"Manifesta" was born in Amsterdam in the early 1990s, and since then, it has never stopped. It's a nomadic biennial, that means it keep changing, as the world around it: according to the main challenges in today's society, each time it chooses a different area of focus, taking office in the most representative city about theese topics.
"Manifesta Calling": in an atmosphere of freedom expression, taking distance from the dominant centres of nowadays artistic production, local and unlocal artists are asked to put completely themselves into their art: Who are they? What are they fighting, if they are fighting? What would they change? Or just, what do they want to show? Throught art, people open their eyes to get a better look, not just to the installation, but to the world behind it.
Why this 12°edition in Palermo, Sicily, in the southest region of Italy? As you can read in the official website http://m12.manifesta.org/what-is-manifesta/, this choice was “for its representation of two important themes that identify contemporary Europe: migration and climate change and how these issues impact our cities.”
I am from Alcamo, just 60 km far from Palermo, furthermore I lived there for three years, and I know very well this area. The multi – ethnic history of Palermo, still tangible, is heir of several dominations: Greeks, Barbarians, Islamics, Northmen, Spaniards etc. So, walking around the historical centre, it’s possible to read a street name in three different languages (Italian, Arabic and Jewish), to be amazed in front of the Catholic Palermo Cathedral, taking a picture five minute later of an islamic mosque. This city is the perfect example about how different cultures learnt how to live togheter in a pacific way, mixing up each other, without lose their own identity.
In the same time, Europe is living one of the most complicated time of its history: the strong sense of cohesion built up in past years starts to waver, the extreme right wing is getting stronger every day (look at Italy, and the previous meeting between the prime ministers Salvini and Orban, Hungary), and the last tempts to face immigration problem (e.g. reinforce Frontex) don’t look like the final solution.
Italy is the mirror of today’s European Society: Salvini immigration policy is making troubles to all the European countries, and in this clima of suspicious, anxiety, economic crises, the real victims are tolerance and emphaty. So, a city like Palermo, an historical oasi of multiculturalism, is in danger of behing washed away. Talking about Palermo and Manifesta, is talking about all the cities, people, movements that still believe in diversity as richness.
Why Manifesta could be usuefull in this moment? First of all, don’t forget that Manfesta is Art, with all the power that this word shall contain: the strength of the beauty reaches our heart in a faster way. In second, Manifesta has different aims: Art as a source of reflection; Art as a way to remember; Art as a way to feel; Art as a way to join.
Some Installations take places in the most periferic and forgotten areas of Palermo: e.g. ZEN, social housing district, far away from the main centre of the city, hosts the Installation “Becoming Garden”, fighting the degradation of the area by growing new green zones, through the collaboration of artists, ZEN inhabitants and associations.
In palazzo Costantino, the artist is talking directly to the heart of Palermo’s people, showing a documentary on Michele De Seta, an old documentarist and moviemaker from the same city, and his “The lost Word”, a documentary about traditions and jobs of South Italy, that we lost over the years,
A few minutes far from it, the immigration topic is represented from different point of views: “Peng!Collective”, from Berlin, is claiming to civil disobedience, with its online campaign to help refugees to overpass the borders; “Liquid Violence”, instead, examinates the effects of Militarization of Mediterranean sea.
And that’s just a taste.
An occasion to know better what is happening to the world around us, in the time-less athmosphere of the oldest buildings of Palermo. This is Manifesta 12.