Nowtopia in Milan

Been here since Thursday morning and today was the main day since I spoke publicly about Nowtopia today. It was a very fun day in spite of being rainy and gray. It started with going to meet with Zoe, Alex’s partner and mother of 6-year-old Selma (sooo charming!).

She took me to Casa Morigi, a splendid old squatted place near the Castle in central Milan where she and her pals video-interviewed me for a documentary they’re working on…

Zoe and Maresa and Cesca (he gave me a very cool 2005 CM poster!) did the two-camera shoot. Zoe cracked me up cuz she asks questions like I do, with a lengthy paragraph setting the stage before each question. She had a British lover years ago and speaks very good English. She is one of the creative brains behind Serpica Naro, a fake (meta) brand name that is designed to satirize and critique the fashion industry (which is a heavy presence here in Milan).

After Serpica Naro, many people asked where the Serpica items could be purchased. A rather glamorous fascination with respect to the operation itself, but which also proved a desire to exit from the serial, from the anxiety of being universally branded, to reappropriate a more personal style, more ethical and “clean”, without necessarily stuffing oneself in fair-trade jute sacks.

There is a downloadable pdf at their website link above, and I highly recommend giving it a read. It turns out that not only have they staged an elaborate hoax fashion show and been protested by their own comrades, they also are involved in DIY clothes-making like the Trunk shows around San Francisco, though with considerably more political acumen about what’s going on around them.

Here’s Zoe in front of the big needle and thread sculpture at Cardona station where we met this morning:

Then we all went to Crochetta, another squat with a tiny crafts and fresh produce market in its courtyard (it was a rainy day, so not so many people showed up); we hoped to meet Blu (play the video at, amazing graffiti/muralist) who was going to be painting today but he never showed up and eventually we left, back to Zoe and Alex’s place, where I scored my much-desired posters of EuroMayDay 07 and 08 and a few other schwag-like goodies… Here’s Zoe and Maresa, plus the two Norwegians Gunn and Fem, checking out the plant exchange table at Crochetta:

A full page interview with me appeared in today’s Il Manifesto, plus a plug for this evening’s event at Torchiera, a squatted social center, which went really well, considering the halting nature of presenting the Talk with interruptions for translation every two sentences or so… but the audience seemed very appreciative (about 40+)… i had a lot of good chats with folks afterwards, so it’s clear that a great number of folks understood the English quite well…

This is the front gate area of Torchiera.

Here’s Alex Foti in front of Torchiera:

I did an interview with him a couple of years ago and he interviewed me too… He did a good job of personalizing and adapting my talk tonight, while he was simultaneously translating it… an exhausting job but he carried off well by all accounts.

Here’s a partial shot of the crowd, indoors unfortunately due to the bad weather…

Been having good talks with Giovanni too, who is sharp and critical and not easy to jump on any bandwagons… actually to a fault, since he’s always the outsider now, and is basically wanting to get the hell out of Italy and go live in India or somewhere else where his computer skills can sustain him without being tortured by the descent of Italian culture into a somnambulistic nightmare under the clownish Berlusconi… I can understand!…

He was saying, hopefully, that Nowtopia will stir up some interesting conversations here, since it’s basically injecting Operaismo into a bunch of California cultural movements… which is one way of looking at it! An Italian way, I’d have to say… but then it’s also been clear to me that I’m using some ideas that were more developed in the Italian political milieu than in the U.S. (e.g. class composition) and presenting them in the U.S. is always to be throwing in something completely unknown… The reception I got from Zoe and Alex and the Serpica Naro folks was so enthusiastic that I really felt like maybe Nowtopia will find its best audience here in Italy… I guess that’s part of why I came over.

Here’s the apartment where Zoe and Alex live, near the Bovisa station:

and here’s a graffiti on the wall opposite their door:

And lastly, for all the stencil art fans out there, and you know who you are (!), here’s an image that was amidst a great number of posters and graffiti etchings near Porta Ticinese:

I don’t know anything about the artist or the meaning, but it seemed another commentary on the fashion industry around here. People in Milan tend to dress very fashionably, it’s true… which makes me feel like a somewhat out-of-place dumpling, but that’s just how fashion works, isn’t it?

1 comment to Nowtopia in Milan

  • Hi Chris, I went in Torchiera for your speech. It was really interesting, more that I thought (and I expected a lot, anyway). Not because it was all new for me: I am an urban biker (or warrior as you like), one of the first night guerrilla gardeners (I tryed even do do an urban wildlife oasis, as the many that exists in London city areas, a political bread maker (see last italian Hackmeeting….). Milano is not an easy town: you find yourself fighting agaist too many things at once, and this is very difficult.
    I even find extremely confortable when you described the double life style: it’s exactly what I am doing now.
    But your words where the ones that lacked me. An gave me again hope. I found very interesting your political analisis, and i hope we will be able to start from this point to find new way to cross, interact and do something against a town management which is destroying our lives.
    I hope that newtopia will be published in italian. Do you know when and the publisher?
    ciao e grazie!

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