For all solid 30 of you who read my blog, you may have noticed my quiet absence over the past two weeks. This is not because I am sick of writing, but more because there is so much to tell you and I haven’t had a moment because I just keep going out and adventuring… Oops! For proof, here is a picture of me in Amsterdam from this weekend.
For the last few weeks, I have been on a HOT mission to find cool spaces and places in Rome, some that maybe are not always a tourist’s first port of call but are most definitely worth a visit. I have also been curious to hit up as many of the contemporary artist exhibitions before their time in display closes, so I PROMISE I will write up these posts ASAP.
But first, to christen this Eterna Alternatività page, I must write about my visit to the MAAM, or the Museum of the Other and the Elsewhere. It is a space like no other, with an atmosphere that really brings its visitors to life.
For those who are unaware, like I was a solid week ago, of what the MAAM is, in short, it is a museum and a residence. The residence of this abandoned industrial slaughterhouse began in 2009, when a group of people from a wide array of cultural backgrounds who needed a place to call home came to this slaughterhouse for shelter. In order to avoid eviction by State police, as their occupation of the unused building would be considered illegal, the people who resided there came up with an ingenious way to ensure their home would not be destroyed; they made it an art museum. These people called this place their home, Metropoliz, and themselves, ‘Metropolizians’. Within the Metropoliz, MAAM was born.
In order to create MAAM, artists were invited to work on their art on the walls, floors and ceilings of the building. By creating art on the building itself, the inhabitants and artists ensured that the police could not destroy the building. According to Carlo Gori, a citizen of Metropoliz, in speaking to Romeing, some of the walls in the MAAM are valued at over €150,000! (If you would like to read more about the specific art that the MAAM has on offer, please click THIS link)
However, state-forced eviction is not the only hurdle they have faced. The Metropolizians had to work from scratch to create a space that was inhabitable and suitable for the many families that live within the Metropoliz, including 70 children. Building from nothing, they have created a shared community space that is functional and entirely unique.
I first heard about MAAM while researching alternative spaces in Rome. I was saddened to find that, often in Rome, when there is a subversion of the dominant ideology or the sounding of alternative voices, there is soon after a state closure of these spaces, such as the Ex Dogana and DalVerme. I wanted to find a way to support the less straight forward side of Rome, the part that does not reflect the sunshine off of its ancient marble or glint golden with flashy brands in fine, historically important buildings. While searching for these spaces, I came across this Romeing.it article about MAAM and I knew I had to go.
The Metropoliz site is pretty far from where I live: a solid hour or so journey there and another to return home. I hilariously enough decided to go to the MAAM on a Saturday, after inviting a random traveller I met on the internet to join me on an adventure. And BOY did we have an adventure.
I was early, so I managed to jump into an Italian tour group that were being guided through the museum site. My Italian is pretty low standard, so I managed to understand a solid 10% of what was said. Thank GOD for the internet, as I had done some of my own research myself before coming.
I followed the tour group through the initial first few rooms, marvelling along with the crowd at the school/education rooms. As you ascend the stairs, you will read the words MIGRANT FOR LIFE. Next, you encounter a whale made entirely out of fishing net and plastic bottles.
This playroom was where the first art works were created for the MAAM and it is where the children who live in the Metropoliz do their homework and learn. It is a beautiful space, one that really has given itself artistically to the child and to play. There is also something very accusatory about the art in this space; something that calls you out for your voyeur-ness.
This is further emphasised in the room below the schoolroom. In this windowless, dark space, you will find a statue of the Virgin in the middle of the floor. On the walls surrounding her are four different works of art that explore and interrogate notions of national identity, refugee treatment and the dangers of apathy/intolerance. Particularly moving are the bird cages painted onto the far wall from the entrance.
At this point, my new adventure buddy had arrived so I went back out to the central courtyard to find them. We wandered about through the many spaces of the MAAM, marvelling at the courtyard moon, playing with the viewing options of the ‘because I am a dreamer’ skylight piece and awkwardly shuffling and considering the effective horror of the migrant boat with skeletal remains as a passenger, with a trail of similar human-like bones in its wake.
We also sat for a drink in the cafeteria where even more art work abounds. We spoke about where we grew up, what we were doing with our lives (read: panicking), what we thought of all we saw. It was a really comfortable space, especially as there are large spaces between tables so it was incredibly COVID-19 friendly.
After a small break, we wandered through deeper, into the more industrial parts of the MAAM, walking along the mural of pigs, where they are shown coming back from slaughter. I loitered about while my adventure buddy used the bathrooms and chatted to the children who were playing on the seesaw. They were not impressed with my bad Italian but they were very amused by the sound of me speaking Irish to them. After realising I was an altogether very boring and candy-less person altogether, they headed back to play together on the seesaw again.
The beauty of this space, I found myself thinking as I wandered around, was just how united it is. How everyone who was on the job in the canteen were truly working together as a team. How well the art and the music that was performed in the courtyard gelled together to remind you of the humanity of all people, regardless of where they are from or where they live. There is something beautifully fiery in the air at the MAAM. Something that lights a part of yourself that is truly all-soul, all human.
If you’d like to visit the Metropoliz and see the MAAM for yourself, they are open from 10.30am – 17.00pm Saturdays. You can check out their Facebook page for more information and for their latest news. Like their page and show them some support! At 11am, they have a guided tour (which is the one I jumped in on) and it is entirely a free tour. To enter the MAAM, you will pay a €5 donation. It is hardly a harsh price for the uniqueness and incredible works that you are to see here. On their Facebook page & indeed, in person on the tour, the inhabitants remind you of their mission and their ethos. That the Metropoliz is a space outside of acknowledged spaces. It is a new way of communal living, where private property and weapons are prohibited. It is a place where artists can donate their time to create artworks and interact meaningfully with the space, its inhabitants and its message.
They sum up the importance of the symbiosis between their Metropoliz home and the art that covers its walls, saying on their Facebook: (Google has so kindly translated this for me)
“By beginning a new, virtuous relationship between the art and the city, between art and life, the Metropoliz is equipped with a precious layer/cover, a collection which helps to protect it forever from the ever-looming threat of forced eviction.”
I have decided to include my sources list above my sign off, in the hopes it will further encourage you to look into this incredible initiative and support their mission.
Ciara O’Síoráin (chi desidera diventare la bella donna figa come gli italiani)