In the late 1960s in Italy, a process to de-institutionalise people admitted to mental asylum structures got under way. Law 180/1978 — also known as the Basaglia Law after its main proponent Franco Basaglia — reformed the mental health system in the country and drove forward a new healthcare model based on communities of care.
In the city of Trieste, key to the so-called Basaglia revolution, the gradual closure of psychiatric hospitals has given rise to a network of alternative services that include apartments, hostels, homes, day centres and patient-managed cooperatives. Opposite the severity of the competition- and profit-based capitalist model, these cooperatives present a new “social business” set-up that allows self-employment to be encouraged as a form of livelihood and creates economic frameworks underpinned by cooperation and mutual support.
Ombrelle rosse (Red Umbrellas) is a collaborative project involving three agents: Lister Sartoria Sociale (Lister Social Tailoring), a tailoring cooperative from Trieste, Ombre Rosse (Red Shadows), a self-organised group of sex workers, and the Comitato per i Diritti Civili delle Prostitute ApS (The Committee of Civil Rights for Prostitutes ApS). This alliance seeks to open a public discussion on care and social reproduction in diversity via the production of objects using recycled materials that come from discarding and neglecting in capitalist urban life. Thus, the broken umbrellas — a common object of waste in Trieste owing to a strong wind known as bora — take on a new life as they are turned into frisbees, kites and capes in Lister’s production labs, in the former Trieste Psychiatric Hospital, the world’s first closed mental asylum. The battered umbrellas encounter the red umbrellas (a symbol of sex workers) to build a common path of social participation and emancipation.
Within the framework of the exhibition machinations, a tailoring workshop in collaboration with local agents and a public act to present the project, showing certain pieces manufactured in Trieste, are held in the Museo. Both activities explore in more depth the capacity of the cooperative as a machine of social reproduction and a mainstay of communal life, based on the alliance between collectives fighting for their rights.
Lister Sartoria Sociale is a circular economy social tailor’s which came into being from the experience of the de-institutionalisation of mental health driven by Franco Basaglia and Franco Rotelli. Its tailoring revolves around gathering, recovering and recycling objects discarded by the city of Trieste and involves subjects marginalised because of their diversity. It was conceived as a space which joins material and subject edges in our society, as a road to emancipation through sharing and work for people experiencing times of precarity, and as a device of social and environmental sustainability.
Ombre Rosse is a transfeminist collective of sex workers, former sex workers and allied activists which operates through the slogan: “We fight against violence affecting all women, cis and trans people and people with abilities and disabilities from all nationalities, social classes and of all ages, religions and races, good and bad!” The collective takes a stance against violence and stigmatisation towards and the criminalisation of anyone who offers sex services, be it by choice, compulsion or simply circumstance. They support the rights of sexual work and migration with a vision and practices against abuse, exploitation and forced labour.
Comitato per i Diritti Civili delle Prostitute ApS (CDCP) was founded in 1982 by a group of female sex workers and activists to demand their rights and pressure public powers to decriminalise sex work and recognise the workers' labour rights. Since 2000, CDCP has participated in the fight against human trafficking and, more specifically, against sexual and worker exploitation in Trieste, within the framework of the regional project FVG in rete contra la trata.