In Naples, artists use irony to tackle festering trash crisis
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“Images can tell much more than words,” says Raffo. “Changing these paintings that have made the history of art is a way of showing politicians how badly things are going here in Naples.”Skip to next paragraph
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Villaricca is another difficult town north of Naples. That's where percussion band BidonVillarik comes from and rehearses. The members play instruments made from abandoned mattresses, tires, pieces of furniture, bottles, cans, and whatever else is available in their area. Their sound is simple and partly traditional, their sometimes-rude lyrics show frustration toward a political leadership that hasn't done much to clear the streets.
“We use the poorest and most available instruments of the moment: garbage,” says Lello Cardone, BidonVillarik's founder. “We want to bring forward solutions, such as the idea of recycling.”
Italy declared a state of emergency for its waste in Naples and the Campania region in 1994. Since then, trash commissioners made recycling a top priority for local governments, together with the creation of incinerators and permanent dumps. But economic interests of the local mafia, the Camorra, mixed with local mismanagement and distrust by residents, put a halt to most projects. So every year, local councils find themselves struggling with their huge waste output, as temporary dumps fill up and close.
The situation came to a peak in January, after the last legal dumps closed down. When the dirty images of Naples were shown all over the world, then-Prime Minister Romano Prodi nominated a tough former police chief, Gianni De Gennaro, to clear the streets. Mr. Gennaro sent in the Army.
And if most streets are cleaner now, the price paid has been high: tourism has gone down by a third, and the ban in many countries on the region's best-known export, mozzarella, because of the dioxin found after years of lack of care for the territory, have had a serious economic impact on the region.
It's in the postgarbage Apocalypse streets of Naples that “Io sono molto leggenda,” a parody of “I am legend,” is set. The short video, which has become a phenomenon on the Internet, shows Simone Ruzzo instead of Robert Neville in the deserted streets of the city. He is the last man to have survived the trash emergency. And while the ending is ludicrous, the images of the garbage are a strong indictment of the state of the region.
The appeal of trash as an immediate subject for art at the moment is obvious. What remains to be seen, however, says Mr. D'Agnese is whether this is merely a reaction or whether it's creating a stable new wave of art in Naples that will remain. For now, these forms of art are helping the city survive the trash emergency.
“If there is a hope in this region, it is that these young people can say something new, something positive,” he says. “This movement is the positive face of the garbage crisis.”