On the occasion of the Modenese kermesse, the site-specific installation "Baracca/Inner House" is an "informal" architectural project that narrates the experience of living as a feeling of welcome

Without language, without speech, without a common idiom, there would be no culture of any people. Every cultural phenomenon takes place thanks to the ability of human beings to convey messages, to communicate with each other. It is this expressive capacity mediated by symbols, sounds, locutions, common conventions, that makes social interactions possible. And precisely 'Word' is the theme of Festivalfilosofia 2023 (sponsored by Unesco), in Modena from 15 to 17 September. The city's squares and courtyards will host a series of lectio magistralis in which personalities of philosophical thought will address the declinations of the theme to show the transformations in its various spheres and will explore the centrality of language and language in an era dominated by verbal communication, particularly on social media.

Living and habitat as personal experience

Baracca/Casa interiore, a large installation (3.5 x 3 x7H metres) by artist Roberto Alfano (with the participation of Porta Aperta, Centro di Servizio per il Volontario and Casa Circondariale Sant'Anna di Modena), will tell, over the course of the three days, the stories of those who inhabit places habitually perceived as marginal, but which are in reality habitats rich in vibrant humanity and eager to communicate beyond the confines of their own realities of reference. During Festivalfilosofia 2023, the site-specific installation in Piazza Matteotti (Friday 15 and Saturday 16 September 9.00/23.00, Sunday 17 September 9.00/21.00) will bear witness to an experience composed of fragments painstakingly pieced together, and will be the custodian of a new hope, of a purposeful impulse towards the future after a troubled past.

Read also: Miraggio Inferiore. Roberto Alfano on show at ArtNoble in Milan

Freedom of Expression

Alfano, born in 1981, has been interested in art since the first half of the 1990s, fascinated by the phenomenon of urban art. An interest that over time became an obsessive passion for drawing and painting. His sources of inspiration lie in contemporary underground culture, Art-Brut and post-impressionist and expressionist painting. Alongside her production and exhibition activities, the artist leads artistic-experiential workshops for groups of people with disabilities or with psychophysical and social difficulties. In recent years, his research has focused on the enhancement of the creative process in artistic practice, with a continuous intention of indefiniteness as an emblem of freedom of expression.

We asked Roberto Alfano to tell us about the installation "Baracca/Inner House" and the experience of Festivalfilosofia 2023 in Modena.

What do you want to tell with your installation?

"Baracca/Casa interiore" was created to house some works created during a workshop dedicated to the guests of the Porta Aperta residential reception project in Modena, conceived and led by me. The workshop gave voice to narratives that hardly find a way to reveal themselves. The installation for Festivalfilosofia 2023 aims to put back together pieces of experiences made up of memories lost and then rediscovered, sometimes very far from their places of origin, others still disoriented in their own intimacy. The work recounts an inner home evoked from the dark fragments of a troubled transit, re-read in the light of awareness and acceptance, which reveal a new hope.

So what does living mean to you?

"Baracca/Inner House" is in a way an "informal" architecture project, responding to needs linked to a set of emotional experiences (those of the people I worked with and perhaps also my own) rather than to a material need, but it is in any case a need to feel welcome. This is what I mean by inhabiting, the feeling of welcome. The "shack" of Festivalfilosofia 2023 is a refuge and a transitory space, but it is also an intention of autonomy.

How is your installation linked to the theme of FestivalFilosofia 2023: 'word'?

Last May, I led a workshop with a group of adults residing at the Porta Aperta reception service in Modena, a reality that for over 30 years has been welcoming and supporting migrants and people in situations of psycho-physical and social distress. During the workshop, tales and contents emerged that I believed should be divulged for their topicality, depth and inconsuetude. Tales of people who generally do not have the tools and conditions to express themselves. I talked with the communications manager of CSV (Centro di Servizi per il Volontariato) of Modena, who was working on a project of site-specific installations for Festivalfilosofia 2023, on the macro theme of 'voices from silence', in relation to the festival's official theme 'word'. On this basis we built the installation, together with Davide Sabattini (curator of the project), of "Baracca/Inner House".

Can you better explain the meaning of the workshop?

For a group of 15 people between the ages of 18 and 60, the approach to the workshop was somewhat improvised, with an open-ended structure made up of brief exchanges that dictated the rhythm of a developing relationship, like phrasing. People linked by a common experience: the grip of substance and alcohol addiction, coming from politically and socially compromised continents with no possibility of return, the fragility of their emotionality. Over the course of hours and days, the dialogue intensified. Drawing became a decompression tool to facilitate the flow of emotions. Contents emerged naturally and revealed stories of childhood, of distant families, of years spent living under a bridge. At other times, one would lie down in a great and serene silence, head bent over a sheet of paper while a thought became an image.

"Shack/Inner House" thus tells of the desire to return home, rather than to find one....

The sense of community germinates in the guise of a strange longing for Alaska, which emerges from the participants' stories. An image that undoubtedly jars when juxtaposed with memories of plains hugging the Atlantic, of mountains towering above a red desert of scorched earth, of the tropical shores of the Ivory Coast. These memories of distant, warm and melancholic origins are (perhaps) emblematic of a slowly cooling desire, the impractical longing to return home or to bring back what remains of the joy of life. Perhaps this longing for Alaska is a metaphor for a tabula rasa, a longed-for blank page of cold light like certain dreams, where space and time remain suspended and anxieties are abstractions far removed from reality . However, this crystalline fragility made of fragments and cracks contains a solid and magmatic core within, which emanates the sound of life regaining space.

Photo by Davide Sabattini