Speaking to Walls

A “live sessions” workshop for the Museum of Marble in Carrara in collaboration with Joan of Art: Towards a Free Education Systemincluded in the project DATABASE, a calendar of events designed specifically for the Marble Museum and curated by Federica Forti. 


Maria Rosa Sossai (ALAgroup) – Workshop Concept

Mike Watson (Joan of Art: Towards a Free Education System) – Workshop Curator

Graham Hudson – London based artist

Robert Pettena – Florence based artist

Andrew Rutt – Rome based artist


Speaking to Walls is a project taking place in August, September, October and November 2012 in Carrara in which three artists will work with the people of Carrara, collecting stories which will be incorporated as research for a final presentation of art examining the relationship between the people of Carrara and the unique environment they inhabit.

The workshop will also serve as research for Joan of Art: Towards a Free Education System, a project conceived by Mike Watson and supported by Nomas Foundation, Rome. The project is currently in an initial phase of research inquiring into the nature of education and the possibility of delivering an alternative free education system from within an international network of art institutions.

In Carrara – the international seat of Anarchism – the hierarchical nature of education will be researched by running workshops in which the participants inform the artist. A research paper will be written by Mike Watson following the workshops and in relation to further research undertaken in China and Europe. The Museum of Marble will be credited along with Nomas Foundation and European Alternatives for making the research possible.



Je parle aux murs / I’m speaking to the walls

I’m speaking to the walls is a short book containing lectures given by Jacques Lacan in the clinic where he started his career as an apprentice psychoanalyst. ‘Speaking to the walls’ in everyday language indicates a situation in which nobody listens to you. Yet for Lacan, who studies the use of language, the phrase has a literal meaning and signifies that one does not communicate only with people but also with architectural spaces including walls, which we often give little importance to. ‘I’m speaking to the walls’ therefore indicates our will to enter into dialogue also with the locations which welcome our participation and within which we act”. (Maria Rosa Sossai – ALAgroup)

Carrara has many walls, both real and metaphysical. It is famed for its huge marble mountains and cliffs which create a boundary for the town on one side, but also for its rich political history as a centre for resistance during World War Two, where its women – left alone by their men, who had gone to fight or who had been killed or imprisoned – created a ‘wall’ by occupying Piazza Delle Erbe in late 1944 and successfully refusing to be evacuated.

Walls can be real or metaphorical, but above all, they shape us and can be shaped by us. As Michelangelo wrote in a sonnet:

The fine artist can’t conceive a thought

that the marble itself does not bind

within its shell, waiting to be brought

out by the hand that serves the artist’s mind

This extraordinary poem hints at Michelangelo’s creative process as he engaged with the marble of Carrara, which often seems impenetrable like a wall. It is the marble which holds the artistic form within it, and the artist must enter into dialogue with the marble to discover that form. The same can be said of metaphoric walls which we must negotiate with.

Michelangelo also wrote:

I believe, if you were made of rocks,

I would love you with such faith that I

Could make you run to me

This poem signifies the importance of human dialogue and emotion in moving and shaping walls.

At the base of this process is a system of learning which the ‘Speaking to Walls‘ live workshops will interact with.

A ‘live workshop’ – as conceived by Maria Rosa Sossai and developed in dialogue with Mike Watson – is a workshop in which the participants lead the creative process. The workshops start out from an initial idea and from that an informal structure is chosen by the artists based on conversations and dialogues with the community.

The process focuses on the participants and what they can teach the artist and each other.


Dates and Overview:

August 29th-30th: Andrew Rutt and Mike Watson make an initial visit to Studio Nicoli (marble studio).

October 12th-15th: Andrew Rutt returns to Studio Nicoli to dialogue and collect stories in relation to the ‘Wall’ theme.

November 17th to 18th: Maria Rosa Sossai, Graham Hudson and Mike Watson run the Walls workshop at the Academy of Art in Carrara.

November 8th-11th: Robert Pettena concludes a long running dialogue with a remote anarchist community in Carrara in which written and spoken stories will be collected. He intends to bring the community to the town of Carrara as part of this process.

December 15h: Presentation.

Organization: Ars Gratia Artis