When I saw Bordalo II’s stunning racoon in Belem, my first thought was ‘where did he find all those pieces of trash?’
Little did I know that soon I was going to regret that wonder, while I was getting to know how difficult it can be to get some pieces of garbage to hang on a wall.
Because yes, this time, I was Bordalo II’s trash-buddy. And it was crazy. ☺
Despite the sleepless nights, the hectic days and the flat always full of people I barely knew, being part of Bordalo II’s first work in Rome was amazing. Finally, I discovered what is behind the realization of a large-scale mural (another wonder of mine that I often regretted last week), seeing things that you, ordinary street art lovers, can’t imagine.
But most of all I got to meet an amazing team of people -the guys at Forgotten Project– and our chemistry was so intense that we managed to accomplish the impossible.
Here is an insider’s view to the making of Bordalo II’s Goat at Saint Peter’s Railway Station; if you are coming to Rome, don’t miss this mural: it came out spectacularly!
Bordalo II in Rome > day 0 (or, better, the prologue)
“Guys, the driver’s suited up!” I texted, realizing that it was going to be a complicated, hard-sell morning. Clearly, no one had told him that we were going to pick up trash at garbage dumps and breaker’s yards in the least safe areas in town.
This became even more evident when I saw ‘the van’: a tiny thing that –as it turned out- could carry less than one third of the trash that I was supposed to collect for the next day. Actually, if I consider how my previous week of trash hunting had evolved, I couldn’t think of a more befitting scenario. Before beginning my dumps journey, I had never imagined that picking up things that clearly no one wants anymore could be so complicated. Security controls, bureaucracy, dubious people, permissions, countless phone calls and an endless tour of the ‘Presepe dei Netturbini’ (the unique nativity scene proudly set up by Rome’s dustmen) had allowed me to get just a small part of what Bordalo II needed to build his latest big trash animal.
Bordalo II in Rome > day 1 (or, better, the blank wall)
After picking the artist up at the airport and leaving his suitcases at my place, we went to check out the garbage booty, which –predictably- wasn’t enough. And not even one more tour of the Presepe dei Netturbini allowed us to get any more trash from the dustmen!
Downhearted, we went to the wall and, while Bordalo II and his assistant, Joao, began mixing the colours, I called my trash buddies one more time, without success.
But luckily my desperate phone calls had been overheard by a guy who was sipping a beer at the local bar, who happened to work at a breaker’s yard nearby: and just like that, I met my angel! ☺
Meanwhile, on that first evening, Bordalo II and Joao painted the whole background.
We realized on day one that they are unstoppable: they can carry on working for ten hours in a row, at night and even under the rain (which, luckily, was never so hard that week).
On that first day, I left the wall around 8pm to go home and get the rooms ready for the guests. While a half freezing, half starving Alessandra was texting SOS messages from the wall, Hugo joined me and took care of the dinner. Our amazing working team was taking shape as we were getting to know each other, with our strengths and weaknesses, such as that a Portuguese guy can’t cook pasta, no matter how good he is at convincing you that he is indeed an expert cook.
Bordalo II in Rome > day 2 (or, better, from the garbage dumps to the wall)
On the second day, the garbage dumps tour was back to the top, but luckily this time we had the foresight to rent a proper van. To our surprise, we found very collaborative people who provided us with all the pieces Bordalo II had asked for, and so, around noon, we were already back at the wall.
Bordalo II opened his suitcase, took out some tools and the magic began. Seeing him at work is jaw-dropping. He started out cutting the pieces, shaping the different parts of the goat and assembling them right in front of our amazed eyes.
Passers-by were stopping to get a closer look and they were all astonished. Later on we found out that some of them had even called the police to ask if there had been a car crash and whether our guy was helping to remove the devastated cars from the road. ;)
Meanwhile, as I didn’t yet know what kind of week was awaiting me, I called my friends at Slow Food trying to get three actual goats that -in my proactive imagination- would peacefully lead the three promotional tours planned for the last day. Looking back at that over-enthusiastic moment, I can’t be more grateful to my friends who couldn’t provide us with a herd!
Bordalo II in Rome > day 3 (or, better, the day when I first spotted the goat)
Day three was long and exhausting as well, but there was one single moment, a tiny magic sparkle, that made the whole Bordalo II experience legendary. Leaving the grocery store and walking back to my car, I looked at the artwork from afar. It was still unpainted, basically a bunch of trash hanging on a wall. But SHE was beautiful. That was the moment when I spotted the goat for the very first time and it felt like when you lie down and see various images and shapes of what the clouds floating by could be, until you see The One and there is no turning back.
That night, at dinner, we discussed the silkscreen prints. Bordalo II had never done such a thing before, so he really wanted to get something special and unique. His general idea was to do something similar to the concept of his big trash animals, something recycled and with a rough vibe.
As puppy-eyed Trevor had asked me to go together to shoot the sunrise from Gianicolo hill on the next morning, I was thinking of calling it a night but, punctually, the sickest idea crossed the table.
Five minutes later, we were stripping down tons of posters from the street.
If I must rank the most amazing moments of this crazy week, our conspiratorial smiles under the rain that night would be at the very top of that list. We drove all around the town, collecting ten times the amount of paper we ended up using, but we were over-excited and simply couldn’t stop (not even when the police did stop us, which actually called for more celebrations, beers and late-night croissants).
One hour later, I was driving with Trevor up Gianicolo hill to get a time-lapse of the sun rising over Rome. We were talking about ourselves, life and all those weird topics you only come up with after a sleepless, crazy night, when a guy approached us.
“Are you here for the alignment?”
“What alignment?” we asked, puzzled.
“Over there, look! Tonight, the planets are lined up: it is a very special occasion.”
And so, there we were. Looking at the sun rising over my beautiful town, at the beginning of an astronomically special day.
Bordalo II in Rome > day 4 (or, better, the day when all of us should have rested a bit)
After leaving the artist at the wall, I came back to my place with Hugo to cut last night’s posters into A3 size. Well, more or less. The whole point was to use irregular, used and wasted paper, so I figured that a few centimetres of difference wouldn’t harm anyone. Also, I don’t own a ruler.
Anyway, while we were working on the posters, a series of weird requests arrived on our group chat:
“Guys, we need a chainsaw”
“Giulia, are you still at home? Perhaps you have an axe? Bring it to the wall!”
“Elsa, go to the church near the station: the priests are gardening over there, I’m sure they will have a spare hoe”
Later, someone typed “perhaps we’ve managed it”, shortly followed by “not yet, sorry, we need some dynamite”.
All this panic arose because the artist needed to move the scaffolding along a bit and there was a plant making the operation impossible. This was until Hugo arrived and, without blinking an eye, he moved the whole thing with only his bare hands. And so that was how quickly we panicked about the smallest things at that point of the week. Surely, we all needed some rest. Especially because the real adventure was yet to begin. But, as we couldn’t know, we kept working all day long.
Bordalo II’s big trash animal > day 5 (or, better, the day when we finally met the goat)
When the scaffolding was removed, I was somewhere around doing things, and it felt as if a friend had sent me the picture of her newborn. I dropped my bags, I cackled, I got all giggly and I literally ran to the wall. It was already dark, but the vision of the goat was breathtaking.
Once we had taken the mandatory pictures, we all went to my place for dinner. After having tried, respectively, Hugo’s, Alessandra’s and my cooking, the guests offered to cook themselves: to help out, they said. ;)
After dinner, Joao wanted to have fun and experience a night out with locals. Our ambitious plan was to cover the most popular night-life neighbourhoods in Rome, from Trastevere to San Lorenzo, but what he got was even better: the truly Roman experience of being stuck in the Friday-evening traffic all night long.
We came back home around 4.30, which was less than two hours before my appointment with the video maker guys, Trevor and Leo, for a second time-lapse of the sun rising over Rome.
Spending the night without sleeping was becoming a thing but, somehow, I wasn’t feeling tired. The excitement of seeing Bordalo II at work and his goat finally taking shape was so big that I couldn’t feel my own exhaustion. Which, as I learnt the day after, isn’t exactly a good thing.
Bordalo II in Rome > day 6 (or, better, the day of ‘this should have been done before’)
The day before the event, we had to do all the things that we had kept postponing earlier in the week. It was a mix of small stuff, like buying dishes and napkins for the party, washing the brushes, assembling the food-tokens, printing the press release, sending the newsletter or baking the cakes, but it was a very impressive amount of small stuff. Impressive enough to get me stuck on one and only sentence for the whole day: “this should have been done before”.
(Except when I discovered that I was going to talk at the prestigious Bilotti Museum less than one hour before the beginning of the ‘Urban Talks’ Conference. Then, I twisted it into “I should have known about this before”).
On that same day, we had to remove all the leftover trash from the area under the overpass to get it ready for the party of the following day. So I went to the designated office and, after specifying that it should have been done on the day before, I kindly asked the guys to come and pick up the garbage near the wall.
‘What wall?’ they asked, perplexed.
‘The wall at Saint Peter’s Train Station. We are the guys from Forgotten Project’
‘???’ They just looked at me, puzzled.
‘We stored things in here less than one week ago’
‘You must be wrong, no one has stored things in here’
This I-don’t-know-who-you-are thing lasted for 20 minutes, or until I made it clear that I would not leave without someone coming with me to pick up the trash. Somehow, I must have looked convincing, because in less than one hour the area was clean and ready to host the most amazing party ever.
It was time to come back home and get things ready for dinner. We still had an interview to record and some more ‘small stuff’ to get done, so everybody was going to crash at my place for one more night, to the delight of my neighbours.
When the whole list of the impossible tasks for the day had been accomplished, the artist came up with a cooler idea for the silkscreen prints that we were going to sell on the next morning. It was 10 pm and the real fun was about to begin.
Bordalo II’s final silkscreen print isn’t a silkscreen print at all. He took a picture of his work and, after editing it, he printed it on plastic. While I was wandering around the neighbourhood looking for an abandoned, open-air location where he could spray-can all night long, he worked on the stencils he needed for his artwork.
At the abandoned parking lot, he lined up the pieces of paper on a wall and the magic began. He spray-painted a limited edition of prints, which are all amazingly different from each other.
A few hours later, the sun was rising again over Bordalo II’s first mural in Rome. And I was there, this time on my own, simply enjoying the moment.
Bordalo II in Rome > day 7 (or, better, the day of the street party under the overpass)
Among all the moments I lost track of during this week, the sequence of events that made the party happen is the most blurred. Which is kind of ironic, as I was the one in charge of the final event. All I can remember is that after cleaning and arranging the area it was time to clean it again and put everything away.
I’ve been told that many people came and it was a huge success. I also know that some of my best friends were there, as they tagged me on Facebook later in the afternoon and, as I’m not sure that I have thanked you for coming, allow me to do it now.
If I looked as if I wasn’t paying attention to your words, at least now you know why. And if you ever hear me wondering again about how a certain thing came about, please forward this blogpost to me. ;)
Enjoy the making-of video:
Would you like to explore Rome off the beaten path with me?
Then book one of my alternative walking tours in Rome!
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