Lazio: The Legacy Of Il Duce

Photographs by Julien Goldstein

  • Share This:
Artist’s Statement:

In November 2015, I received a one-month residency at the Villa Medicis in Rome to make a photographic work on the architectural heritage left by Benito Mussolini after his transformation of the city in the 1930’s.

Like all totalitarian architectural initiatives, the urban work of Mussolini had several objectives: to ensure his legitimacy by reviving a glorious ancient past, to assert his authority through monumental achievements and encourage the emergence of “a new human kind” for whom the strength, the purity and the dedication serve the state's ambitions to conquer. From this period remains Mussolini thirst for domination, war but also his megalomania represented by still existing traffic lanes, buildings, activity centres in which the Romans evolve today. It is this relationship between past and present that I wanted to show.

This link, I also found it outside of Rome in Latina, one of the "new towns" built at the same period. If the capital city was a project by itself, it was nevertheless a laboratory for making emerged from the soil, where there was only bayou, new urban structures built and organized from A to Z . They were meant to accommodate a humanity of a new type, the one that the Duce wanted after his own image.

Today, Latina, Pontinia, Sabaudia, Alghero, Aprilia and Foggia especially show what remains of an economic and social disaster, and their population reflects this history. Colonized in the 1930s by an immigration from the North (workers to drain the bayou, farmers to cultivate the land and executives from the fascist party to populate and manage them), they faced in the 1960s a major industrial development which necessitated the import of a new workforce coming from the South this time. Twenty years later, the decline of these factories was like their development: dazzling. These urban centers expected to glorify the power and the order became areas forgotten by the state, whose economy was sacrificed on the altar of relocation. Then a third immigration appeared of foreign origin. Willingly fueled by the "pioneers" with a nostalgic discourse, the nationalist surge led aroused, fifteen years ago, the extreme right at the head of some town halls. If we add the power of the local mafia, supposed to surpass the Roman organization, all that combine to open a royal road to neo-fascist groups in the next municipal elections in June 2016. If the right party will likely continue to govern these cities, they will have to deal with neo-fascist groups such as Casa Pound.

In these urban landscapes created from scratch, a little less than a century ago, what social and political footsteps - and what scars - have left the different layers on which they are built? How people live today in what was conceived as a laboratory for the “new man kind “ ? My project is a continuation of the work already done in Rome and Latina: the elections approaching, I would like to immerse myself in these cities to discern in which ways their past influences the present.