The Docks, Naples (Italy)

Progetto Piave is a kind of mirage in the well-built desert of a periphery lacking everything, with a single (splendid) public library where I – and many other children of my age – began to love reading and writing, the only kick off for any sort of social redemption.

We are in Soccavo, the western outskirts of Naples (Italy), a very populous neighborhood under the Vomero and next to Fuorigrotta, which the social promotion association The Docks has chosen as its home.

The office and the brewery overlook the trains of the Eav (Ente Autonomo Volturno) which I believe is at the top of the worst nightmares of Campania commuters.

Currently, this Campania regional railway has 40 new construction sites around the territory fiefdom of a president of the Region elected by a center-left party who is ashamed of him, in power continuously for three terms – a chilling reality imitated by all the comedians of the region and of the peninsula.

This station is not in the group of novel construction sites but for over 20 years it has been waiting for the doubling of a track that would allow a 10-minute train frequency instead of the current 20, which is never respected (the average frequencies in other cities amounted to 5/7 minutes since 20 years already).

Scandals and commissioners follow one another without solution.

The open space of Progetto Piave is above the Piave station of the Circumflegrea, restored in 1991 by the architect Nicola Pagliara: an all-Campania modernism winks almost at brutalism in the midst of a consistent unconscious green that covers all the buildings like a pitiful cloth, from the misdeeds to the tracks built but inactive.

The first social promotion association of this district dedicated to photography and its publishing, born in 2020 in full lockdown, talks to #slowwords on the eve of its first international festival, from 3 to 5 June, also enriched by a call for photographic fanzines (Raise Your Zine).

The prize has already been awarded: it goes to Flavie Guerrand (France, 1977, lives and works in Berlin). Guerrand has created a fanzine that can be used (since it is in loose sheets bound by a small and elegant cardboard band) as a collection of posters or to put together a small exhibition of dreams wherever it is sent. It talk about ravers in fact.

The festival presents a very tight calendar of conferences, exhibitions and afternoon-evening DJ sets. There will be – in addition to photographers – video-makers, documentary makers and pure publishers with their books.

Together with Pianura, an extremely critical district ravaged by a landfill that has expanded dramatically, Soccavo has a population of over 106,000 inhabitants, the majority of whom are young: there is no cinema, social or recreational center or other cultural institutions. It is one of the many, endless Italian dormitory districts.

The Docks, which speaks only in English and also publishes a series of fanzines (Trentatrè) dedicated to the city districts, is the first cultural experience after the early 90s with the lucky persistent meteor of the Tienament’ (a Neapolitan neologism meaning don’t forget), a self-managed social center that has brought radical experiences in the city as well as the best bands of progressive, ambient, rock or techno tribes who came from what seemed, at the time, other (possible) worlds.

We meet two of the members of the association who also embody all the others in their words – Roberta Fuorvia (curator) and Davide De la Cruz (artist): this interview takes place in their outdoor area.

Sitting on a very long piperno rock bench that precipitates the flow of the historic city on us even if no one here would imagine it even for a second, we are caressed by the hay that overflows from the flower beds and the slow noise of the trains. A small dog that Roberta has recently taken with her is playing around. Everything seems possible in this wave.

Your life in a few lines until it meets that of the other

Roberta | I make it very short: I was born in Torre del Greco (Naples), I have moved many times in my life – and I have changed many things and cities: Naples, Rome, Valencia, New York and then Naples again. I met David I think the first time a little over ten years ago because he is the companion of the sister of a high school friend of mine. We immediately found ourselves in the photography.

To David: Do you remember we met at the World Press Photo exhibit and we immediately talked about doing a festival together?

He nods vigorously

After all these years we are really doing it.

My first approach to photography was as a student, parallel to the years of study at the Academy of Fine Arts when I lived in Rome. I started shooting but I have never loved its most profitable areas from the point of view of a job (commercial photography, post-production, etc). I was losing the very essence of what photography means to me. I decided to abandon her to dedicate myself to personal projects and it did not go very well as an artist, perhaps I lacked the maturity to propose me. I found my way as a curator, a word that embraces many professions: from the design of exhibitions, to photo editing for books or fanzines, to organization. Yes, artistic choices but very directed from the production point of view.

David | I was born in Madrid, I studied in Barcelona and in my years in Barça my relationship with Naples was born, my partner attended my same academy, we met and loved each other there. Several years later we decided to move to Naples. In the years I met Roberta when I had been twice on vacation in Naples.

Two years ago we met again and we founded the social promotion charity The Docks together with Pasquale, Federica and Andrea De Franciscis. We had very presumptuous expectations at the beginning, we realized we had to recalibrate and we did it. Today we are ready to welcome our first fanzine festival and contest.

I am a photographer but then I broadened my creative spectrum, today I don’t work only with photography. I can’t stand editors and curators and this has given me the impetus to move away from photography.

And you found a curator on your way

In fact, it’s just perfect: when it comes to editing I run away, reminding myself that I have two children to pick up or take to school!

Naples has boosted you both, it gave in the past also a way to start over. Was Soccavo district a coincidence or was it a precise search for a specific periphery?

David | It’s funny, every month I categorically say ‘I’m going away from this city!’ But as soon as I say it and find where to go, Naples makes interesting things appear on my feet. It makes you find a flower that you cannot give up. It has been going on like this for 10 years.

Soccavo was thanks to my father-in-law, also a creative, who found this place that immediately seemed fantastic to us. And so we are here.

Roberta | my partner’s grandmother lives here and I have always refused to live in this neighborhood, it’s funny for me too now that I work here, I spend a lot of time in this neighborhood.

Your first festival, in addition to presenting the winning project of the first photographic publishing competition dedicated to fanzines, brings to Naples for a very intense three days – including exhibitions, book stands and DJ sets – a series of professional realities not only from Southern Italy that make the dense calendar of talks unique not only in the city.

It seems very demanding to me. Why did you choose them? Photography and photographic publishing do not seem to me to be the exclusive focus. There are nonprofits working on fundraising and design, video creators and graffiti experts.

Roberta | Raise Your Zine Festival tells just this: if we are great enthusiasts of photography publishing (which remains the cultural glue of the whole program), we had the will to tell and treat the visual arts in general and we have included cinema, music (it is not a proper visual art but it can become it: furthermore the DJ sets we present are all in vinyl), short movies and documentaries on screen are made by photographers or very young film production companies. We know that today the authors of still photographic production always accompany moving images to their projects and we wanted to tell about it.

By attending many photography festivals in recent years individually (as a group we have only been formed since two years), we have met interesting realities with which we have close ties not only because we are colleagues.

We have also decided not to overload this first edition too much with many publishers and to give the right space to each one: precisely for this reason there are nine and they cover different geographical areas (Turin, Rome, Palermo, young local realities such as the newborn Cratera which has a month of life).

The attention went a lot to the local to try to promote or safeguard our reality and also embrace publishing houses of international scope with different interests, for example Witty Books embraces Polish artistry which perhaps does not have Show Desk that embraces street photography…

Average age of your exhibitors?

David | 30-40?

Roberta | 30-45?

How old are you?

David | 40

Roberta | soon 37

The Docks is two years old, the age of the pandemic. Did the ‘machine downtime’ of the lockdown allow you to focus on the birth of your association, preventing you from traveling and traveling?

Roberta | we started work in April 2020, but the notarial deed of the foundation is from July 2020. The first festival we had planned was too megalomaniac, we retraced our steps and created a project on a smaller scale. With clear, entrepreneurial and artistic strategies that help us to be identified by our audience as well.

David | I can do many things as a creative, but making a zine is different, it is the way to cement any art (from graffiti to murals), as well as being a product.

It is not just a medium, photography is a matter of immanence, of definitive writing.

Roberta | It is part of the very root of performance. Speaking of the avant-garde of the 70s, critics wrote that if photographic representation (and later video-graphic representation) did not exist, there would be no history of performance. The representation of something that has existed.

Another thing struck me: you are the first in a long time and the second ever (before you the Tienament, but you are young for having attended it) to bring culture and have a festival in a large and populous dormitory area. Do you have a great responsibility and have you thought about this effect? Paradoxically, the western suburbs found in Soccavo is the only truly planned neighborhood, with a good green-built ratio but without efficient transport and no possibility of reaching it in the evening after 9pm without a car.

Roberta | I felt this responsibility and you are right, culture has all agglutinated in the historic center.

David | I have already had experience in Soccavo, it was in 2013/4 for a photographic project of mine in the street: on that occasion I met a group of guys from Via Epomeo who had a music band: they accompanied me to post photos, then we drank two beers. None of them lives here anymore. There was an association and even a church that gave something back in the neighborhood. They are either gone now or they don’t seem to be very active.

We made friends with some very young neighborhood kids. They often came to smoke on the stairs of our entrance and did not say hello or did not interact, little by little we made contact and now they will be our volunteers during the three days of the festival and we have already involved them in other meetings or conferences.

I would not do anything in the ancient center of Naples which dates back to the Greek-Roman period but which is now losing its soul and is standardizing itself as posh districts like Mitte (Berlin), where you find the same shops you find elsewhere.

Soccavo is more contemporary not only because it is from the 1950s. By nature it is no longer possible to do different projects and since there is nothing it is even more important to work here.

Roberta | Our first volunteers are high school students and they bring their friends to change shifts: they are very nice, they need to be stimulated, managed and organized. They are also our word of mouth: they help us to disseminate the news of the festival alongside the more established channels (press office, posters, social campaign).

Returning to the festival, we have not put figures or anything in mind: however it goes it will be a first experience and it is important to do it, we will learn from it to improve ourselves during the second edition next year.

Shortly after the end of the second lockdown, when we invited the public to Soccavo for the first time (with a weather alert and a very rainy day), we were amazed to have filled the available seats despite the fact that people were still fearful of social interaction…

I wouldn’t make any plans for the historic center either, it’s also too inflated. From the point of view of the user, do you know what I call my evenings there? Photocopy evenings: same places, same friends (whom I love, for heaven’s sake: they are my second family) same dynamics day after day.

The effort, if you want to call it effort, to move from a central district (as Chiaia or the historic center can be) to a suburb to enjoy a cultural event has been appreciated by all our visitors who do not live here.

How do you imagine the profitability plan of your publishing section? Aside from offering your home-brew beer and signing up for the festival, is selling your fanzines online better than offline?

David | we do not sell but receive donations and at the moment we finance our association with our work and our savings.

Roberta | we are a social promotion association, to date we have not won tenders or we have financiers: we self-produce and self-finance, the cost of our membership card barely covers the costs of its printing and of the payment to the national association to which we are for law subscribers.

Anything that falls within our financial plan over the next two years will serve to keep us open. For us it is a little early to make a longer prospect beyond the merchandising of pins, zines, photographic teaching (which starts in September). At the moment anyone who helps us (like the fantastic Michele Mizio who is the graphic designer of the event) is a volunteer like us.

Our primary goal is to pay everyone who works for us, in the future we hope to be able to pay us too. It is a way to make us grow: if I can work full time for my association I will be able to do much and better.

David | we’ll have to change the stamp then, from The Docks APS to s.p.a.! (laughs).

This festival for us – and it is rare that in Naples they are held for the same reason – was born to networking, to get to know each other better while we read a book, a fanzine, drink a beer or water, listen to music or meet a person who works as a designer.

In this city everything starts very quickly and well but then disappears: we want to create a platform that fosters dialogue for three days, makes us stay together. This is why there are many talks, not of our charity but of others.

Roberta | Each talk will not be aimed at talking about the publishing house or the group that holds it or just about their latest book: we asked the guests to focus, from their point of view, on what it means to do publishing today.

Each of them therefore has chosen a specific theme that enhances the exchange between operators and enthusiasts or serves to give advice to those who want to take their first steps. There are many themes on what it means to be a photo editor today: self-production, layout creativity, sales and promotion systems.

Your favorite places – secret or not – where do you like to retire to read or create?

Roberta | I spend a lot of time at my house for this, it gives me peace of mind. Then to the sea in general. Finally, my place of choice for the hermitage is Procida, not really in the city …

David | Astroni, Camaldoli, Bacoli, I spend a lot of time there both for work and because I like them.

A book (not yours) and a song in your head right now?

Roberta | The Israeli author Eshkol Nevo, with his Symmetry of Desires, is a very strong friendship story and touches many aspects of the social and political life of his country. You must know that I only read Roth and Auster, I have decided to finish their entire bibliography but every now and then I interrupt with some drift.

In truth, I only read in the summer because I have more time but I managed to finish Nevo’s novel thanks to an (infinite) journey on one Circumvesuviana and another. Music: I am passionate about the historical Italian songwriters (Dalla, De Gregori, De Andrè), also of Madame, Mahmoud …

David | I have massively returned to the Spanish Indie of the 2000s and I often think of Primavera Sound, perhaps I am in one of my phases where I would like to return to Barcelona. Lately I have been reading a lot about technology and software, not much for recreation. I’m immersing myself a lot in children’s publishing.

What have you learned so far from life

David | to use hands synchronized with the brain (laughs). Today all the boys are missing it, they don’t know how to coordinate. It takes practice.

Roberta | a great lesson that I carry with me from my father’s advice and I use at work: promise one, give 100. When I work, I always let myself be enthusiastic, my father always told me: give everything you can but when you sell yourself don’t promise too soon, let yourself be discovered little by little and don’t play every card right away.

Another: listen a lot to others in order to improve and filter everything that is said to you. It happened to us above all!

David | Often the people you ask for advice have not understood that they have to give it to you by putting it in your shoes, so you are forced to discard a lot of it. Eventually you will be left alone with your dog (laughs). What I mean is that the form and interpenetration of the advice is very important.

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