‘E Zezi with Marinella Senatore, ZIG ZAG ZEG ZUG, 2018. Collage on paper, 18 x 12 cm (invitation handmade by Angelo De Falco, ’E Zezi).
The ‘E Zezi Workers’ Group and Marinella Senatore
Proloco #1: ZIG ZAG ZEG ZUG
August 19–December 8, 2018
Opening: August 19, 6:30pm
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“Why don’t you open a gallery in Milan?”
The idea behind Proloco came about after viewing the project Onore Perduto by the Sicilian architect Grasso Cannizzo at the Architecture Biennale in 2016. In the catalogue text, the Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef is cited, according to whom “the mosquito is the only animal capable of defeating a rhinoceros. Or rather, a swarm of mosquitos. A metaphor for Capitalism, the rhinoceros possesses an untamed, brute force that destroys everything that stands in the way of its interests (competitiveness), annihilating all smaller beings (local businesses). The only strategy for survival,” according to Max-Neef, “is to become so small as to no longer constitute a threat for that formidable force (and thus be left in peace), yet at the same time be able to suffocate the pachyderm if a common agreement to act is reached.”
The “‘E Zezi Workers” Group and Marinella Senatore
Proloco #1: ZIG ZAG ZEG ZUG
How important can the area of origin be in the work of an artist?
Let-downs are always just around the corner. Despite the fact that in artists’ passports there is just as much of the exotic as the art world demands, and although they might tell us stories that range from the Middle East to Cuba via South Africa, these stories are at times pieced together from within the comfort of a family flat in London’s East End, or dreamt up in some cool New York apartment.
Members of The “‘E Zezi Workers” Group and Marinella Senatore come from Pomigliano D’Arco and from Cava de’ Tirreni: towns in the Campania region, poor and with an agricultural tradition yet which only a few years ago proved unable to escape from the perverse arrival of modernity, with all its industrial illusions.
On second thoughts, at the start, ‘E Zezi and Marinella Senatore didn’t really have anything exotic to offer the art world, although there were other things to offer the world around them: few and simple words which—although in contemporary society may seem outdated—in the art world are nothing short of unknown: the social class they belonged to.
How important can it be in art to have had any real experience of the stories that are told?
The ‘E Zezi first emerged in the 1970s in the Alfasud factory in Pomigliano D’Arco. They were factory workers, students, teachers and the unemployed. For years, they simply told the stories of their lives. Stories of factories, of labour and of struggles against exploitation. They made music, theatre and visual art. An open collective that, over the years, more than 350 people passed through.
In an era in which, in Italy, ferocious company managers can become national heroes, The “‘E Zezi Workers” Group is not archaeology of the workers’ movement, but represents one of its last pockets of resistance.
Marinella Senatore is the daughter of a post office employee and a primary school teacher. Thanks to her father, from a very tender age she experienced the world of political militancy to the point—as a cinema student—of joining the No Global demonstrations at the G8 in Genoa in 2001. In the face of institutional violence, she had to lower her film camera. She lived through the defeat of her generation and decided from that moment on that her only means of action in the world would be art. Over the years she has done all she can to tell her own stories to factory workers, students, housewives, and all those who have decided to contribute to the creation of her great participatory projects.
“A che po’ servì?” (“What good can it do?”)
What good can it do? This is the sad question posed by one of the founders of ‘E Zezi in a documentary. It’s true, a whole social class would today appear to have been destroyed, first of all economically, but most of all culturally. And so what good can these artists do with this art, so full as it is with fine intentions?
However, I was struck by a sentence I came across in ‘E Zezi manifesto: “Canzoni contro la mala ciorta” (“Songs Against Misfortune”).
What drives a factory worker, after eight hours of work, to shut himself up in a rehearsal room or to undertake an extenuating journey on a rickety bus? What drives hundreds of common people, for days, perhaps after having worked and looked after their own children, to carry out tiring rehearsals only to then take part in a performance a few hours long?
For this reason, together with my colleague Sveva, we decided to bring together ‘E Zezi and Marinella Senatore, because people may use their art as a means to counter misfortune, and to identify themselves and once again find a class awareness.