Ask any Italian about the Salerno-Reggio Calabria highway, and they will tell you that it is a failure of Italian infrastructure policy, a major work that has been worked on for fifty years and is still unfinished. But if you ask Antonio Ottomanelli, an architect and photographer who is based in Italy and the Middle East, he will give you another view of the facts.
"The Salerno-Reggio Calabria highway has been a territory of experimentation for eminent civil engineers like Silvano Zorzi e Fabrizio de Miranda," says Ottomanelli. "It was a highly complicated enterprise: 60% of its extension is suspended and it is one of the highest viaducts in the world. In the 1960s Calabria was a harsh and isolated territory called 'The Third Island'. Now the situation has changed."
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary since the beginning of the highway and of the 20th anniversary since the construction of the port of Gioia Tauro in 1994, Ottomanelli has begun a project which was launched at the last Venice Biennial and is now on show at Milan's Triennial until December 20th. During the finissage, a book about the project will be presented.
"The book summarises two years of research which involved 11 photographers, journalists, activists, and local entrepreneurs," Ottomanelli explains. "We covered not only the local discourse, but also the broader discussion about global traffic and logistics. We also developed a small dictionary in which we try to find a new definition of the term 'major works'. Because now it has a nineteenth-century connotation of a physical intervention on the territory. According to us, a major work can be defined as such if it has a cultural potential. We have tried to eliminate some parts of our national territory from our mental landscape, but Calabria is part of our cultural landscape, of our identity, and it is important that we reawaken our relationship with our territory. Documentary photography can help us in this sense. We do not deny that there are also negative aspects; in the book we refer also to stories of the mafia and extortions. But we want to enlarge the horizons and add new information. Calabria is not just a lost territory. It is part of our national territory and if we neglect it, we must admit our failure."
finissage of the exhibition tomorrow night 20th of December 2015, with book presentation, at the Triennale Design Museum, Viale Alemagna 6, Milan, Italy.