Arts for the Commons (A4C) is a collective exercise launched by Rosa Jijón and Francesco Martone in 2016, meant to provide a platform for artists and activists exploring the connections and synergies between visual production and efforts to reclaim the commons, address outstanding issues related to human migration, borders, social and environmental justice, liquid citizenship. By creating opportunities for exchange, mutual action and sharing, A4C not only operates as a platform but attempts to create a new common, a synthesis between arts and political engagement.
A4C intends to explore the interstitial spaces between power and communities, traditional arts system and society, states and territories. We pursue documentation as artistic practice.
In a historical phase of what Antonio Gramsci named “interregnum” whereas we know what we leave but do not know what we will find, A4C is a space for collective search, experimentation, creation of what post-colonial philosopher Homi Babha named “a third space”, that transcends traditional definitions of arts and politics. Particular attention will be devoted to building bridges and opportunities for collective work, exchange and dialogue between European and Latin American artists and activists.
Our first steps have moved along the issue of migrations and war, starting with the participation at the Nationless Pavillion at the 2015 Venice Biennale, to the pop-up exhibition “From the shores of Tripoli to the hills of Moctezuma” in Rome-based gallery Ex-Elettrofonica, to continue with “Dispacci-Dispatches” an exploration in the history of Italian colonial wars in Libya by means of displacements and re-enactment of historical chronicles and documents read in various locations of the Quartiere Africano (African quarter) in Rome, built to celebrate fascist colonies in Africa.
Subsequently, the collective participated in Artstays Festival 2016 in Ptuj, Slovenia with a performance titled “Erase, delete, cancel” that recalled the case of the “Erased”, thousands of former Yugoslavian citizens that lost their status after the breakdown of Yugoslavia and the creation of the Slovenian state. The leader of the “Erased” Alexandar Todorovic was from Ptuj and was the first to win a legal case for citizenship in the local tribunal. The “Erased” traveled through Europe to deliver a petition to the European Parliament that included a call for citizenship rights to migrants and refugees. The performance consisted in the drawing of an ancient map of the Mediterranean, that was then erased while in the background the voice of the then Slovenian president was announcing the creation of the first barrier to stop migrant flows along the Balkan route.
A4C then produced the video, “A room with a view”, 2017, showing two buildings in Rome that had been occupied by Roma and Eritrean refugees, to then be forcibly evicted to allow those buildings to be put on the international rea estate market. The videos attempted to visualize an invisible “inside-outside” border, and to give a testimony of how transient settlements created urban mobile commons.
Along the same line, A4C produced its first editorial project, DREAMLAND, a book on contemporary arts and migration (2019-2020) with a compendium of critical essays (TJ Demos, Ursula Biemann, Forensic Oceanography, among others) and works from international and Italian artists (from Ursula Biemann to Forensic Oceanography, to Jota Castro, Kader Attia, Oliver Ressler, to name a few). The book was presented on various occasions together with curators, philosophers, artists, scholars, and activists of NGOs that rescue migrants at sea, thereby offering a collective space of interdisciplinary debate and mobilization on migrant issues.
More recent works are a video on resistance to mining in the Quito Metropolitan area that was shown at Bienal Nomada in Guayaquil and Castillo de Mata, Gran Canaria, curated by Francis Naranjo and a performance on Rights of Nature at the Lago Bullicante in Rome. In 2021 A4C organized “Have a wonderful time”, an exhibition on its project on smart cities and the Capitalocene at the N24 Gallery in Quito and “Historia de un Arroyo”, a site-specific installation dedicated to rivers and water defenders at Tālo Galería in parallel to the 2021 Bienal de Arte de Cuenca. In September 2021 we have participated at an artist’s residence at Q21 in Vienna in the context of the exhibition “Overground Resistance” curated by Austrian artist Oliver Ressler. Ongoing projects include participation to a publication on oil and extractivism in Ecuador, and a project on river rights and water defenders in Italy.
Rosa Jijón, Quito (1968)
Artist, activist and cultural mediator, former director of the CAC (Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Quito), CAC. She has participated in various international exhibitions (Venice Biennale, Havana Biennale, Cuenca Biennale) and international artistic residences including ARTEA, Residencia Sur Antarctica 2013 and Q21, Vienna 2021. Her work deals with migrations, citizenship, social justice, and environment, and has engaged in participatory art production with grassroots organizations and communities. More recently she served a 4 and a half term as Cultural Secretary of the Italian- Latin American International Organization (IILA) in Rome.
Francesco Martone, Rome (1961)
Spokesperson of the Italian Network in support of human rights defenders, “In Difesa Di” he is founding member of Greenpeace Italy, juror and member of the Permanent People’s Tribunal and the International Tribunal on the Rights of Nature, and a policy advisor for international NGOs on the rights of indigenous peoples. Former. Senator of the Italian Republic is now an Associate of the Transnational Institute. He has been engaged on issues relating to forests, climate change, rights of Nature, indigenous peoples’ rights, defenders of the environment and environmental justice since 1988.