Cildo Meireles’ large-scale installation in the vegetable gardens of the Orto de’ Pecci in Siena constitutes a new sign on the skyline of such a well-known city. A 30-metre-high ladder extends upwards, a connecting element between the inner suburbs and the historic city centre. In relation to the characteristics of the site, the presence of the ladder impinges on the usual routes taken by visitors coming to Siena to see the historic monuments and who rarely enter into contact with any areas of the daily life of its inhabitants beyond those relating to tourism and consumption.

The Orto de’ Pecci is run by a community that helps people with psychological difficulties, former drug addicts and prisoners. Besides what is materially produced, tending a collective vegetable garden offers a concrete opportunity to work in a community, encouraging responsibility and demanding attention and respect for the rhythms of nature. Such attitudes obey a different logic to that of the tourist industry, at least the dominant form closely related to the entertainment industry and more generally to consumption. Meireles’ ladder dialogues with the site and suggests a reversed perspective, where what is low down is projected upwards. It is a deft sign and an invitation to look upwards. But in this invitation there is an equally explicit call not to lose sight of the contact with the earth and the depth required for any projection upwards.