Up to 9 meters high, 90 gigantic figures will temporarily decorate the Tiber’s walls this year. From Sisto bridge to Mazzini bridge, the downtown portion of Rome’s river, reverse graffiti will give a new face to this part of the city that is too often forgotten, excluding the summer months.
Reverse graffiti “wash” figures onto dirty surfaces using stencils and high-pressure water. In our case, after having erased the accumulated dirt from the walls that line the downtown waterfront, this technique will leave behind clean figures that will gleam through the grime for some months.
Triumphs and Laments, by the South African artist William Kentridge in collaboration with the international project Tevereterno, is a three-year project that will start with 550 meters of decorations in 2014. The figures, flowing upstream against the current, will represent the social history of the city, not just emperors and popes but anyone who somehow contributed to the development of this unique city, a living monument.
Built after Italy’s unity (1876-1926) to protect the city from the river’s frequent and dangerous floods, the embankment walls also had the unintended consequence of separating the inhabitants from the Tiber, which has been the very reason for the foundation of the city of Rome and its main source of life for centuries.
Romans and visitors only venture down to the river’s shores during the summer months for some night shopping, dancing or drinking. But from September to May the shores are idle, dirty and sometimes dangerous.
This project wants to draw the attention on the urban waterfront. The reverse graffiti will not be permanent but will stay in our memory and will remind us of that river life that we should enjoy more often to go back to the original character of Rome.