Made in Sicily

Waiting for Godot

April 6, 2013

Well, after the past February general election, we are living in Dante's limbo. Of course, Italy is far from being considered even a deficient form of Heaven, but I will say that right now, it's more like an almost perfect version of Hell!

Ballaro C Street Market (Photo by: Barbara Morana) Ballaro C Street Market

My family, like the rest of the Italian citizenry, are waiting for something to happen, waiting in vain for Godot to arrive. During this endless wait, to occupy our time, we do futile things like sleeping, eating, working (for those of us who have a job, of course), talking about Pope Francis and commenting on our politicians' diverse intentions, all made with the goal of bringing Italy and Italians out of this nonsense!

Last Saturday, a wonderful sunny day, some friends and I went for a seaside promenade to Mondello, the most popular beach immediately near Palermo. The sandy beach was crowded with people. They were all there: kids, parents, grandparents, singles, gays, straight, old, young, pets, celebrating the power of the sun.

In fact, a sunny day can make you forget about everything including politics, money, Grillo, and Berlusconi. You're left with feeling alive, blessing the moment the sun shines on your body and soul, and reflecting on the miracle of life.

Well, it can seem naive but it works. Beaches, markets, squares are packed, as everyone converges there to forget their problems. Lot of people are also rediscovering emergency preparation (bread, pasta, biscuits and many other things), which allow them to spare some euros meanwhile they are spending some quality time with their family preparing food.

After having attended the Easter Mass, many Sicilians went to grocery shop at local street markets, in order to find their goods for a lower prize. Parents spend more time outside with their children, fresh air and green lawns are free, with a couple of euros they can have a pleasant day outside their homes.

Mondello (Photo by: Barbara Morana) Mondello

We try to live a normal life while a very popular comic is mocking our entire country. A sort of interim Prime Minister is stopping anyone he encounters in his path to sign up for his new government, while President Napolitano names 10 wise men in order to get out of our gridlock. Our beloved national Silvio is too sick to appear in court but he miraculously recovered a few days after to call for new elections during a political demonstration in Piazza del Popolo in Rome.

We live in a wonderful, strange country, Italy today is like an old sick lady you have to assist, and we, Italians, like Vladimir and Estragon in Beckett's play, instead of acting we keep on saying:”Well? Shall we go?-”Yes, let's go”, but at the end the only certainty is that: “THEY DON'T MOVE.”

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Palermo Art Scene

February 10, 2013

As I mentioned in my last article, I was very exited about the opening of the first Palermo International Biennial.  Well, I visited it and I can't hide my disappointment. I was expecting a serious International contemporary art event, hosted by a respected organization with knowledge of museography and exhibit design. And of course, an event with interesting and well-curated content. Sadly, I didn't find any of those things.

Approximately, 800 artists were selected with from one to five of their works represented. You do the math. Or not. Suffice it to say there were a large number paintings and sculptures exhibited in one of three different locations. The works of art were hoarded together in a disappointing visual hodge-podge. In the international section, there was no way of even knowing the artists' country of origin; simply you had to guess that they weren't Italian because of the names! There were no tags telling the visitors where he/she came from.

ZAC space (Photo by: Barbara Morana) ZAC space

I could go on and on about specific examples of the Biennial's poor contents , but I won't bore you. One thing I can tell you for sure is that at least half of the works exhibited at Palermo's Biennial shouldn't have been shown in the first place. Of course there were some talented artists among this curatorial mess, but unfortunately their talents were overshadowed by the vast number of inferior works showcased during a highly disorgnaized one-month marathon.

Sicily has a significant number of art critics, curators and art historians. There are many professionals in our art community who work seriously to give the public access to a high level of art collected from a vast, complicated and versatile world of antique, modern and contemporary exchanges and exhibitions.

A biennial is a good place to discuss cultural diversity. It can be a fertile field from which to sow tolerance and common respect and to find an alternative way for nations to communicate. And certainly Palermo is a great place to start this dialogue because of its history and geographical location. It's a pity see how a potentially wonderful idea was used for personal purposes by the wrong people. I do believe that it was a real missed opportunity for Sicily to enter the international contemporary art circuit.

ZAC entrance (Photo by: Barbara Morana) ZAC entrance

Since it is politically correct for me to denounce local mediocrity, it's also ok for me to applaud a new project called Zisa Contemporary Art Zone(ZAC ), promoted by Palermo's Municipality.

ZAC is a 2,000-square meter hangar devoted to contemporary arts. Pavilion 19 was designed in the 90s to be Palermo's Contemporary Art Museum but unfortunately it never opened to the public. It is located inside the Zisa's Cultural Complex (a 55,000- square meter complex of industrial archeology in the heart of the Zisa, a densely populated and working-class neighborhood of Palermo). The complex was rehabilitated and destined to be the center of Palermo cultural life in the 90s, then abandoned by the former city administration and, apparently, redeemed by the current one.

So, ZAC (the Z stands for both Zisa and Zone) is a “non-museum”, a space where today's emerging and well-known artists can share their ways of re-imagining art with the public. The first project is a three-month lab where 60 young Sicilian artists were given the opportunity to fill this huge exhibition space with their works, on one condition: that they use all recycled material they could find inside Zisa's Cultural Complex. In March, after three months of work, the artists will exhibit their art.

ZAC in progress (Photo by: Barbara Morana) ZAC in progress

At 6:00 pm as visitors start to arrive, the work-in-progress, creative experience will become an open space arena, in which artists and visitors exchange their experiences. Even now, people come to look around the place and inquire about the whole artistic process. I'm one of them. Every Friday, my daughters take French classes at the French Cultural Institute. It's located inside the Zisa's Complex, so every week I go and check on the artists, I talk with them, I look at their work. It's a real pleasure!

It's a great initiative, a sort of small Palais de Tokyo. I love it so far.  It's an effective way to make contemporary arts move closer to people. But, I guess that what I like the most is the fact that no grandiloquent institution is presenting this experiment. The results of this six-month exchange betweens the city and the artists will be a lesson in allowing Palermo to spread genuine artistic fervor.

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It's a Wonderful Palermo Life

January 13, 2013

The holidays are finally over and I'm back! You are probably wondering why I haven't told you about Christmastime in Sicily. I'm really sorry. I looked for some truly special and genuine out-of-this-world happenings, but the truth is, I didnt find any.

Art deco building (Photo by: Barbara Morana) Art deco building

During the holiday season, many cultural activities spring up in Sicily. Actuallly, way too many to fully appreciate: living cribs (crèches), extravagant Christmas trees, concerts, exhibitions and installations. So you're probably wondering why Barbara hadn't found any interesting enough to write about. Naturally, I haven't seen them all, but the few events I took part in this year were very boring, or, because of insufficient public funding, not well done.

I don't know what you did, but I spent my holidays eating too much, meeting people I haven't seen in decades, and of course, watching traditional holiday-themed movies on TV. So now, close your eyes and try to picture me on a typical holiday day: lying in my bed with my daughters in the morning, watching Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life for the 36th time, crying after George Bailey's misery while eating some delicious Sicilian pastry. 

Baroque church (Photo by: Barbara Morana) Baroque church

For dinner, I visited one of my relatives, gorging myself on more delicious food, making small talk with my great uncle's son. He is someone that I only normally see for weddings, funerals and other big events that require the entire family to get together, commenting of course, on the evergreen values of Capra's movies.

The next day, I decided to take a long stroll in the city center, as I needed to observe my city coming back to normalcy. It was time to forget about the holiday excesses by enjoying a normal Palermo Sunday promenade. All that was left from the annual festivities were the Christmas light decorations.

My walk was magical. I walked and walked for hours, taking photos of my wonderful, flat, provincial, and beloved hometown. I wanted to share some of these snapshots with you, so I hope you enjoy them.

By the way, in January, Palermo is giving birth to a new 'baby,' its first International Biennial! I look forward to telling you all about it in the next article.

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