the Jill Todd Award 2014.
The work began as a spontaneous reaction to the city while I was looking at the relationship between people and public spaces for my original residency research proposal about the open-air cinemas of the city.
While absorbing the innumerable stimuli of Rome I ended up looking at an old photograph in a museum. The picture, taken in 1865, shows piazza Navona, one of the main squares of Rome, completely flooded. Apparently the Pope, which was ruling the city at the time, took the conscious decision to flood the square in the summer to give a bit of freshness to his people. Meanwhile, in winter 2014, due to almost a month of rain, the river Tiber started overflowing, submerging a vast portion of the villages on the north side of the city. Since my encounter with that photograph I started observing more carefully the role of the city’s numerous working fountains. Despite their age and the reason why they were built I was interested in what their use is now, paying specific attention to the contrast between the monumental function and their actual use. I observed that one of the regular groups of people using those waters were people considered marginal in Italian society: the rose venders. Their use of the fountains is strictly related to the massive presence of tourists: immersing the roses in the water to keep them fresh and alive in the hope of afterwards selling them. I entered one of the many tourists’ shops, bought a disposable underwater camera and put my hands in the same waters, performing the same action over and over. I guess was tracing a sort of journey throughout the city following the rose petals on the surface of the water, questioning the roles of the pilgrims and the tourists and their relationship based on roses and water.
The work conveys the idea of an "otherworld", a series of unseen landscapes emerging from one of the most photographed cities in the world. These landscapes are in stark contrast with the busy city; they talk about somewhere far away, alien and silent. I like to think that the absence of human figures in the work is balanced by the evocation of these fragile imaginary worlds. The bottom of the fountains becomes a symbolic territory where thousands of underwater stories take place.