Reflection by Laura Raccanelli and Alice Nagini
It was early May 2023 when a student pitched a tent in front of the Polytechnic University of Milan to protest against the high rents and a cost of living far above the average of other major Italian cities. The theme of the housing emergency in Milan exploded into the city's public debate. Of course, it is not only in this city that the consequences of the housing crisis are observed; anyone who has had the unfortunate experience of looking for a room in any metropolis, responding to unjustifiably exaggerated ads or offers at the limits of acceptability, has surely noticed it. This happens when a large portion of the real estate stock is removed from the rental market due to various factors, such as the widespread presence of vacant or empty houses, both private and public - in Milan, there are over three thousand unassigned public housing units - combined with the increase in short-term rentals aimed at the tourist industry and the growth of a student or transitory population occupying the rest of the available rentals. The consequences fall especially on single-income families, students, and precarious young people, who today find themselves more and more often sharing experiences of widespread housing instability.
So, what makes a home? The people who live in it, the place where you live, or the things that compose it? And what, instead, unmakes a home?
The Zeroscena Collective and Silvia Francis Berry with AFFITTASI LUMINOSISSIMO BILOCALE propose a site-specific exhibition inside spazioSERRA to reflect on the theme of living in the city today.
Starting from their personal experience, the artists reconstruct inside the former newsstand of the Lancetti station - twenty-two very bright windows, octagonal shape - a custom-made apartment, as proposed for the 2024 exhibition season suMISURA, with adjacent mattresses, a narrow kitchen, cardboard sofas, and even a bathroom with a WC and shower. To be more precise, it is actually the objects that give measure to this installation: the setup consists of discarded furnishings recovered from ads or acquaintances; the walls are merely a line drawn on the floor. The pieces that make up this fictitious home are those small or large objects that we are now accustomed to seeing in the ads of popular groups on some social networks, where things we want to get rid of are given away. At the end of the exhibition, the objects will be returned or circulated through the same channels.
The set of exposed elements configures a system of objects in transit: temporary shapes, traces of an inconsistent structure, waste converted into resources. Each of them carries the narrative of those who experienced it, but it is in the dimension of movement and relocation that they formulate a new joint declaration. Becoming other than themselves, things redefine the meaning of domestic space, which from stable and protective becomes an emblem of compromise and necessary adaptation. What frees up space in one apartment, stacking up in another, speaks of a contemporary living that is itself transient. The installation, with its recovered furnishings, is then dis-habitual in giving concreteness to the etymological betrayal of inhabiting [from Latin habitare, properly «to hold», frequent of habere «to have»], it tells of a mobility imposed by housing precariousness and at the same time symbolically declares the prohibition of settling. Movement, the opposite of stability, thus envelops the very bright room for rent which, in turn, becomes an object of transit for its own placement: touched by the bodies passing through Lancetti station and by visitors who inhabit the installation for a few minutes.