First Impression – Elena Festa

July 6, 2011 by  

This is my third week here at Proboscis, still pleasantly stunned as I found myself catapulted in such a fertile and constructive milieu. My name is Elena and I come from Italy, and although I lived in London before, this new dimension I am going through here has an inspiring as well as touching nuance. A little more than two months ago I eventually got an European Phd in Comparative Literature and Culture  from Università Roma Tre including a semester spent at the School of English and Humanities at Birkbeck College. My dissertation was about the representation of London in postcolonial and contemporary European Literature and my analysis basically started from the assumption that urban space is not an inactive and semantically univocal dimension, but a text marked by conflict and personal memories which requires different readings, interpretations and models of literary and political
agency. This in part explains how keen I am on Proboscis’ approach on certain issues such as geography and identity, the relationship between private and public spaces and public authoring. And then this Spring I was lucky enough to be awarded a 4 month internship grant under the EU Leonardo da Vinci scheme and, especially, lucky enough to have a positive response by Proboscis. So here I am, reading and taking notes – I feel quite at ease with this kind of task actually – about the astounding story of Proboscis, running through their brilliant projects, trying to compose a coherent idea in my mind of their peculiar work. Before coming here, peeking at their immense website, I was thrilled to find words and concepts, the harsh terminology of academia simplified and brightly expressed in concrete projects. The more I read and the more I observe the activity going on in the studio – something is still shifty for me to tell the truth – the more the ability to combine thoughts and facts, art and society, the beautiful and the functional strikes me. I am particularly interested in their work and reflection about people’s emotional geography and the individual potential of positively and confidently affecting the texture of urban space so that a more equal society could emerge. I tried to outline the fundamental design underpinning Proboscis’ long journey – according to me obviously – in a concise mind map (see picture below).. yes I know there is a childish tone in it, hopefully I will improve. In fact, one thing I am sure I would be invited to do during my time here is to explore other ways – creative, artistic, ‘technological’ – to translate intangible ideas and make them real and touchable (and hence more effective).

For the time being, this is just a kind of vague proposal from my part to read Proboscis’ work along a trajectory that departs from the individual, who belongs to a society which is always and inevitably locally specific and geographically defined, and comes full circle to the very place we inhabit. In between – what I think Proboscis’ aim is mainly about – the subject is warmly invited to expand his/her creative potential in order to develop personal agency, to challenge monolithic received notions of space and time and collectively exert a positive, autonomous influence on culture and society. This basic map is just the core of a so-called work in progress which will be spreading out unexpectedly and, hopefully, entertainingly as well, with multiple suggestions and influences – I’ll keep you posted about any progression!

Finally, I’d love to thank Giles and Alice for giving me the opportunity in the first place to live this challenging experience and I thank as well my fellow colleagues at Proboscis for the warm welcome. The atmosphere here is unique, calm and relaxing with an electrifying vein streaming underneath.

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