Empty for nearly 20 years, a skyscraper in the center of Milan, Italy, was given new life earlier this year when thousands of artists temporarily invaded and occupied the space. Through the act of squatting, the group sought to create a vibrant center where art and cultural activities could be produced autonomously. The city forced the occupiers’ eviction 10 days later, on May 15.
Led in part by the group Lavatori dell’arte, the crowds broke into and occupied the Galfa Tower, an empty 31-story building that they immediately re-branded as MACAO, on May 5.
While they had the building, the occupiers created a nearly nonstop flow of performances, talks, meetings, and parties, filling various floors and plaza spaces in the 60-year-old skyscraper. Working elevators are a distant memory in the building, as are working electrical wires and water pipes above a certain height. Once inside, the instigators of this occupation climbed the 31 flights to the top of the building and unfurled a multiple-story tall vertical banner that, when translated, reads, “You could even imagine flying.”
“We were born precarious, we are the pulse of the future economy, and we will not continue to accommodate exploitation mechanisms and loss redistribution,” reads an official announcement of the occupation from May 5. “We open MACAO in order to let the culture strongly regain a piece of Milan, in response to a story that too often has seen the city ravaged by public procurement professionals, unscrupulous building permits, in a neo-liberal logic that has always humiliated the inhabitants and pursued a single goal: the profit of few excluding the many.”
According to Vogue Italy, Milan Mayor Giuliano Pisapia had previously suggested some unofficial support of the occupation’s goals. But, in the face of what he later referred to as a public safety issue, called for the occupiers’ eviction.