The latest exhibition at the Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst (NGBK) in Berlin, called Self Made Urbanism Rome, explores the Via Casilina, an arterial road in Rome running south-east from the central Porta Maggiore to the city’s borders and beyond – that became exemplary in urbanism, be it only because of the work of Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Self Made Urbanism Rome refugium berlin

The area already enormously fascinated Romantic artists from the past who viewed this urban-rural landscape as complementing the historical and cultural densification with classical temples and inner city palazzi. The artists taking part in the S.M.U.R. project apply contemporary methods to investigate this historical terrain, and in doing so, they are continuing art history in a new way: in an exchange with scholars and city activists, they explore the self-built and self-organized city that expanded here over the last hundred years and since the death of Romanticism.

Rome’s unplanned growth and its diverse forms of informality are an expression of the city’s particular nature and self-willed approach to urbanism. Around a third of the built surfaces in Italy’s capital city were informally occupied by its residents, and constructed without building permission or links to the urban infrastructure. This phenomenon has a long history and took very diverse forms, from self-built provisional accommodation and ethnic Roma settlements to major speculative ventures. The complex history and character of the urban landscape that resulted, unstructured by any master plan is exemplary of the development of major cities in the early 21st century.

Today, in Italy, the lived practice of self-organization is also of crucial importance in current debates and arguments over the beni comuni, public property. After many years of seeing the ‘commons’ misused, it has become clear public that property also needs to be protected against state action as well as private interventions. This, in turn, requires the development of sustainable models of self-organization. The numerous cultural locations squatted over the recent years, such as the Teatro Valle Occupato or Cinema America in Rome, testify to the breadth of the movement that world on this change. The exhibition Self Made Urbanism Rome offers a historical framework for a range of experiences of the self-organised city and, in doing so, also presents new approaches to the future organisation of the public domain and common goods. Participating artists are:
Sabine Bitter / Helmut Weber, Giuseppe Ferrara, Maria Iorio / Raphaël Cuomo, Stefano Montesi, Rena Rädle & Vladan Jeremić, Klaus Schafler, Sandra Schäfer, Alexander Schellow, Joel Sternfeld, and Tobias Zielony.
Key Visual: Markus Weisbeck
Accompanying the exhibition a booklet is available in German and English.