UBC | Digital Visions
Digital Visions
Mary Angela Schroth
Writer: Liz Park       Edited by: Sylvia Borda

Gallery 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 March 2005).
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, 356
8 Mary Angela Schroth, "Re: Responses Sala 1" [email] (18 March 2005).

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