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Phantôme by Matteo Fiorucci

As part of the Art of Migration two exhibitions will run concurrently:

‘Phantome’ Photographic Essay from the migrant centre in Trevi, Umbria by Matteo Fiorucci 2016/2017

‘Reciprocus’ Mixed media works on paper by Virginia Ryan and participant image-makers from ‘Make Art Not Walls/Italia’.


The Phantôme project was born in winter 2016. In the city of Trevi, a group of asylum seekers took part in an art workshop. The whole thing was made possible thanks to the help of art therapist Virginia Ryan. I’ve been following the entire project since its inception. The guys have been using one of the hotel rooms where they lived as an art studio for nine months. They worked on their pieces of work here, by using old knowledges learned in their own countries of origin and merging them with the new stimuli that are always guaranteed by the contact with the other. The guys exhibited their own works in public, talked and exteriorised how much they bring with them. Stories about journeys, reasons and dreams that drove them to risk their life to come so far. These last months, I realised that the greatest lack these guys feel is that of the encounter. Closed in the temporary detention centres, days are the same, thereby interrupting their individual growth. The resulting frustration leads to mutism and dis-integration, because, if isolated, they lose themselves and the opportunity of being part of the new reality in front of them. I admit my work was not carried out following a purpose, but supporting that of the guys. From time to time, they explained and opened up to me for the sheer pleasure of showing themselves and their doing. The photos I picked tell a period of nine months when the relationship between the guys and art changed and became more intimate, as well as my own relationship with them was increasingly forming. This joining of arts made me realise the scope of what was happening, their work and mine were meeting and this encounter created the best and most important thing ever: a real relationship between human beings. My project doesn’t aim to show nice pictures, but to tell the small moments that create the history of an approach, the history of a mutual discovery. My sole aim was to avoid the dis-integration of these individuals, because a photography can be a strong existence statement. I think this will explain the reason why most of the pictures I took are born from their own demands. I tried to immortalise them in the moment of creation as their works are not just works, but a price of the own self staged for the other.

By choosing the title Phantôme, I want to focus on the power of both assertion and self-assertion of photography and art in general. Ghosts can’t be touched, people can. These guys live a sort of ante-purgatory, where they see and don’t see themselves, where they exist and don’t exist. They are on the limen and someone else will decide for them. Ghost stories keep children out of trouble and, in our society, that uses the new ghosts, we are the children. With my work, I would like each of them to say: “I exist!”, so that each of us can stop being afraid of ghosts.

I tried to return a sense of gift, closeness, contact. I was often afraid of being a thief, but then the friendship with the guys has legitimised to my eyes too, what I was doing. So, I went from thief to witness and, in this capacity, I want to draw your attention to this work, not mine, but mine and the guys, our work.
I hope what has been carried out can tell the story of an encounter, between man and art, between what is inside and who is on the outside, between human being and human being. Not to forget what is apparently banal, but that is now more necessary than ever, the right to exist and the duty to keep reminding us of this. 

Matteo Fiorucci



  • Organizzato da: Italian Cultural Institute