Presenting the street as a source of inspiration

“The Street. Where the world is made” is a large-scale exhibition at the MAXXI in Rome which brings together more than 200 works by 140 artists and examines the place of sharing par excellence.

MAXXI, The Street, 2018

It is hard, if not impossible, to imagine a tidy and perfectly intelligible street. As Walter Benjamin wrote, “Streets are the dwelling place of the collective. The collective is an eternally restless, eternally moving being that – between building walls – lives, experiences, recognizes, and invents as much as individuals do within the protection of their own four walls. [...] The street reveals itself in the arcade as the furnished and familiar interior of the masses.”

As well as taking to the streets of Rome with the poster by Alfredo Jaar and Jeremy Deller, for this exhibition the MAXXI has not focused on creating an overly linear layout. A touch of chaos is a necessary component in this presentation, forcing us to walk among the works, at times with the sensation of not entirely knowing where we are, and with the fear of missing out on something. This feeling of frustration is then compensated by the surprise revealed on encountering intense and explanatory projects.

Within the exhibition “The Street. Where the world is made”, which embodies an immense number of works (200, by 140 artists), one needs to move without the anxiety of those who want to absorb as much as possible in just a few hours, instead wandering like a flâneur enjoying the luxury of losing themselves in the streets/corridors of the city/museum and coming across illuminating corners/works.

In the first corridor, the visitor already runs the risk of feeling overwhelmed by the density of pictures and posters displayed in a gallery, but on reflection, there is no street in the world in which we are not simultaneously bombarded by images.

On the street, each and every one of us is free to choose what to focus on. In the same manner, in the first section (entitled “Street Politics”), viewers may be attracted for example by the “Demonstratoin Drawings”, drawings of demonstrations commissioned by Rirkrit Tiravanija from a range of Thai artists, or by the racial protest posters by Andrea Bowers. Similarly, they will be drawn to the videos of demonstrative actions “Angry Sandwich People” by Chto Delat, or by the design by Sam Durant for a public fountain.

A touch of chaos is a necessary component in this presentation, forcing us to walk among the works, at times with the sensation of not entirely knowing where we are, and with the fear of missing out on something.

The streets in this exhibition have no names (instead, colours are used to guide us), and they interweave, at times confusing wanderers. These streets are differentiated by the themes around which they are built, and it is possible to pass from one to another without being entirely aware of the change. As well as the aforementioned section Street Politics, the themes examined are: Mapping, Interventions, Everyday Life, Good Design, Community and Open Institutions.

Of interest is the reflection which opens Mapping, regarding the evolution of the city from the rigid urban grids of the Original New York to the futuristic visions of mobile buildings by Archigram, as well as more contemporary and real considerations on how and to what extent our streets are under control, highlighted by the installation by Farzi-Lofti Jam and Mark Wasiuta, or polluted by cars.

In Good Design, as well as photographs of artistic car designs (those shown live are by Patrick Tuttofuoco and Pedro Reyes), there are also reconstructions of fantasy cities such as “RMB City” by Cao Fei and musical compositions created from the sounds made by a vending machine in the video by Carsten Nicolai.

MAXXI, The Street, 2018
“The Street. Where the world is made”, exhibition view at MAXXI, Rome, 2018

Considering that the street is the home of the collective, and the theatre of everyday life (as the name of the section suggests), the encounters that may take place are wide-ranging: from refuse-objects, such as the anti-monumental deposits by Jimmie Durham and the wall paintings by Flavio Favelli to the banal and unusual action-images such as feet crushing a Coca-Cola can in the video by Adel Abdessemed.

The street is where the community lives, in which an enormous and varied mass moves in an indistinct flow, as shown in the video by Kimsooja, but it is also the place where a man – Francis Alys – can walk, kicking a flaming ball in front of him.

Considering that the street is the home of the collective, and the theatre of everyday life, the encounters that may take place are wide-ranging

Numerous artists have worked on the street, creating works such as What The Fuck Am I Doing? by Martin Creed, or Returning Sound by Allora & Calzadilla, both shown together with many other videos in the Interventions section, which is dedicated to this theme.

But while it is possible, as though it were an open-air museum, for the street to host works of art and monuments (to then use them in the most wide-ranging of ways, as skaters do in the ironic poster by Raphael Zarka), the Open Institutions section examines the other side of the coin, regarding the fact that museums are seeking to move beyond their role as preservers and exhibitors, regularly attempting – with varied results and through the importation of a range of differing practices and processes (as is the case with the operation by Simon Fujiwara in New Pompidou) – to become a meeting point which ever-increasingly resembles a plaza.

“The Street. Where the world is made”
Hou Hanru and the curatorial team of MAXXI
Opening dates:
07 December 2018 – 28 April 2019
Via Guido Reni 4/a, Rome

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