Ailanto. It is a genus of trees native from Asia and Australia. On Wikipedia we can read “The tree was first brought from China to Europe in the 1740s and to the United States in 1784. It was one of the first trees brought west during a time when chinoiserie was dominating European arts, and was initially hailed as a beautiful garden specimen. However, enthusiasm soon waned after gardeners became familiar with its suckering habits and its foul smelling odor. Despite this, it was used extensively as a street tree during much of the 19th century. Outside Europe and the United States the plant has been spread to many other areas beyond its native range. In a number of these, it has become an invasive species due to its ability both to colonize disturbed areas quickly and to suppress competition with allelopathic chemicals. It is considered a noxious weed in Australia, the United States, New Zealand and many countries of central, eastern and southern Europe. The tree also resprouts vigorously when cut, making its eradication difficult and time-consuming. In many urban areas, it has acquired the derisive nicknames of 'ghetto palm', 'stink tree', and 'tree of Hell'".
The curator Fulvio Chimento in the exhibition he organized in Rome at the Villa dei Quintili uses just a parallel with this plant. The ailanth thus becomes "the symbol of an artistic diversity that arises as an alternative to "official" art: it is inclined to "allyise" itself, to engage and spread rapidly in the most disparate environments and at different latitudes.” An artistic project therefore able to adapt itself to different exhibition contexts as evidenced by the comparison with the previous installations: one at the Luigi Poletti Library in Modena where there were artist's books reflecting on street art and one at the Padiglione Tineo-Botanical Orto in Palermo. On the occasion of the exhibition at the Villa dei Quintili in the extraordinary Archaeological Park of the Appian Way Stefano Arienti, Cuoghi Corsello, Dado and Rusty have created site-specific works choosing not to use the archaeological architectures as the scenography of the works.
Stefano Arienti, who has already devoted attention to the ailanto tree in some of his drawings, shows the work Ailanto Rosso already set up at the Isabel Stewart Museum in Boston in 2012. Cuoghi and Corsello reflect on the fragility of places such as the Ancient Appia Park trying to subtract time from its natural flow. Dado with his Altalena prefers a less serious approach by reconstructing an imaginary inspired by the game of street art in the area, while Rusty with his work titled 400 ml inspired by the mosaics of the area reproduces the mosaic floor in the arcade of the baths with the caps of spray cans. A suggestive exhibition and dialogue between past, present and future.
I have read that the ailanthus is used to consolidate landslides. I therefore like the parallelism that is created between its use as a support for fragile land and the support that contemporary art can give to culture at a time when it is particularly fragile and needs support that can reinforce its bases thus avoiding frans and crumbling. It is not just about the archaeological finds or the works present anywhere on our territory. It is rather a more general discourse that includes our being in the world and our history. It is not an easy task, I realize it. But if we do not reinforce our foundations, what was created could soon crumble. I do not say change as it is right that it is in a context where everything flows and transforms, but just crumble and it is not said that what will come will be better than what was there as the modern mentality taught us.