Quartiere Latino

Land research involves a number of very different scenarios, sometimes opposing, sometimes complementary, sometimes simply far apart. However, the one that many of us find ourselves most familiar with is the measure of the city, which carries with it a myriad of meanings and signifiers. Indeed, the city, in historical meaning, is identified as the cradle and evolutionary index of civilization, the crossroads of peoples, cultures and generations.

Today, on the other hand, it is often experienced, yes as a possibilistic and fertile place of opportunity, but at the same time as an alienating container of our lives and perceptions, denoting a distancing from contact with nature and our neighbors, from sharing, and perhaps from the very essence of life, whatever it is!

A small bulwark of humanity's resistance against "the wear and tear of modern life!" (declared an advertisement of perhaps 30 years ago!), are perhaps neighborhoods. Dimensionally smaller, they often reproduce the dynamics of cities, but they live by their own laws, their own customs and traditions, aware that they are a particle of a larger core, but with peculiar and unreplicable characteristics. Each neighborhood often lives a life of its own, with its own pride and ills, while outside the city continues its wild race against time (and traffic!). In line with Carlos Moreno and his "city of 15 minutes," neighborhoods are perhaps the most immediate, and certainly very Italian, response to the problems of big cities 

In the collective imagination and lexicon, the word "neighborhood," especially when related to cities in southern Italy, is often associated with redevelopment projects in deprived, run-down, or somehow to be reclaimed areas. I defy anyone to refute the fact that the first thought was this after reading the word neighborhood. And sometimes there are two ways to do this, social projects with "neighborhood" families, precisely, or works of aesthetic beautification of particular places or views, with various works, often street art. (Am I wrong?)

Quartiere Latino - Atelier Alifuoco, Napoli, 2022 -
Quartiere Latino - Atelier Alifuoco, Naples, 2022 -

The truth is that the neighborhood can be anything but an area to be reclaimed or uplifted, to be made pleasant and "ameliorative" in appearance and use. Instead, it can be a beating heart, a nodal center, a connecting bridge, it can be a thousand things, and also have its own clear and limpid life flowing quietly without jolting, and without even major dramas and/or major recovery works needed. 

Now, what if in a neighborhood that is not exactly central, but not exactly suburban either, of those that are uncharacteristic and touristy, but full of history and stories, a group of artists decides to make that place, not only its headquarters, but also and above all an artistic and cultural reference point for an area that has none of that? Something like Latin Quarter happens! 

The project was born within the walls of Atelier Alifuoco, an art workshop that hosts the studios and respective research of four artists, Nicola Vincenzo Piscopo, Lucia Schettino, Francesco Maria Sabatini and Maria Teresa Palladino. The atelier, in recent times has combined the private activities of the artists in residence with the desire to produce relationships with other artists and practitioners in the cultural sector, often under the open studio formula, together with guest artists.

This direction and attitude of the group found the perfect fit in the development of the Quartiere Latino project. The title refers to an art collective born between World War I and World War II in Naples at the initiative of Naples' last bohemian, painter Giuseppe Uva. 

The group used to meet on a large terrace on Via Cesare Rosaroll, a few meters away from the current location of Atelier Alifuoco, to work by sharing spaces, ideas and energy. Borrowing this name, the Alifuochi then decided to create a "km0 contemporary art museum" within the spaces of the apartment building that houses the atelier, intercepting artists working in the surrounding neighborhoods such as Sanità, Foria, Duomo, Carbonara, etc.

 "In the hope of inaugurating a virtuous circle, rehabilitating the image of an area and projecting it to reception, QL aims to be a representative point of the area's artistic life and at the same time an authentic documentation center of the contemporary," these are the wishes of the project, which relies on the support and energy of neighborhood merchants.

Below is an interview with the initiative's curator, Nicola Vincenzo Piscopo.

Interview with curator Nicola Vincenzo Piscopo

How did the idea of Latin Quarter come about and especially why? What are the motivations that led you to the realization of this project?

The idea of the condominium-museum is something similar to the art stations in Naples, that is, the desire to bring art into the public, into the everyday, into the city. Only its movement is from the bottom up and aims to highlight the secret excellence of the area. Something similar I was imprinting with colleagues from the &nd project collective, in the hope that we could find a communion of interests between artists and apartment buildings, between those who identify spaces and those who inhabit them.

The project was not followed up, and when, in the private interest of having a studio, I met Atelier Alifuoco, there were some fortuitous combinations that started Quartiere Latino. Basically, the stimuli of cohabitations in Atelier Alifuoco's studios have led to collective open studios in which worlds and opportunities are exchanged, a process that had already been going on for a few years by the Alifuochi colleagues.

The desire for certain graft also comes from a condition of isolation: for years we can feel a certain distance between the artists in the area, who tend to be accustomed to a solitary path, but in the consciousness of knowing them all and presented with the opportunity to present a project at the art days in December 2021, we decided to start convening them to launch into this ambitious project.

So together with the first artists with studios in the Sanitá district, Clarissa Baldassarri and Gabriella Siciliano (two very young stars of contemporary art), we met Paolo La Motta, who accepted our proposal with great enthusiasm, telling us anecdotes about a group of artists who, about a hundred years ago and in the same neighborhood, had intentions similar to ours, under the name of Quartiere Latino.

Gabriella Siciliano. Jump. Installation view. Photo by Alessandra Mustilli.jpg
Gabriella Siciliano - Jump, Installation view, Napoli, 2021 - Photo of Alessandra Mustilli
Are there any territorial needs that you feel you are meeting with Latin Quarter?

We try to meet needs that the neighborhood does not know it has: in awakening a sense of belonging and active participation, to feel part of something big and looking to the future, in caring for one's living. To evoke, in dreaming, the hope of those who now allow themselves to live, as in some elderly apartment buildings who before us saw only the blight of a run-down apartment building on a dirty, busy street.

We want to open the eyes of those who no longer want to look, expanding our need for different visions to those who do not imagine them. Mine, along with that of the Alifuochi and those who are supporting the project, is a collective need for beauty. Loosely quoting Veronica Biesesti's work for the second edition, we want to pull out the diamonds embedded in the rock, as if we were miners of precious, hidden resources.

In this regard, I want to invite your readers to visit the new works by Andrea Bolognino, Veronica Bisesti and Lucas Memmola, which opened last June 17. Here an interview of the three artists.

Andrea Bolognino - Senza titolo, installation view, Napoli 2022 - Photo of Francesca Wander
The surrounding area, the neighborhood, located immediately outside the historic center, is perhaps not too accustomed to this kind of initiative, but it is probably, for this very reason, more pure and "virgin" in this respect. One of those places where anything and everything can happen. How did it react to the first edition and based on the daily hints, how do you think it will react to the next editions and the long-term project? 

What seemed necessary for the realization of the project was to involve sponsors from the area, so we were immediately able to experience citizen interest. Francesco Sepe of Antica Cantina Sepe (a wine shop that is redeveloping the Virgins area with aperitifs and live music), literally fell in love with our project, which at first was just a mythical tale accompanied by the vibrant energies of an idea to be realized. 

Thanks to him we are able to organize a series of events that allow us to raise the necessary funds for the production of the works. We are very happy to see a great spirit of sharing, and in the wake of this great drive we are gathering the interest of other merchants who will soon support us for upcoming initiatives, such as the historic restaurant "Lombardi 1892."

Meanwhile, we have noticed how many students at the Academy of Fine Arts in Naples are taking an interest, drawing inspiration in networking and pursuing the vocation of making art.

What do you hope and fear for Latin Quarter?

The hope is to transform, not only the apartment building, but the entire neighborhood, by putting the authentic work of artists interested in the community at the center. We hope that our seed has been planted in fertile soil and that Quartiere Latino will succeed in becoming an autonomous and self-regenerative reality. Fears are private, individual things; mine perhaps is that of any independent identity, which is that of not always having the strength to sustain the project.

Lucas Memmola - Fuoco Fatuo, installation view, Napoli 2022 - Foto di Francesca Wander

You have stated that the project will last two years with editions every six months, do you think it could be prolonged, transforming and adapting according to future needs, or do you see it as a term project? 

That would be great. The form of the condominium-museum is, in our case, the possibility of creating a more direct contact between the user and the artist's studio, the beating heart of the genesis of the work. mapping Latin Quarter is also in the future hypotheses of an organized tour in the ateliers, an increase in studio visits or even a Studi Festival like those of Milan between 2015 and 2017.

We measured a two-year project by the vision at that time, and since ours is an integration of visions that stimulate each other in a perpetual sense, we can imagine that we will come to build more, based on the needs and opportunities that come our way.

Nicola Vincenzo Piscopo, curatore di Quartiere Latino. Photo by Alessandra Mustilli
Quartiere Latino - Nicola Vincenzo Piscopo, curatore di Quartiere Latino, Napoli, 2022 - Foto di Alessandra Mustilli
written by 
Fabiola Cangiano
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