It could have happened only in the house of madmen...
Three hundred watches were ticking simultaneously in the room, all them have been saved from garbage. They have been wounded in the war against time; some lacked both hands, others only one, each one showing different time, slowly dragging their mutilated hands in a rhythm of their own...
Their owner's brain also was in disarray, its different parts were totally disconnected. His thinking resembled a necklace made of sparkling precious stones that had fallen apart. Everything was still inside the brain, nothing was lost, if only the parts could have been joined together… but they were not.
He was the master of the house, a brilliant lucid madman, nicknamed by all of us Robin Hood.
On the rack of his loft were hanging in perfect order Robin Hood's numerous costumes. Among them were exposed at least a dozen of his personalities; some of them he used frequently, some would pop up suddenly. The one he wore most often (it suited him well, it was an everyday, comfortable one) was that of a fellow who grew up on a street, a Peter Pan, a cheerful dreamer. Another persona was an eternal homeless rebel squatter who has turned suddenly into a generous owner of a bizarre castle (in our house the door was always open. We lived almost without money, but there were always guests).
In Rome there was a shortage of spaces for artists, so I had set up my studio in crazy fellow’s head. The space was unsafe, being in a state of degradation, yet it was beautiful: there reigned total chaos but also total freedom. We were not making art in the sense of creation of art objects to be exposed during exhibitions; ours was a creation of a “dreamed reality", where everything that existed was the result of fantasy of the characters which lived inside the madmen's house and orchestrated by his bizarre mind... He selected us, I contributed by suggesting various unusual situations; all together our life was a collective beautiful delirium.
Light? We were connected to lampposts. Our enormous building was always illuminated as a palace. The bills were paid by the Municipality of the City of Rome, which did so without knowing, thus changing the usual relationship between big and tiny thieves.
In the house there were all the tools to work wood, metal, even a kiln for ceramics; everything had been recovered from garbage and consequently repaired by Robin Hood.
We too were characters from landfill, with our psyche illuminated by stolen Roman light which arrived as a series of electric shocks, we were all psychologically "connected to lampposts." It is understandable why the fuses often blew up.
Robin Hood was an inventor who never brought anything to a conclusion. He was at the mercy of images, ideas, which were overwhelming, threatening to drown him. Everywhere in his room there were prototypes: drawings of the bicycle with traction by wind, wings to drive machinery, flying pipes. There was also a "sdictionary”, a language invented by him where all the words were beginning with "S", each word beginning with its own denial and there were scattered pages of "The Gospel according to Mary the Magdalena" thrown here and there, a book of philosophy which began this way, "The world is made of s.o.b.'s who are mobile, fixed or floating…" , Thousands of projects such as how to re-do the parks, how to build scaffolding without nails, how to grow trees, childrens toys recovered from garbage and made over, small wooden sculptures, installations of various types... He was a continuously expanding, ever changing universe in constant becoming, since he could not stop dreaming even for a minute; his fantasies could never be transformed into something concrete. Our Robin Hood was wild Creativity in its turbulent, unstoppable movement, its pure thought, but not its result: blue planet Earth, Moon, Mars.
He was behaving according to the character: for Robin Hood "Communism" meant "everything that is yours can become mine". He had no sense of ownership, from salami stolen from the supermarket to the use of other people's ideas. Chopped salami was added to pasta sauce, while ideas of others were integrated as blocks into his grandiose plans.
The house of the madman was an island of freedom, lost in the sea, in the ocean of free time to be enjoyed in various ways. There were no programs, no projects. Every day we woke up and said, "What shall we do today?" And we would invent a new way of enjoying time spent together, each day bringing something completely different.
What was our relationship with the outside world?
I liked to create huge signs from pieces of plastic, by so doing making comments about what is happening politically in the city. During the elections, when Rome was full of candidates' portraits soliciting votes, the wall of our building suggested "Vote yourself."
Risking falling from the fourth floor at every step, walking on the cornices that were disintegrating under his feet, Robin Hood hung a new billboard every week. Sometimes they were my thoughts, sometimes poems such as "Conjure with Laughter" by Vladimir Chlebnikov". “Have love" by St.. Paolo," I saw a dream... "By Lord Byron. Of course, we could not speak against the system since we were squatters, but in a way we created the action of disturbance by competing through our billboards with our giant scriptures that gave space to thoughts and poetry, literally covering the palace, from the 4 the floor all the way down. It was very much unlike Cristo, an American artist, who covered surfaces without any reason. Our messages were understood, and how!.. Sometimes there is no need to protest, better just be.
Love during Communism? The game was psychological, dangerous and simple: we followed all our desires, all of them, with no limits in the head, without complexes, without feelings of guilt, without apology, without questions and explanations. We did love each other, however, in spite of our game playing.
Eva was a poet, but at the same time she was a poem, like a tight vibrating string pulled to the utmost, ready to burst at any time. Her gaze was languid, however. I have seen similar eyes only on Russian icons, in masterpieces: there was total understanding, infinite love, and forgiveness for all sins. She did “Communism” by loving everyone, literally, distributing her slender teenage girl's body between immigrant men, hungry for women.
As wrote Mayakovsky, "Mary! I'll pray for your body as if it was the daily bread!.. “And so she gave it away, as if it was their ration of daily bread. It could be explained only by madness. Eva came from a wealthy family, so she was not doing it for money, or for the love of sex. She did it for pity; Eva was a true Christian saint, a precious relic, found by her lover, Ricardo, in the large human garbage container which is modern Rome.
Ricardo was an "ideator": his title of a painter was a cover up. He painted badly; it was his way of hurting himself, an activity which helped him to avoid a serious encounter with himself. They say that healing is a process in which disease transforms itself into something more subtle, but in the same genre.
Like Eva, he came from a very rich family; moreover, he had an extraordinary talent for making money; in his youth Ricardo was an owner of a successful radio; yet his life was turbulent: he spent several years in Mental Asylum, “Santa Maria Della Pieta ", then: years of drugs, plus to that he was drinking... he ended in a coma; miraculously came out and decided to… live. He quit drugs and drinking in an instant.
His genius was hidden; very few close friends knew about it: Ricardo was a pragmatic dreamer. Descendent of Gabriel D'Annunzio, he had an extraordinary taste for decadence. Only that his way of being a poet lay in thinking, seeing, envisioning, not in doing...
The area of the Ex-Slaughter House in Rome was in decay, people of different nationalities lived there in barracks, and all of them were using stolen electricity from the lampposts. Prostitution, drugs, robbery, was everyday occurrence there. To reverse the situation and turn the wretched homeless into the owners of houses in the center of Rome, Ricardo conspired with his friend, an architect, to decorate the barracks with recycling art making them beautiful both inside and outside, creating sculptures from rubbish to beautify the space. All this was to be done without funds, in a very short time, with their own forces. The architect would sign the necessary permits turning barracks into legal houses, resolving problems in the worst areas of Rome without a politician's help... Only a madman could come up with similar ideas about the saddest, most degraded place in town.
How to do exhibitions? He proposed to hang paintings on the electric wires between the lampposts; all of us were connected to them, why not attach paintings there as well? But Ricardo only thought about these many plans, meanwhile painting mediocre pictures.
Why? He was a shipwreck of ancient civilization, when the "ideators" were called "oracles" and had their function in society, when "visionary" was a word that indicated precise activity. In our time "the ideator" sounds vague, unclear…
My nickname was “the one who illuminates the castle"; I was the mistress of the home of madmen, companion of Robin Hood. For me everything, including myself, were elements with which to experiment new ways of living. My motives were an insatiable interest in how everything is made and the unstoppable desire of modifying it. Similar to Ricardo, I liked to” ideate”, and in this sense we were almost identical.
I came from another shore of life: I had never smoked a cigarette or a joint; my resume was simple and straightforward: an artist, a university graduate with a film diploma, a professor's daughter. People of my social class bored me to death, yet it was strange to feel great affinity with a former drug addict, a thief and an everybody's woman, as well as all those who were "connected to lampposts" ...
"Communism" interested me and why not! The inequality between men and the arrogance of power seemed an intolerable monstrosity to me. Yet politics did not seem to be a solution...
The power can be reversed in many ways; sit-ins, shootings, the speeches of Lenin… too much rhetoric, noise, blood. I wanted to find a more elegant solution to be experimented with in private to begin with… Maybe the re-distribution of power, its re-deployment, could be like a collage, in which the same elements put in another order would create a new artwork, with a meaning opposite to that of the initial picture? I felt it is possible, but how to do it? The way had been suggested by destiny (better not to plan anything, let things happen by themselves)…
Opposites often attract each other. By chance I encountered a head of a Psychiatric Hospital; he was a man of power. We fell in love immediately. It was like a stroke of lightning for both of us; we decided to live together after the first conversation.
He had a luxurious apartment in Parioli, but it would have been a bad exchange. My home was the house of madmen; my studio was inside Robin Hood's head, how could I possibly go away? I explained it to my astonished companion calmly. He was so astonished that agreed to tolerate my whim.
At this time Ricardo ended in prison for an old history with drugs (at present in the house of madmen no one used drugs; creative madness by itself was exciting). His apartment was above that of Robin Hood. Inside reigned extreme luxury, for while his loft lacked windows and water was falling from the hole in the roof, it was filled with rare antiques. It was beautiful, very scenic, and surreal. Silk curtain, as the red flag of Revolution, fluttered in the wind at the empty window frame.
It was a perfect setting to try out the revolution of roles. From thought to action:
Everything was so natural, a handshake between two rivals, mutual sympathy united them from the first glance.
Robin Hood enjoyed the role of a generous host who offers hospitality even to one of the richest and most powerful men in town. The Doctor enjoyed fantastic bohemian environment. I loved both of them and enjoyed observing how men were having fun in an apparently dramatic situation.
One could say that nothing had changed in our lives. Robin Hood cooked for all, we ate together, the doctor and I went to sleep “in our place”. He always brought with him a large chocolate cake, delicious wines and fruit. It was kind of him, but he did not have to bother for he himself was my contribution to the table. Robin Hood and the Doctor discovered that both came from Puglia, from the same region and that both were interested in the mathematics. Robin Hood showed his inventions, explained how he installed bathroom pipes and how he hooked up electricity. The Doctor was impressed: "These are brilliant discoveries, you know? Each of these could make you tons of money. Make a patent. “Every day they were becoming friendlier, with a small difference in disposition of power: in the psychiatric hospital commanded doctor, while here he was a guest in the house of a madman, the undisputed master was Robin Hood, he and our rule to avoid emotional highways, choosing only unexplored trails of hidden desires.
I was breathlessly following the exciting experiment that was going on in "my studio". It was working. "Communism" was going ahead.
The Doctor, fascinated by surreal atmosphere which reigned in the house of madmen decided to re-furnish his apartment in Parioli by buying at crazy prices items found on the street and restored by Robin Hood: a marble table , an ancient mirror, antique chandeliers… more and more he was enjoying living outside "normality", outside of schemes. He was beginning to fall in love with creative madness, but being “normal” he was limited; the Doctor could only copy the brilliant Robin Hood. Every day he had to go back into the world to give drugs to the unfortunates who had ended in psychiatric hospitals. For this he was paid lavishly.
Everything seemed to be going well, until I noticed that Robin Hood would spend every night outside, in front the door of the house, playing the hand cranked organ, which repeated endlessly a sad melody. Probably to remain in our room was too sad for him.
During the daytime our lives returned to "normal", we did the same things as before except kissing (otherwise the fuses would have blown up immediately). He was careful not to touch even my hand, to keep his distance.
It was so strange... I realized more and more that I made a very bad exchange (the Doctor was an apartment in Parioli...) Moreover, the “private “war” between our new tenant and Robin Hood was lost from the beginning: what intellectual can stand comparison with the erotic imagination of Peter Pan from south of Italy who grew on the street?
It was natural for Robin Hood and me to come back together. We never lied about our wishes; all was told directly and immediately. The doctor was furious; he went to pieces, he screamed, "What have the two of you done to me: I need a doctor immediately to get my sanity back!” But he could not leave. It had nothing to do with me; now he was psychologically "connected to lampposts" as all of us. The Doctor went on to live in the apartment above. We remained friends, often we ate together, but now the head of the Psychiatric Hospital was like a poor relative who lived in the house of madmen thanks to the pity of a crazy penniless anarchist.
That's how came out that picture. As mentioned before, I was not making art in a traditional sense of the word any more; it was the art of embroidering reality with improbable patterns.
I often wonder, "What if there were no extreme passions, if there was a simple getting to know each other, if a group of people who have opposing points of view, was to live together for a period, creating cheerfully all kinds of things together similar to children? Maybe it would have been better for everyone? Is it necessary to have a nutty lover so as to leave a luxurious apartment in Parioli?”
...What changes men truly is a violent crash with poetic living, prolonged exposure to it in three dimensions. After having tasted it, it is impossible to go on chewing tasteless reality, but if one does so, however, he has a measuring meter and in small ways will try to find poetry in some way.
And what if the most efficient way to change society was to come up with similar opportunities so as to make the rich understand how poor they are in truth?
We dreamt of doing many things, but soon came the eviction:
From the windows flew Ricardo's silk shirts, all designer's brands: GUCCI, ARMANI, MATTIOLI, they seemed crazy butterflies fluttering in the air...
Nine containers were filled with objects of rare antiques, modern paintings, sculptures, books, prototypes sketched out on pieces of paper, "Sdictionary", "Gospel according to Mary the Magdalene"… None of us moved a finger to save them: all this was needed to decorate our dream, otherwise it had no sense.

Communism?.. It is possible, but it is reserved for madmen.