Atlas of Padania Classics

Filippo Minelli’s hefty book, illustrating a research conducted by the artist since 2010, focuses on blots on the Italian landscape and reminds us that Padania – the Po valley area – really has very little that is positive to teach us.

Filippo Minelli, Atlante dei Classici Padani
Filippo Minelli, Atlante dei Classici Padani , Krisis Publishing, 2015, €60 (bilingual edition Italian/English)

A vast critical output focuses on blots on the Italian landscape today and the hefty Atlas of Padania Classics adds a new piece to the jigsaw, illustrating research conducted by the artist Filippo Minelli since 2010.

Minelli’s work analyses a part of the country that normally of more interest to sociologists than artists – the wealthy Po Valley area. Piedmont, Lombardy and Veneto are the chosen locations of “Padania Classics”, featuring the agro-industrial suburbs that link hundreds of Italian municipalities and often have a maximum population of five-ten thousand.

Filippo Minelli, Atlante dei Classici Padani, Krisis Publishing, 2015
Filippo Minelli, Atlante dei Classici Padani , Krisis Publishing, 2015
The years of a depressed economy have brought novel forms to the familiar excesses of 20th-century national territorial development and new entries among the symbols of the international urban sprawl – long identified as the suburbs of Milan, Brescia and Verona, with a production landscape that is home to small and miniscule family-run manufacturing enterprises (car parks, industrial sheds, superstores, service stations, small villas decorated with Doric columns plus funfairs and water parks). Now, there are roundabouts featuring towering monuments of “invented tradition”; massage centres selling cheap sexual favours; “Pound shops” and “We buy gold” stores plus other sundry pawnbrokers; shabby casinos where people gamble on slot machines; and even recently opened motorways that remain deserted.
Filippo Minelli, Atlante dei Classici Padani, Krisis Publishing, 2015
Filippo Minelli, Atlante dei Classici Padani , Krisis Publishing, 2015
Minelli was born and raised in the province of Lombardy; in 2010, he started building up a huge quantity of photographs featuring archetypes of Padania’s visual identity in an operation with irreverent intentions: to debunk the founding myths of the area at the centre of the nationalist dream of the Lega Nord , the xenophobic and populist political party spawned by Lombardy’s popular discontent in the 1980s. Published online by Padania Classics, the pictures have attracted a growing throng of followers and supporters, drawn to the portrayal of places as dispiriting as they are familiar (approximately 20 million people live in the Po Valley). A crowdfunding campaign prompted the idea of the Atlas , published at the beginning of July as the completion of the project.
Filippo Minelli, Atlante dei Classici Padani, Krisis Publishing, 2015
Filippo Minelli, Atlante dei Classici Padani , Krisis Publishing, 2015
Filled with caustic portrayals and comments, this 720-page book and its classifications are well worth a browse. Inevitably, a glance at the promotional signs scattered through it (in keeping with that “Crisis Marketing” that obsessively shouts out: “Win, Super, Shock, Outside, 99, Call, Space, Everything”) prompts a paragon with Learning from Las Vegas , the hugely seminal essay that presented architects with an interpretation of real “eyesores”.
Filippo Minelli, Atlante dei Classici Padani, Krisis Publishing, 2015
Filippo Minelli, Atlante dei Classici Padani , Krisis Publishing, 2015
Although there are glaring differences from Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour’s 1972 text – Minelli is not an architect and his target audience is only partially an architectural one – the two works share an interest in those spaces lacking professional design and consecrated to non-stop productivity normally observed in a passing car.

 

There are no monumental Strips in the Po Valley (although Minelli pinpoints one in Roncadelle, not far from Brescia) and it is paradoxical to think that some of the towns ruthlessly portrayed, from Meda to Cantù, are home to famous and sophisticated Italian design companies. The Atlas of Padania Classics focuses on an environment geographically far removed from Las Vegas but ideologically next door to it and dominant, to all effects, throughout much of Italy. The recurring features of this landscape, stripped of any hope of economic growth or redeeming postmodern theories, really are a sorry sight. After the Lega Nord, inspired by the French Front National, recently abdicated its original secessionist intentions in pursuit of the image of a respectable and patriotic right-wing party, the Atlas of Padania Classics is a reminder that Padania really has very little that is positive to teach us.

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