6 November – 8 December 2019
Palermo, various venues
The 2019 edition of BAM – Biennale Arcipelago Mediterraneo, bearing the title ÜberMauer, takes place in a year marked by three anniversaries of major political and symbolic significance: the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and of the Tiananmen Square uprising, and the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots. From these historical cues the project starts with a rich programme of events disseminated in various historic sites of the city, from the centre to the outskirts, with the participation of internationally-acclaimed artists. The programme has been prepared as a choral effort by the Fondazione Merz and European Alternatives, which for the occasion has moved its own Transeuropa Festival to Palermo, along with the collaboration of the various players in the cultural, artistic and political life of the City of Palermo.
ÜBERMAUER, THE EXHIBITION
This takes the form of an exhibition project spread throughout the city of Palermo bringing together historical and unpublished works by established international artists like Shilpa Gupta, Alfredo Jaar, Emily Jacir, Zena el Khalil, Shirin Neshat, Damián Ortega, Michal Rovner e Driant Zeneli, Italian artists or residents in our country like Francesco Arena, Claudia Di Gangi, Patrizio Di Massimo, Claire Fontaine, Giuseppe Lana, Andrea Masu and Gili Lavy and Palermo-born artists such as Stefania Galegati, Ignazio Mortellaro and Michele Tiberio, who will open their studios to a series of visits and public meetings.
In the year that sees the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots and the thirtieth anniversary of the Tienanmen Square uprising and the fall of the Berlin Wall, ÜberMauer proposes a path of analysis and testimony on the possible variations of ‘wall’, understood as a symbolic, political, historical and psychological feature. Extending between the sea, the Kalsa and the Cassaro, the installations and projects will appear in numerous public and private spaces scattered throughout the city: the Teatro Garibaldi, the Teatro Bellini, Piazza Magione, the Convento della Magione, the Spasimo and the Sala sopra le Mura, the Church of SS. Euno e Giuliano and elsewhere.
“Every city is a community in its own right”, wrote Aristotle, thus revealing one of the great tensions that still accompany contemporary societies: that between the universalism of notions such as “humanity” and “justice” and the often rejecting character of the polis, defined by contrast with those who do not have the right of citizenship. Every border traces a line of demarcation that is both inclusive and exclusive: it identifies the “we”, the space of familiarity and solidarity, and “the other”, the space of extraneousness and indifference; each wall circumscribes the friend and stigmatises the enemy.
But is it possible to found a political community on encroachment? And resolve what Zygmunt Bauman considered the challenge of the moment, that is “designing – for the first time in human history – an integration that is no longer founded on separation”? Is it possible to imagine a space already and always defined as the overcoming of itself, constitutively multiple, in which a plurality of boundaries intertwine and question each other, inside and beyond every frontier? This is what happens in Palermo: at the centre of the Mediterranean, a cultural and political hub between continents, on the strength of a transcultural and intersectional vocation lived in a manner based totally on compromise. A city marked by contradictions and conflicts, experiences and stories that can in no way be reduced to a single identity.
The walls of a ‘plural’ city collect – and often dramatically – testimonies of the passage of many types of humanity, the legacy of the entire community and culture. In the interpretation of art, some iconic places of the polis that are full of memories offer themselves to epiphanies, hopes or anxieties. Blocks, edges and walls can be mental, physical, cultural or economic but the intervention of artists in any case tackles awareness, stance, the ability to dynamise poetic concepts and materials towards a perspective of continuous change and inclusion.
The most well-established artists will offer the result of their work by playing the role of ambassadors of a city that has been able to make the theme of reception and integration the centre of their administrative and cultural development, in line with the more than millennial tradition of a territory placed naturally as a bridge between peoples, experiences, stories and communities. All the participating artists will draw in visitors and citizens to a packed public programme of meetings, workshops and studio visits.