Made in Sicily
May 23rd is the 21st anniversary of the shocking bombing of an anti-Mafia judge and his family near Capaci, since then known as the Capaci Massacre.
It was wonderful to realize, once again, how we have managed to transform a painful day into a moment of hope and dedication.
Twenty-one years ago, thousands of Sicilians went out to the streets to say enough with Mafia and its deplorable massacres. It was the first time we broke the chain of silence, and we were finally a civil entity allied against Cosa Nostra. Since then, every year we try to do the same, by showing up in a public place to reaffirm our refusal to accept any kind of mafia control.
Above all, we want our kids to remember the extreme sacrifice that Falcone, his wife Francesca Morvillo, Borsellino and their bodyguards made for all of us. So we have decided to focus on our youth, and the future of our nation. We want them to realize how easy it is to choose legality over illegality, courage and civil awareness over indifference and fatalism.
Thousands of young Italian citizens arrive in Palermo each year with the so-called “Ships of Legality”sailing in from Civitavecchia and Naples. Palermo looks like a huge green field filled with scented flowers spread out to cover the ground where our heroes died.
Everyone crowds in the city streets for concerts, conferences and workshops, in a celebration of lawful citizenship. All of this is made possible thanks to the courageous work of many anti-mafia organizations, and the devoted persistence of thousands of Italian teachers and volunteers, who work all year long.
Of course, I went with Emma's class to the event, and it was very touching to see all these little kids wearing t-shirts with Falcone and Borsellino's images. So, as a mother of two, I say thank you to these people, thanks for reminding us who we are, where are we from, and what we are capable of. Thanks for never allowing us to forget the fact that there are people willing to die for their beliefs, normal people like you and me, capable of putting common interests above their own, just because it is the right thing to do.
This is what we want our children to learn, this is the way we want young Sicilians to grow up, responsive citizens of an island who have lived through a recent past full of tears and blood, aware that now it is up to them to wipe the tears and clean up the stains..
All international media should have broadcast this event, but sadly almost nobody was there.
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!
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.