CityX - Io, Bergamo
Art Project 2018
“Paese che vai, usanza che trovi”, is the old adage: “Other countries, other customs”. Unlike in Germany, in the “bel paese”, or “beautiful country”, a lot depends exclusively on whom rather than what you know. The artist “Doris” knew “Klaus”, who approached his stepmother “Mariarosa”, who in turn contacted her niece “Lori”, who was friends with “Signora Poli”, who spoke with her colleague “Nicoletta”, who then contacted the reti sociali (social networks) that interlink the inhabitants of all the neighbourhoods. This is how the project “CityX – Io, Bergamo” came into being and how Doris Graf was able to start her drawing activities in the provincial capital of Lombardy in March, 2018. So far, the global art project CityX has been carried out in 10 cities around the world. It involves collecting drawings from the general population that express their relationship with the city and then, after a detailed analysis of all the results, generating a cityscape in pictographic visualisations. Using this method, the artist developed 16 pictographic motifs of the city.
Bergamo, situated on the edge of the Alps, is an extraordinary city made up of two parts: the Città Bassa (lower town) and the listed Città Alta (upper town). The historic architecture of the city has always been a favourite motif of its inhabitants. Graf’s work embraces the old town, the Venetian city walls (a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2017), a Renaissance palazzo, and a city gate with the coat of arms depicting the Lion of Saint Mark, a reminder of the city’s religious origins and its time under Venetian rule. Two graphic perspectives – the view from the upper to the lower city and vice versa – are each represented in one picture. The drawings also tell the viewer a lot about the culinary habits of the city’s inhabitants: famous and highly sought-after Bergamo specialties, the daily ritual of enjoying a good cup of coffee, but also fast food, illustrated by internationally renowned symbols.
Influenced by the diversity of these individual impressions, Graf’s cityscape expresses not just a positive, romantic panorama, but also critical aspects of a real place where people actually live: air pollution, violence and drug abuse, a lack of parking spaces, and sometimes difficult human relationships. The graphic statements made by a lot of young people, who complained about the lack of suitable meeting places got their own picture. “More Language Schools for Italian” addresses concrete demands; the plight of refugees is reflected in the picture entitled “The Invisible”. Finally, the drawings depict the tradition and pride of the people of Bergamo: the “Alpini” and not least the typical humour: “The only thing that’s missing is the sea”.
The drawings that Doris Graf receives from the people are physically tangible ideas that inform in an unconventional way, independent of language. It’s not the internet, magazines or other media that provide the artist with knowledge: it is the local people who provide insights into their own world of thoughts and feelings by means of their pictures. The origin of Doris Graf’s art is, so to speak, founded in the other. It originates with and from other people.
According to a so-called artistic appropriation process, Doris Graf used the drawings produced in Bergamo to develop an image of the city in the form of pictographic visualisations.