“Palermo is an ideal location to investigate the scenario of our times, because it lies in the middle of the Mediterranean,” says Hedwig Fijen, the director of the biennial Manifesta event, about the choice of the Sicilian capital for its twelfth instalment. “It’s between north and south, central to the recent ‘invisible borders’ traced by migration from Eastern Mediterranean Africa to Europe.” With the aim of exploring and understanding contemporary Europe’s conditions, the itinerant initiative co-founded by Fijen in 1996 sees Palermo as the ideal host city for 2018.
Dario Franceschini, who has been Italy’s Minister of Cultural Heritage and Tourism since 2014, agrees. “In January 2017, Palermo was named Italy’s 2018 culture capital, because the investments that have been made there in culture, tourism, the rehabilitation of urban spaces and the old city centre are changing the face of the city.” After all, the intelligent investments in culture and contemporary art he refers to were made precisely by his ministry’s office, the Direzione Generale Arte e Architettura Contemporanee e Periferie Urbane, which is the Contemporary Art and Architecture Department of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism.
At Manifesta 12, the visual arts will not be alone in taking up the challenge imposed by contemporary times on the city of Palermo. There will be the choral voice of a four-member team of creative mediators: Bregtje van der Haak, Andrés Jaque, Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli and Mirjam Varadinis. The multidisciplinary dimension given to the biennial by these curators is an attempt to better understand the processes that are giving shape to today's world, often beyond our control.
“In my experience as a documentarist and journalist,” says Bregtje van der Haak, “I tend to not make differences between disciplines, but react to the need to tell stories that must be told, even when they lie within blurry boundaries.” For the Spanish architect Andrés Jaque, the founder of Office for Political Innovation, “what is interesting about Manifesta 12 is that is will be a dialogue from different perspectives.” The projects under development will be the result of this team’s composition. The specificities of each individual mediator and the territories that are common to their disciplines will give shape to the most interesting contents.
Ippolito Pestellini, the team’s pioneer and a partner at OMA, has conducted a preliminary study titled Palermo Atlas, commissioned by Manifesta and completed in July 2017. It is a multidimensional piece of research based on sociology, anthropology and encounters with artists, botanists and agronomists, used as a tool to define the locations and themes of Manifesta 12 that are specific for the city. “We want to be relevant to Palermo,” Pestellini says to describe the team's work. “Thanks to its history and geographical position, Palermo is a workshop where we can test alternative forms of urbanisation and new models of civic participation.”
The Atlas presents Palermo as a hub within a vast expanse of movements that are often invisible, untouchable and non-influenceable. One visualisation of Manifesta 12 is a picture of the botanical garden in Palermo (see photo), founded in 1789 as a laboratory to nurture, study, test, mix and gather diverse species. It inspired the organisers of the event to look at the idea of the “garden”, exploring its capacity to aggregate difference and to compose life out of movement and migration. The title of Manifesta 12, “The Planetary Garden”, was borrowed from the French botanist Gilles Clément, who published Le jardin planétaire in 1997. It is absolutely suitable to identify a place that represents some of the most crucial challenges faced by the Mediterranean region and Europe in its entirety. Manifesta 12 will attempt to offer answers in critical, artistic, theatrical and scientific ways in Palermo from 16 June to 4 November 2018.
- Manifesta 12
- Opening dates:
- 16 June – 4 November 2018
- Offices and pre-program Waiting for Manifesta 12:
- Teatro Garibaldi
- via Teatro Garibaldi 46/56, Palermo