Seismic events in Central Italy in a group show at the Architecture Biennale

Using different forms of visual art, a group exhibition and a series of meetings attempt to take stock of Italy's recent seismic history.

Storia di un minuto (history of one minute) is the important contribution of photography and video to the Italian Pavilion at the 2021 Architecture Biennale curated by Alessando Melis. The documentation project and the consequent exhibition itinerary involve three artists who have been called upon in different ways to reflect on what, because of the earthquakes that have struck Italy since 2009, could be defined in the broadest sense as “interrupted architecture”.

But rather than focusing on the main events that have devastated the centre of the country, from L'Aquila to Emilia Romagna, from Marche to the Apennines, the three works presented focus on the more proactive aspects that characterise these places today, in that complicated but always fertile interregnum where the concept of resistance gives way to that of resilience.

If destructive events generally last around 60 seconds, the strength of Slow Journalism, which characterises the approach of the three artists involved, lies in their desire and ability to investigate reality beyond the news.

With Voci che si cercano, the German artist Göran Gnaudschun ideally attempts to reconstruct the identity of Onna, a frazione of L'Aquila badly hit by the 2009 earthquake. The ten years that elapsed between the events and the Goethe Institut's (with Onna O.N.L.U.S.) commission allow the artist to move between archive material and ad hoc photographs, whose subdued and profound dialogue forms the backdrop to a more elusive and problematic research: how is the consciousness of a place, perhaps its genius loci, perpetuated when such a traumatic event interrupts the flow of time? Maybe with the help of that concept of Heimat so present in German culture, which conveys an emotional discourse destined to persistently propagate through the people who live in a place—their gazes, their memories, their way of understanding life—even before the place itself.

Göran Gnaudschun, Voci che si cercano, 2019

Similar perhaps in form, but differently interesting in results, is Questa parte di bosco (This part of the forest) by Alessandro Imbriaco. Increasingly interested in the essence of a community, in the red thread that unites people behind their personal stories, Imbriaco engages in a conversation with the inhabitants of Frontingano di Ussita, in the Marche region, giving us a portrait that has the gift of naturalness, as if made by one of them. There is something as a form of conscious and clear mimesis ongoing, a lucid and trusting participation that seems to authorise the artist to take the past somehow for granted and to concentrate instead on the present, on life day by day and, in an affirmative impulse, on the plans for the future.

Antonio Ottomanelli's video installation is entitled La prima casa in cui il cavallo va sarà nel vuoto (The first house where the horse will ride will be in the void), but equally representative of his reflection could be the phrase painted by the Red Blue Eagles, the fans of the local football team, which stands out today in L'Aquila: alla mia terra giuro eterno amor (I swear eternal love to my land). The protagonists of the documentary are in fact the activists of the 3e32 organisation, who have been fighting since 2009 to propose their own way to reconstruction that is moral even before it is material, and that disregards, if not actually opposes, politics from above. Founded a few days after 6 April 2009, which sadly made L'Aquila the case study that still has so much to say about the management of public affairs in Italy, the association is perfect material for the new ideal chapter of Ottomanelli's artistic research, which has always explored the relationship between man and territory and between self–determination and authority.

The whole project, which also includes a series of meetings in Venice and in the places involved in the events, is conceived by Alessandro Gaiani, Emilia Giorgi and Guido Incerti and realised in collaboration with ActionAid Italia ONLUS and the GSSI - Gran Sasso Science Institute.

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