31 August 2011

We are the gray area

Look at these images. This is what hundreds of people see every day, while yawing and opening the shutters to their windows, or in the evening, smoking a cigarette on the balcony. A balcony like the one from which I shot these, on the sixth floor of a building in Via Santa Maria Mazzarello, in Turin, Italy. What you see is the Centre for Identification and Expulsion (CIE) of the city. From April 1st the press is not allowed inside. But there was no need for censorship to impose silence. Indifference is much more effective. That sentiment by which hundreds of common citizens decide to look the other way. To not see that one’s own windows look onto a large iron cage where dozens and dozens of men and women are kept in captivity, like animals in a zoo, guilty of having an expired document. You’d only have to look with a bit more attention to see all the details. The distribution of psychotropic drugs, the fires, the self-harm, the blitzes at dawn to forcefully take away the prisoners in order to expel them, the riots, the escape attempts, the beatings. But people prefer to turn way. And so I think about Primo Levi ad the gray area of The Drowned and the Saved. We are the gray area.

The gray area is Italy, country of the disinterested. The third element between victims and executioners, which gives body to both. Italy, the country that doesn’t want to know, that looks the other way, that remains spectator without taking responsibility. Today, like back then.

translated by Camilla Gamba