The sea. And those who cross it. With a little luggage, and the memory sewn on.
This has been the story of humanity for thousands of years. A story, both simple and ancient. That will not end. Never.
Even though as such is not always written by its protagonists.
Because, at times, its protagonists cannot write it or read it.
Late nineteenth century – early twentieth century: millions of people leave Europe for the United States. From Naples, ships full of hope and desperation sail to New York. Two cities on the same line: the 41st North Parallel.
Roxy In The Box followed this route, crosschecking data collected in the Neapolitan archives with the American emigration databases. Then, with the outcome of this “treasure hunt”, she composed the upholstery of a bedroom. The most intimate place in a house, where one is born and dies, where the images of the saints and the photos of their loved ones were kept. A corner of homeland, within a few meters of family.
Is this the arrival or departure room? Does it belong to the past or to the future? No one knows. The bed, the wardrobe, the walls, the pyjamas, the chest of drawers are the flesh and veil of a dream, reflection or projection of a new life, to be realized with strokes of paper: stamped paper for documents, paper money for the tickets.
To tell this story, however, paper is of no use: in the middle of the sea, words travel from mouth to mouth, as they did with the ancients. Songs written on the water nourish roots that are waiting to be transplanted: it is the epic of the migrant, naturally composed in a mother tongue, what others call “dialect”.
But this is a story that does not end. And so the Museum leaves its premises and branches off into the alleys and streets. This time, Roxy In The Box’ treasure hunt involves everyone. Look for the stickers of a suitcase on the doors, they are personalized with names and surnames: according to the archives they are the addresses from where the men and women departed. A small piece of those lives still remains; from there leaves the thread – of paper – that the artist has launched overseas, sending dozens of letters (the proper ones, with envelope and stamp) to the alleged New York descendants of Neapolitan migrants. She invited them to share their memories, their experiences and their emotions, with the conviction that “the testimony of those alive today thanks to the effort and sacrifice of those who left can be fundamental to complete the story of MARESISTERE”.
MARESISTERE: resist the sea, a bridge that should never collapse. Resist the crossing and continue to exist elsewhere. Resist the high wave of nostalgia and fear, which endangers to tear you apart from the land even when you think you are safe.
(text by Anita Pepe)
I would like to thank:
Archivio di Stato di Napoli
Fondazione Banco di Napoli
MANN – Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
The actors Fabiana Fazio and Gianfranco Gallo
Exhibition / Installation at the MANN – National Archaeological Museum of Naples.
Around the city searching for the doors from which Neapolitan migrants left many years ago to New York looking for luck.