Back in the fascist era of the 30s, an Italian Youth Center was opened in Trastevere, these days considered a cool, but also touristic side of Rome. Then a more popular neighborhood, which also consisted of housing projects. Architect Luigi Moretti was in charge of the structure and what is today the WeGil was inaugurated in 1937. Imposing and clearly fascist in look and feel, the structure was supposed to house equipment to train Italian youths for sports but also battle. WeGil therefore has a strange, complicated background to contend with and the feel within the structure is at once one of awe and discomfort for the visitor.
Today, after extensive renovations in the mid-2000s, the building has become a cultural center, offering a stunning space for exhibits and events. Later on, it is slated to become an artists’ residence, as well as house the Scuola d’Arte Cinematografica Gian Maria Volonté, a school dedicated to the art of cinema, but also one of Italy’s greatest actors.
I went to see a haunting exhibit there, ‘L’aria del tempo’ by photographer Massimo Sestini. Images taken from high up above (from a plane or a helicopter) of some of the most iconic locations in Italy, but also showing us our humanity, and problems, from a bird’s eye view.
Among the images that stood out for me there is the photo featured as the header of this piece of migrants on a crowded boat. Forget the “refugee porn” we watch so often on the news that it has stopped even registering. Sestini has found the soul of the problem and within that shot, there are also endless solutions. Because as long as we look, and see we can work together with every race and every religion on the planet.
And the image below of the Costa Concordia ship, lying on its side off the Island of Giglio after its terrifying accident is pretty haunting too.
The exhibit lasts through March 10th and I found it to be well worth the 6 Euros entrance fee. You can roam around the grandiose looking halls of the WeGil for as long as you wish, and then, for a shot of espresso and a bit of cinematic awe, you can saunter across the tiny parking lot to the Nuovo Cinema Sacher. You know, Nanni Moretti’s legendary movie theater which shows films in their original language with subtitles and where you’ll always find cultural inspiration and a great cup of coffee as well as good films.