The myth of progress seen from the south

The exhibition, presented in Naples, deals with contemporary practices linked to the massive social changes of the last half-century: urbanization, industrialization, creation of new urban peripheries, demographic transformation of rural space, struggles linked to bodily choices, freedoms and constraints. . Utopia Dystopia: the myth of progress seen from the South presents works by some 55 Italian and international artists – all related to the Campania region and the Madre collection.

The emphasis is on the contrast between the utopian promises and the dystopian experiences of modernity. The analysis focuses in particular on southern Italy and the representation of the violent logics and contradictions that underlie economic progress. From Mimmo Jodice’s observations on the outskirts, industrial architectures and southern landscapes of the 60s and 70s, to the photographic tributes of Antonio Biasiucci to abandoned villages and pastoral life in Campania, to the investigations of Raffaela Mariniello and Ibrahim Mahama on the industrial area of ​​Bagnoli, with its powerful and toxic beauty.

Human beings can reshape their lives and their environment with the help of technology and science, says the modern ideology of progress, thereby creating new perspectives for the future. New freedoms were promised to women and other historically marginalized or economically disadvantaged people. But these utopian visions often never come true. So many people have found themselves isolated in the suburbs, with precarious, poorly paid and often dangerous jobs.

Since the end of the sixties, several artists have contributed to create utopian spaces for sharing knowledge and artistic experimentation on the outskirts, in particular in the Neapolitan context. Several artists have focused their research on questioning, from a historical perspective, the established order and accepted norms. According to the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, neoliberalism is “a program designed to destroy collective structures capable of hindering the pure logic of the market” (Le Monde diplomatique, December 1998). In the South, however, these structures and values ​​are still preserved and existence is often celebrated collectively, with the prospect of another future.

The Utopia Dystopia exhibition is made up of sections, such as Urban Space as opposed to Rural Space, where Bianco-Valente has decided to ask the question to all the inhabitants of the village of Roccagloriosa in the Cilento region: “What is missing? ? This very question is suggested by a phenomenon like the continuous flow of young people to the cities. There is also the Peripheral Space, which deals with the fact that during the post-war period, the urban working class was relegated, along with the newcomers from the countryside, to the peripheral areas: their residential district was a sort of forced exile.

Other sections are devoted to the extra-territorial space and the space of the body. The modern promise of progress in the social recognition of women and others discriminated against because of their sexuality or cultural background is becoming the focal point of artists’ research on how the body interacts in public and private.

As for the Industrial Space, the link is with the region of Bagnoli: from 1910 to 1992, in the 2000 m² of the bay of Pozzuoli, has been the pivot of the mass production of steel, causing environmental pollution through land and sea, bringing with it also the conflict between health and working conditions, which became topical again, in a different way, during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The exhibition is curated by Kathryn Weir.

Paola Sammartano

Paola Sammartano is a journalist, specializing in arts and photography, based in Milan.

Utopia Dystopia: the myth of progress seen from the South

July 09 to November 08, 2021

Madre Museum

Via Settembrini 79

80139 Naples