GIANLUCA ATTOLI

Suburban base


This ongoing project is based on a visual exploration of my local suburbs (Monza/Milan, Northern Italy), with the main goal of isolating and highlighting the feelings of composure, isolation, suspendness and at the same time, unexpected beauty, dignity and serendipity that these types of areas can evoke. I try to decontextualise shapes and spaces in order to create a visual archetypal ideally applicable to any, or most of suburban-industrial environments of the Western society – by this I mean for example avoiding as much as I can any “local” reference (names, people, emblems). Reflecting about these peculiarities and this “found beauty” theme leads to a broader reflection on both the recurring architectural and functional patterns that are present in towns and cities, and the cultural models and stereotypes that shape common people’s perception of their urban environment. Urbanism governs the culture, the habits, the relationships and the conflicts between people living in a city area, and yet it responds also, if not primarily, to political, economical and developmental interests and stakeholders. And that in turn leads to an arbitrary organization and standardization of spaces which can often limit, weaken or even annihilate the development and the health (both physical, mental and socio-cultural) of people and communities. The industrial-residential suburbs in particular exemplify all of this very well in my opinion. In most cities of the Western society, they are planned and built with a very functional approach, as they must first and foremost “function” in fact – either for manufacturing/commercial purposes, of for residential ones. Beauty, wonder, entertainment or relaxation, serendipity or just plain free distraction should all be converted into passive consumption of pre-made solutions to be consumed in dedicated areas, usually downtown or outside town, or even just elsewhere, feeding the tourism industry. I believe this tight separation of spaces and purposes has a powerful negative impact on people’s imagination and perception, leading them to “switch on” their eye and sensitivity only in dedicated areas where they’ve been “trained” to switch them on, while neglecting the hints of beauty or wonder (or calm, joy, introspection or whatever other positive feeling) that they may encounter in their daily routine. Now, I believe that art and photography in particular can act as a powerful medium to challenge and resist to all of this, precisely by turning the spotlights on unexpected corners and areas, to show how it’s just really enough to “open” and exercise your eyes to interpret spaces and form your very personal “urban plan” in contrast to, and “overruling” the existing ones. And that is a formidable example of how “the revolution” can really start “at home”.

On a second, more intimate level, this project is also a personal exploration of "my" places, the places in which I was born and grew up, in a constant effort to see them with new or different eyes. I have a very close and affectionate relationship with my environment, so I find this exercise artistically inspiring, and somehow therapeutic as well. I decided to limit my research about suburbs and borders to my hometown precisely to pursue a reflection on my personal relationship with the places I call "home".

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