San Precario

San Precario

Brief History

o San Precario emerged as an iconographic figure within Italy in 2004

o Dedicated to spreading awareness and critiquing the Government’s introduction of casual independent employment contracts, San Precario is the Patron Saint of Precarious Workers and Lives

o Given the strong religious traditions of Catholicism within Italy, San Precario was created as a faux saint, which mimics the many rituals of saint idolisation.

o A reaction to the ‘flexiworker’ has particular resonance in Italy as the contemporary government policies reject the post-war traditionalism of il posto fis, or ‘permanent position’.

o Additionally, Italy has very little in the way of a social security system. Thus the plight of the casualised worker, who often falls into periods of unemployment, can become significantly disadvantaged.

o Italy embraced the 1970’s movement of ‘free-flexibility’ which promoted freedom from salaries and capitalist control.

o However, the Italian Government in recent years has used this concept of ‘flexibility’ to introduce exploitative individual contracts.

o San Precario’s request is for Flexicurity, welfare which protects workers without rejecting their earlier independent ideals of ‘Flexibility’.

Traits of San Precario

o Transgender

o No fixed identity

o Recontextualises Italian Saint Iconography;

o Saint field of expertise (i.e. St. Joseph, patron saint of carpentry) is the Precarious Worker

o Represented in statues, processions, saint cards

o Has specific prayer modelled on the Catholic lord’s prayer; for paid maternity leave, protection for commercial chain workers, call centre operator’s holiday, superannuation, free services and income guarantees

o Declared Saint Day, Sunday 29th February- symbolism of Sunday which serves to show that it no longer remains a ‘Day of Rest’

Uniting for a Cause: Casualisation of the Workforce

o San Precario is as a means of uniting the issue of employment precarity throughout Western Europe.- Unified European May Day of precarious and migrant workers ‘Euro May Day’

o the shared experience of casualisation in its multiplicity of forms, gives rise to struggles which emphasize immaterial labour, biopolitical production and precarious conditions.”

o San Precario’s interchangeable identity, appearing in different constructions from the supermarket to the Milanese catwalks, allows the development of a cohesive cause among different groups both within Italy as well as wider Europe.

Imagery and Spectacle.

An effigy of San Precario at the 'EuroMayDay06' parade

An effigy of San Precario at the EuroMayDay06 parade

o the struggle and actions originating around precarity are characterised as constituent conflicts where the production of a common imagery plays a central role

o San Precario is described as “a site of mythopoetic production

o Imagery and symbolism, which is so prominent in the promotion of San Precario, is a means for social activists to draw attention to their concerns and ideas, and thus lobby for political intervention and change. Perhaps the most common form of protest through artistic means is signage.

Guy Debord ‘The Society of the Spectacle’ 1967

Guy Debord ‘The Society of the Spectacle’ 1967

o Debord “The spectacle is not a collection of images; rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images(Debord 1994 pg12)

o Contemporary activist movements utilise communication and information symbols to transmit common messages, and within specific sites rely on the power of spectacle to disseminate their concerns within society.

Protest art:

"Die In"

o The use of innovative art practices to prompt political change “Intervening in the cultural grammar of a specific place, time or situation can therefore lead to a change that is not only culturally but also politically subversive

"This Blood's For You,"

Religious organisation Faith Builders International's: "This Bloods For You,"

Examples of Media Representations to Promote

Political Activism

Sea of Hands

o The Sea of Hands initiative, was Australia’s largest public art installation and represented the names of over 300,000 Australians who signified their support for Aboriginal Native Title and Reconciliation.

o The multicoloured Sea of Hands travelled all over Australia during the contemporary national debates, and setting up in front of Parliament House, on Bondi Beach, at Uluru, and other iconic areas. It was as a demonstration of the support in the community for reconciliation based on justice in native title issues

o This is another example of the use of art to unite people under a common societal issue, and inducing political change through innovative uses of representative media.

Earth Hour

o For one hour a year people all over the world switch off their lights to spread awareness about environmental issues.

o Earth Hour 2008 was a major success, celebrated on all seven continents. Iconic landmarks all around the world turned off their non-essential lighting for Earth Hour. Some of which included; the Empire State Building (New York City), Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco), Sydney Opera House (Sydney, Australia), the Colosseum (Rome, Italy).

o The event was criticised due to control of the press as a result of sponsorship deals.

The Colosseum turned off for Earth Hour 2008

The Colosseum turned off for Earth Hour 2008

New Zealand's Sky Tower switched off its lights for Earth Hour

New Zealand's Sky Tower turned off its lights for Earth Hour

"We've turned the lights out. Now it's your turn - Earth Hour."

"We've turned the lights out. Now it's your turn - Earth Hour."

A Shift in Contemporary Activist Movements?

San Precario’s movement Manifesto: “we are a global and neoeuropean movement

o Have we transgressed from the days where social activist movements relied on posters and peaceful protests and speeches to convey their messages? With access to globalised resources such as the media, do groups now utilise these technologies to form new and innovative ways of disseminating their concerns?

o Should the coined phrase actions speak louder than words perhaps be changed to Images speak louder than words


Debord, G. (1994). The Society of the Spectacle. (trans. Nicholson-Smith) New York, Zone Books.

Vanni, I. T., M. (2005). “The Life and Deed of San Precario, Patron Saints of Precarious Workers and Lives.” Fibreculture Journal(5).

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