The photo reportage of yore relives through the direct experiences of artists, writers and musicians

Words and images by Matteo Nasini

Via Italo Calvino
The streets of cities are full of names that I don't know: the names of the streets. Here are entire armies of statesmen, admirals, adventurers, politicians, in the shape of headstones, or flag-like on poles, which, after the actions, the fame and the efforts of a lifetime, serve only to remind you how to get to the hardware store.

When they decide whose name to give a street, is there an aesthetic criterion, or research into the link between the geographical context and the person? Often, the toponymists ambling through nameless streets group historical figures together by genre: writers, philosophers, musicians. There are also agglomerations of city names. Sometimes, in the historical centers, the street names reflect the activities and events that took place there, like via del Polverone (Dust Cloud Street); or like via delle Balene (Whale Street) and dei Salmoni (Salmon Street) being close to the sea. But sometimes that's not the case, and so via Coccia di Morto (Dead Man’s Sheath) takes you to via delle Pinne (Fin Street), and via della Cellulosa (Cellulose Street) leads to via di Boccea.

Via Alberto Moravia
It's like a mountain of history passing by, compounded by itself, occupying all the space intended to take you someplace else.

By way of the names, space seems at times to develop outward chronologically. To find streets called after contemporary figures you must move toward the suburbs, tens of kilometers away from viale Mazzini and piazza Cavour.

Largo Dino Buzzati
In Rome’s modern neighborhoods, buildings come before streets. The streets aren't born from a human need to move from one place to another; they position themselves in the middle of nowhere in the form of great earthy clearings traversable only by cranes and excavators. When the new houses are ready, the streets get asphalted. They run all around the blocks, so that walking them always takes you back to the starting point. You advance in loops, never getting to another place without revisiting where you took off.

These places are like the first or last signposts of a city. In front of them, expanses of uncultivated fields – where U-shaped roads fold back toward the high-rises – delimit the confines between the ancient world and the modern. The world of the video entryphone and that of the doorbell. When you observe the fields from the street, they seem like absent spaces that have come to lack the basic necessities that allowed them to survive, and where nothing grows anymore. But it’s only once you venture onto the fields and look back that you can fully see the wound the buildings have inflicted on the territory.

Viale Filippo Tommaso Marinetti
When a herd of sheep appears to cross the street, then immediately flows back into another field, these worlds look as if they are about to meet. The sheep move together, in a block, bells tinkling – if you're in a car or even on foot you have to stop and wait, it's a force of the past that eludes our time and next to which the traffic lights, one-way signs and zebra crossings suddenly appear worthless.

Many of the streets in the Laurentina neighborhood in the south of Rome are named after twentieth-century Italian writers, an example of gradually advancing toponymic grouping: from via Cristoforo Colombo you turn onto viale dell’Oceano Atlantico to then take viale Cesare Pavese, a little like the nameless protagonist’s return from America in The Moon and the Bonfires.
There are many names missing here that strike me as important. Among them, Pier Paolo Pasolini, which is actually on the other, North, side of the city, along the via Trionfale, also suburban and isolated.

I walked to the top of via Salvatore Quasimodo, along the dirt road turned car park flanking its sides, up to the opening of a field covered with tall grass. On these border streets, it's as if the narratives of the twentieth-century Italian writers find correspondence, or validation, in the surrounding geography. There's the proximity to the suburban context found in many novels of the past century, but there's also something deeper that points to a human conflict and to a change that never happened. That is, a change in man's place within this mechanism of housing expansion, in which space seems created precisely to negate and turn its back on everything that doesn't involve contemporary needs – needs born from an economic system that is enormously bigger than all of us, even though in the end it isn't.

Maybe that’s just an impression prompted by the visual presence of the horizon, which, in the city, doesn’t exist.

Via Salvatore Quasimodo
Matteo Nasini (1976) is an artist based in Rome. Utilizing diverse media – sound, sculpture, video, photography, drawing, music and embroidery – he creates installations and performances in which the relation with the spectator is founded on the dialectic between the experiential and poetic levels of engagement. Most of his works – from the eolic sculptures to the photography series – manifest a strong connection with the places and contexts in which they take shape, in both symbolic and perceptual terms.

* This title is taken from the opening lines of a poem by Dino Campana. It can be roughly rendered in English as "I loved you in that city where on lone / Streets," but the original Italian contains an untranslatable ambiguity deriving from the placement of the word sole ("lone," but also "sun").