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Manifesta 12: Looking at the world through Palermo’s eyes

, Art & Science
Author Lynsey Free

The 12th edition of Manifesta has kicked off in Palermo, considering the city as a complex political body and an incubator of different global conditions.

Orto Botanico. Palermo Atlas. Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani, courtesy OMA

Titled ‘The Planetary Garden: Cultivating Coexistence,’ the European nomadic biennial looks at the world through the lens of the city and recognizes its unique placement at the crossroads of three continents and explores it as an "ideal place to investigate the challenges of our time."

Palermo is indeed an interesting location of study, as it is "a place where key transnational issues converge – from climate change and illegal trafficking to the simultaneous impact of tourism and migration," OMA, whose urban study ‘Palermo Atlas’ served as the basis for Manifesta 12, said.

Collaborating with local partners, Manifesta 12 is aimed at using Palermo as a “laboratory for the challenges of our time, looking for possible futures.” Artists, writers, architects, and film directors have put their talents to use, developing 30 site-specific commissions spread across iconic locations in the city – some of which have never before been used as exhibition spaces.

Strategy of intervention. Palermo Atlas. Courtesy OMA

The Planetary Garden is hosting three main sections. The 'Garden of Flows' explores toxicity, plant life, and the culture of gardening in relation to Earth’s resources and the global common good. The 'Out of Control Room' seeks to make the invisible networks of digital flows tangible, and ‘City on Stage’ expresses the stratified nature of Palermo.

Teatro Garibaldi is also hosting a library, cafe, and program of events including debates, workshops, and screenings of films shot in Palermo, complete with an introduction and/or Q&A.

Co-curator Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, a Sicilian-born architect and partner at OMA, addressed the importance of Palermo by calling it “more than a city...a node in an expanded geography of flows – of people, capital, goods, data, species."

Map of communities. Palermo Atlas. Courtesy OMA

“Although historically Arab-Norman, the Sicilian capital has been reshaped by recent migrations and now counts Tamil, Somali and Nigerian identities as part of a complex anatomy. Its markets and architecture, nature and ecosystem, harbors and maritime routes, make it a laboratory for cross-pollination and an incubator of global conditions.”

Palermo Mayor Leoluca Orlando referred to Manifesta 12 as “not foreign body fallen upon the city like a meteorite, but the result of sharing and fostering visions, aspirations, projects, and dialogue – a biennial of contemporary art that interacts with a radically changed city in a process of constant change.”

'The Planetary Garden: Cultivating Coexistence’ will run in Palermo until November 4, 2018. The event is co-curated by Laparelli, Dutch journalist and filmmaker Bregtje van der Haak, Spanish architect and researcher Andrés Jaque, and Swiss contemporary art curator Mirjam Varadinis.

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