Skip to main content?

Museo dell’Altro e dell’Altrove di Metropoliz

In 2009, a group of two hundred immigrants, occasional workers and homeless families found their way to an abandoned sausage factory outside of Rome. They cleaned the buildings and turned them into homes. They named their community “Metropoliz,” in honor of the new city they were building, and had just begun painting murals on the walls when curator Giorgio de Finis found them in 2011.

This may sound like an unlikely genesis of a museum, but the Museo dell’Altro e dell’Altrove di Metropoliz (“Museum of the Other and the Elsewhere” or MAAM) is an unlikely museum. It is simultaneously a gallery, film project, home for two hundred displaced people and a profound social and political commentary on an all­ too ­common problem: eviction. The two hundred or so residents, including fifty children, squatters in the factory under the constant threat that officials will make them leave.

The gallery and film project were conceived by Fabrizio Boni and Giorgio de Finis, anthropologists and filmmakers who have collaborated for years on projects documenting emergency housing in city slums. Their aim was to investigate the ideas and attitudes of those living in Metropoliz by involving its residents in the creation of a film and other projects.

Given the ever­-present spectre of eviction, Boni and de Finis joked to each other, “They should have built a space rocket since there is no place for the Roma to live in the city. They should go to the moon.” The two began work on a film with a campy sci-­fi premise; the residents of Metropoliz build themselves a rocket and take off for the moon. The film “Space Metropoliz” enlisted the residents at all stages of development like building sets, acting as extras, etc.

The completed film became a catalyst for ongoing work in Metropoliz, giving rise to the ‘museum.’ The creation of Museo dell’Altro e dell’Altrove di Metropoliz is meant to be viewed in contrast to Rome’s other modern art museums, the MAXXI and the MACRO. MAAM has attracted installations from numerous notable artists and become a gathering point for scholars and activists interested in housing, eviction, and how to find peaceful coexistence in contemporary urbanism.

An unused elevator is covered in gold by artist Michele Welke, commenting on both the Midas touch of art and the role of money in self-elevation. A room once used for stripping carcasses is now home to a giant mural featuring pigs strung up for slaughter, concluding with two happily scampering away. Other areas include a vegetable garden and a nursery where volunteer teachers provide tutoring for the residents’ children.

MAAM has become a cultural phenomenon in Rome, recognized and celebrated by the city administration in 2017 as a virtuous example of the social and cultural growth of the city. This has afforded the residents at least some protection against the threat of eviction and the violence that often comes with being undocumented and untitled. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome made de Finis its Director in 2018 and 2019, who curated a selection of the MAAM collection as a dutiful tribute to the project that inspired the “hospitable museum” (the MACRO Asilo).