Late on Thursday, the water in Rome’s famous Trevi-fountain turned red. It wasn’t just a mistake which drew big crowds to one of the Italian capital’s best known tourist hotspots. Protesting against Rome’s “corruption and filth”, Italian activist Graziano Cecchini managed to climb onto the side of the fountain and pour the dye in. According to the Guardian, Cecchini said the protest was a “cry that Rome isn’t dead, that it’s alive and ready to return to be the capital of art, life and Renaissance.”
The stunt performed at the fountain was not Cecchini’s first public performance. His first red Trevi-protest dates back to 2007. After the act was initially considered some kind of hooligan prank, Cecchini told the New York Times that “if it had been me, wink wink, I’d say that this had been a media-savvy operation in the face of a very gray society.”
Early 2008, half a million multi-colored plastic balls bounced down Rome’s famed Spanish Steps, in another self-styled protests at on of the city’s landmarks. “Italians’ balls are broken,” was written on leaflets distributed at the time. Talking to Reuters, the Italian artist said his protest was “an artistic operation which shows, through art, the problems we have here in Italy”.
This work reminds us of the power of ‘Guerilla-art‘, or artwork which has no external boundary between the image and the environment, as a form of protest. Cecchini’s protests, or works of art, have also been conceptualized under the name of ‘vandalism-art’, which makes us think about these performances: While acts of civil disobedience might include aspects with are technically a crime, should they be judged in the same light?