Eugenio Tibaldi


Since 2000 I have lived in Varcaturo, a "peripheral suburban neighbourhood" to the north of Naples. I come from Alba (CN), a small provincial town; I moved there in order to discover and experience the most malleable and fluid place in Italy. In it I can find the reflections of a silent mutation both in terms of interpretation and reaction to reality; it is a neo-culture capable of influencing and altering socio-economic systems. The suburbs with their “non-boundaries” are suitable for entering into relations with human material according to dynamics that are “different” from central ones, giving rise to adaptive solutions and coexistence between frequently unexpected parts. They therefore determine cultural conditions that change and influence the way of life of the people who inhabit them and trigger mental dynamics which rewrite the rules of aesthetics and social relations. 

For about 10 years I have studied the suburbs and, in particular, their aesthetic outcomes. I document and record the transformations in the relationship between legality, the economy and aesthetics. 

I record cultural signs that are necessary and induced by what power imposes and the economy regulates, the communicative codes that facilitate exchange and the alliances between these fabrics in suburban areas. 

In 2000 I began to paint views of the suburbs, constrained by the technique of painting to make careful observations; using an almost anthropological method, I sought to understand, from an aesthetic perspective, a territory which was until then unknown to me. In 2001 I continued my work, recording photographically the way in which the suburbs communicate with its inhabitants through the superimposing of advertising posters: an analysis of the graphics, colours and illegal fly-posting. By using white paint on photographs to cancel the landscape, attention becomes focused on “architectural form” in its totality. My aesthetic research then shifted, extending to the recording of private economic flows which arbitrarily change the landscape: piles of tyres that re-design the sky-line, heaps of rubbish or shacks used for commercial purposes. 

Subsequently I analysed the vehicles, modified and adapted to carry out specific economic activities in the suburbs, studying the techniques and images of street-vendors, then went on to examine the architectural styles that are re-adapted to organise the times of illegal housing and building, and eventually recorded the image of the suburbs that comes from satellite photographs, as evidence of a cultural and logistical change of a territory. The results are “economic geographies” that underline the commercial choices which are decisive for aesthetics. The structures (such as building sites under sequestration or unfinished illegal concrete buildings), destined to last for only a few months, actually end up becoming a definitive part of the landscape, static evidence of an anomalous situation which, precisely due to its static character, becomes a form of landscape architecture that shifts our aesthetic boundaries. Then I began to theorise, transferring the rules that regulate dynamic suburbs to my artistic practice. In collaboration with Denis Isaia and the Rasq media collective, I set up, for Manifesta 7, the first workshop devoted to post-design. Following the dynamics and rules of illegal housing in the Neapolitan suburbs, a design of a physical structure has been created. For the last two years, I have been constructing a database which makes it possible to create blocks of flats in post-design, structures which do not follow the precepts of one single architect but which are generated by an intimate and private aesthetic logic. At the same time I have been designing entire furnishings which bring together the evidence of the historical period in which they were designed and all its displacements (see a bathroom based on a room). 

Simultaneously, starting in 2004, I began to define the elements of a new project aimed at outlining the parallels between suburbs in different cities in the world. What I am searching for is an alternative to social growth proposed by suburban areas; although they are often considered to be marginal, they actually represent the main engine and economic support of a “formal centre” which is no longer able to respond to contemporary requirements adequately. The suburbs become the place in which new needs and changes have a chance to develop, becoming the linchpin on which the central economic logics can be reorganised and reinvigorated. The equilibriums are turned upside down. Powers alternate in a continuous dynamic game, where each part strengthens and provokes the other. 

Travel underlies this search: in Cairo in 2004/05, in 2006, with the help of Marjetica Potrc, I worked on an analysis of the Barrio in Caracas. In 2008, in collaboration with Platform Garanti, I devised a project on Istanbul, while in 2009 I conducted a study of cemeteries in Buenos Aires. In 2009, in collaboration with Uqbar Berlin, I carried out a study about Bucharest, while in 2010, in collaboration with the Madre museum in Naples and the State Museum of Thessaloniki, I carried out a comparative study between Naples and Thessaloniki. My hypothesis for suburban parallels over time becomes a logic, a scheme of interpretation which has practical applications and is tangible. My work is characterised by two fundamental aspects: on the one hand, it is strongly rooted in Campania, while on the other hand, it is aimed at comparison on an international scale, based on the analysis of the “suburbs” as a condition, rather than as a specific place. The idea is to trace cultural links, to find the connections that do not pass through city or town centres in order to provide an aesthetic representation and propose an evolutionary alternative. The aim is to observe and record the changes at the same time as they are happening, investigating and bringing to light the images, clarifying the dynamics to which territories subject us and attempting to theorise precepts that can be reapplied. 

This involves reconstructing an overall image of the “territory” which is frequently new, giving an identity to relations and elevating seemingly random dynamics to actual forms of logic. I am driven by the desire to define a dimension for contemporary life which I find myself experiencing through these suburban areas, to record and study them as chosen areas for cultural changes, precisely because they are marginal and unloved, free from the weight of historicisation, free from the civic sense and conservation.