Sala 1, located in the piazza of Porta San Giovanni
in Rome, Italy, opened in 1970 as a centre for experimental
art activities and a space for featuring contemporary
works. The gallery space was originally a project site
for a Vatican basilica1.
The gallery now occupies this space, promoting itself
as an as an experimental art centre. It encourages innovative
approaches to art-making in tandem with its mandate
to show works which may be inaccessible or limited in
other cultural spaces in Italy.
I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity
to interview Mary Angela Schroth, the director of Sala
1. Schroth's emphasis on the gallery's commitment to
the local art community in Rome resonated throughout
the interview. As an alternative contemporary art space,
Sala 1 acts as an international gate, encouraging new
art practices to be displayed from beyond Rome. Schroth
explains the gallery's international focus by citing
examples from Sala 1's past exhibitions. She notes that
Sala 1 was the first gallery in Europe to feature Rodney
Graham, a Vancouver-based artist of international acclaim,
and "Perestroika artists" -artists who had
left the former Soviet Union in 19882.
In keeping with the gallery's mandate, Schroth and
Antonella Pisilli, the senior curator of Sala 1, initiated
an annual web-art project titled "Netizens,"
translating in English as citizens of the net- the first
representation of net art Italy. The Internet as an
art medium has had really no precedence in Italy. Schroth
explains this phenomena as being central to Italy where
"artists have difficulty owning the proper hardware
and software to initiate good [web art projects], as
well as a lack of knowledge of the field and a predilection
for more traditional media."3
Thus by launching the first web art project portal
in the country, Sala 1 has raised awareness of net art
in the local art community and its potential as a viable
medium. Schroth notes Sala 1 is "interested in
the political and social aspects of the web,"4
which have been central to the modus operandi for many
web-based collectives or communities. Due to the decentralized
and production-oriented nature of the Internet (as opposed
to the consumer-oriented nature of television, for instance),
activists, artists, and different subaltern groups have
used the web effectively in their efforts to reach a
wider audience. Rhizome.org,
for example, provides a forum for artists working with
the new media regardless of their geographic location.
The group's name is reflected in its fin a rhizomic
system which it adopts. Rhizomes in nature have extensive
underground roots and networks connecting different
plants that shoot to the surface.5
The metaphor here highlights the World Wide Web as a
global communication tool that can overcome the constraints
of geographical distance.
Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright state that the convergence
of various computer media inherent in the use of the
web "will collapse distances and democratize knowledge"
in a global village.6
This utopian /dystopian idea of a collapsing of national
boundaries through global communication has put forth
the local communities into the international arena of
information exchange, in what Marshal MacLuhan has named
"global village." Sturken and Cartwright define
the term "global village" as a sense of collectivity
felt by geographically separated groups, which is formed
by the instant electronic communication tools.7
Although MacLuhan's concept of "global village"
precedes the rise of the Internet as the dominant electronic
communicative medium in the developed countries, his
notion of "global village" being both vast
in its connection and small in its specificity of local
communities can be applied in the contemporary situation
to many web-based projects, including the Netizens project.
The notion of the global village rings true with Schroth's
comment, "It is not a good idea to concentrate
on geo-territorial imperatives but to try to discover
and communicate with artists" from other countries
in the way Sala 1 has extended the local in the face
of the global.8
1 The Passionist
Fathers of the Holy Steps Sanctuary have gratefully
allowed the gallery to use the space for free.
2 Mary Angela Schroth,
"Re: curator interview, University of British Columbia,
Canada" [email] (14 March 2005).
3 Mary Angela Schroth,
"Re: curator interview, Sala 1" [email] (14
4 Mary Angela Schroth,
"Re: Responses Sala 1" [email] (19 March 2005).
5 "About Us."
Rhizome.org: At the New Museum. <http://rhizome.org/info/>
(31 Mar. 2005).
6 Marita Sturken
is an associate professor for Annenberg School of Communication
and Program in American Studies and Ethnicity at the
University of Southern California, whose research area
includes the popular culture and art and technology.
Lisa Cartwright is an associate professor for the Department
of Communications at the University of California, San
Diego, whose research area includes visual culture,
media and communications.
Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright, Practices of
Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture (New
York: Oxford UP, 2001), 345.
7 Sturken and Cartwright,
8 Mary Angela Schroth,
"Re: Responses Sala 1" [email] (18 March 2005).