The power of Art

It’s difficult describe what Global Exchange and the New York experience gave to me. Throughout the eyes of the Cambodian Artist, their passion, their specific works, their stories, I learnt more about Cambodia and I rediscovered the power of art also in the urban practice.

The day of the symposium the idea of the game with the threads that designed a network of relations reminds me to an important work of art made 30 years ago in the island where I came from.

In the September 1981, the artist Maria Lai designed “Legarsi alla Montagna” [to bind with the mountain], a touching experience of public art for Ulassai, a village in Sardinia in the Ogliastra mountains. 

At the beginning, the work of art was born as a war memorial but the artist turned it into a service for the living thanks’ to her and the community will.  The artist’s project involved the population and for this reasons it was able to root the event in the cultural and social memory of the community. 

Maria said: “my town wanted a monument for the fallen because they wanted to be in the history. History needs original works, works that never were made in any part of the world. So, I proposed a collective action where all the community could take part in doing it. One of the stories of the town is told by generations to the children. The town is threatened by landslides. Going on the mountain have its risks. There’s no wolf, but there’s the storm. Every storm became an apocalyptic show. The thunder is conveyed through the echo for a long time, and, often, houses fall down under the sliding stones”. 

The legend tells about a little girl was sent to the mountain to bring the bread to the shepherds. When she arrived there, she sought refuge inside a cavern where also sheep and shepherds were sheltered, waiting the storm. The storm arrived, stones, wind, stones falling and thunders. Brought by the wind, in the water, they saw a blue ribbon. Only the little girl noticed it, staring enchanted on it. The others thought that wasn’t so important, that was a risk. And she escaped following the ribbon. After a while the cavern fell down, and sheep and shepherds died. 

This legend was used as a metaphor to make a work of art. The artist said: “The ribbon is the art, frivolous, doesn’t give certainty, but can show directions of salvation. The town threatened by landslides is the metaphor of the world. Then, all the community be organized to tie all the houses together with a blue ribbon,(as we would take the hands of someone for the fear) and then bring the ribbon on the mountain to ask peace to the mountain”.

The artwork-event lasted one day but, despite this short time, the design process was long, given the complexity of the public debate: the artist listened carefully to the citizens and investigated their personal and collective memories, in order to seek a “choral insight, a universally symbolic shape”. 

The artist went from house to house, talking to the people and listening the stories of the community. The process was long and difficult. A lot of stories, especially theft, dramas and grudges, bound the inhabitants.

The project involved firstly the woman. Ten people started to believe in this, and these ten started to speak with the others and then became creative. 

The entire operation lasted just one day and photographs documented it: in the afternoon, climbers took the final head of the lace on the top of the steep slope of the mountain: the action culminated with a party in the streets of the village.

The idea of the blue ribbon came out directly from the elderly, in fact this image derives from a legend that is well known in the Ulassai area. If there is no reference to the will of the community, it is impossible to achieve participation.

 The example that I brought here let me reflect about the landscape, how difficult is involve a community in doing something and how scary and powerful is the art its message of hope in giving direction of salvation.



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