The pioneering artist and leading figure in the DADA movement, Marcel Duchamp argued in one of his writings that “the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act“. The involvement of the spectator in the creative act and the influence of the spectator’s view on the artwork is a question that became central in the art production around the ‘60s and ‘70s, as many artists started to ask themselves what is the role of an artist in society and what duties an artist has towards society, and moreover which role the artist plays in the society. With these questions and upon these reflections, the artistic research gave birth to those movements such as public art, socially engaged art, performance, land- art and so on. In consequence of the rebellions that were taking place in the main squares of Europe and the U.S., all the artistic movements at that time saw art as a political medium and thus as a participatory act, which involves citizens and invades the public sphere.
Fifty years from that important date, the 1968, that represents the worldwide social upheavals of that historical period, the National Museum of 21st Century Arts- MAXXI decides to host in its spaces an important, wide and diversified exhibition titled “THE STREET. WHERE THE WORLD IS MADE”. The exhibition allows the visitor to observe and investigate the street, which is far from merely being an architectural city landscape, but is instead the stage of protests, rebellions, feasts, manifestations, but also injustices, cruelties, inequalities, or sometimes massacres. The wide and open architecture of the museum give the possibility of walking throughout the many artworks (more than 200, made by 140 different artists), that recreate those elements which inhabit our cities nowadays and which shape and mold the contemporary public space. The visitor finds himself immersed in a plurality of objects, sounds, and images that evoke the street, and at the same time question it.
A good example is given by the work by Eugenio Tibaldi or the one by Jimmie Durham, who both collect objects coming from the street in order to inquire the meanings that an object can hide and to reveal the society’s construction carried by the objects. “Architettura minima” (“minimal architecture”) by Tibaldi suggests to look at the shelters built by homeless people from a new point of view, i.e. to look at them as ready-made sculptures. In this way the artist redefines the concepts of architecture, which is no more limited to its static and imposing features, but it can also include the ephemeral, precarious and nomad forms of living, to which some people of the contemporary times are condemned to. In the case of Durham's artwork, an ensamble of different objects are arranged in order to create an installation, which kind of becomes a sculpture, that seems to pay homage to the street, meant as an inexhaustible source of materials and therefor inspiration.
The choice of exhibiting more than a video next to the other and of letting play the sound of each video at a pretty loud volume somehow forces the visitors to talk loudly if they wish to comment a work they have in front of their eyes and it therefore lets the exhibition space break away from the “white cube". In this sense, it is also interesting to observe how some works of art were placed inside the exhibition space: the installation by Shen Yuan occupies a wall inside the museum and extends itself on a big window looking out onto the large square of the MAXXI Museum; the visitor is not only invited to look at the artwork, but by doing this he/she is also invited to take a look outside, toward the public space, the street, in its deeper meaning. Another example of the permeability of the museum, which seems to be the file rouge of this exhibition, is the Flavio Favelli’s artwork: a series of 11 scribbles, written using a blue pen. The artist found these scribbles on the walls of the maritime station in Messina and decided to bring those words on the walls of the museum. Favelli’s artwork “Fami Male”, which is devoid of frame and which literally “occupies” and takes over the wall of the MAXXI Museum, makes the beholder wonder for a moment, whether the scribbles on the wall are planned or not. Again the division between the space of the street and the space of the museum is shut down and the visitor is given the possibility to observe the public space in a way he/she otherwise would not. “The street. Where the world is made” is hence an exhibition that constantly merges the inner and the outer space of the museum, thus generating a dialogue and favoring a new vision of the street: a place where a plurality of objects, individuals, constructions, ideologies, symbols and especially announcements constantly merge.