Art is …. (redux)

If, just to throw a random dart, art is a testament to futility, perhaps Graziano Cecchini wins the prize. Described by RadarOnline as a “right-wing Italian art prankster”, Cecchini gained some notoriety last year when he dyed the waters of Rome’s historic Trevi Fountain red as a protest against the costs of the city’s film festival. While Cecchini is said to be under police surveillance in the wake of that stunt, nobody stopped him from sending a half-million colored plastic balls down the famed Spanish Steps. Radar’s Michael Dougherty reports that Cecchini was quoted as saying that each of the balls “represented a lie told by a politician”. The Associated Press said that Cecchini told TG5, an Italian newscast, that he creates “art—if we want to call it art—to stress our malaise”.

Image by Reuters (Remo Casilli)

The question arises, as indeed it is invited by Cecchini himself, as to whether or not such demonstrations qualify as art. While an act of minor and apparently harmless vandalism, like the Trevi Fountain stunt, might have a hard time achieving proper artistic status, there is, in dumping a half-million balls down what has been dubbed the longest and widest staircase in Europe, some aspect of performance art. To the other, though, such art does seem futile. While leaflets distributed at the scene asserted, “Italians’ balls are broken“, it could be that the number is insufficient.  Rome is, after all, among the most venerable cities in the world, and while the world has witnessed much turmoil and corruption in modern Italian politics, we can only speculate at the real number of lies told over the millennia.

For the record, some of the balls that were recovered by passers-by turned up on eBay within a few hours of the demonstration.