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Date created
Mon, Jul 16, 2018
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Manifesta 12

Chronicles of a board-member

With pride I report the opening earlier this month of the European Nomadic Biennial Manifesta 12, The Planetary Garden, in Palermo Italy.
The recently reelected charismatic mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando opened the event on 16 June a vast empty lot in the heart of the old harbor district, a physical reminder of the intense bombing the city endured at the outset of the allied forces’ southern invasion during World War 2.

Taking its title from the French philosopher Gilles Clément’s in which he examines the role and responsibility of mankind in its environment, Manifesta 12 examines the very hot topic of global migration, globalization and its effects on surveillance practices, transnational identity, and the very long and rich history of Palermo in that context.

Amongst the many press reactions, the New York Times and the Financial Times in the UK beautifully sum up the positive reception of the event.
Having been a board member of this 12th edition of Manifesta, which, like all 11 earlier editions, have been in the very capable hands of the Dutch director Hedwig Feijen, was both a great joy and a good lesson in the complex processes that precedes the opening of each Biennial.
Breaking away from earlier renditions the Italian architect Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, curator and partner in the Office for Metropolitan Architecture in Rotterdam, was given the task of examining the heavily wounded city center of Palermo from an urbanistic point, prior to selecting and engaging a team of mediators to respond to the site.

This not only resulted in a brilliantly keen book by the office of OMA under the title Palermo Atlas, which later became Mayor Leoluca Orlando, initiator of the bid to bring Manifesta to Palermo opens the 12th rendition The wounded state on the old city of Palermo, Italy the official publication accompanying the Biennial, but also in the appointment of a rich and diverse team of mediators, including, besides Pestellini Laparelli, the Spanish architect, artist and scholar Andrés Jaque, the art historian and museum curator Mirjam Varadinis and the Dutch filmmaker Bregje van der Haak. Here are some of my highlights from amongst the 50 artists and 20 venues,

Casa del Mutilato; Christina Lucas, with a breathtaking 6- hour installation compiling the history of each bomb dropped since the first aerial bombing occurred in 1911 in the Italo-Turkish War.

Palazzo Ajutamicristo; with Trevor Paglen and Richard Vijgen amongst the artists examining the structure and effects of networks both physical and virtual.

Palazzo Butera; the beautifully restored royal palazzo of board member Mr. Massimo Valsecchi and his wife, with works by Uriel Orlow and Fallen Fruit examining concepts close to the Planetary Garden.

Archivo di Stato; Massebo; Protocol no.90/6.

Orto Botanico di Palermo; the enigmatic botanical garden, started in 1779 that gave rise to the theme of the Biennial, reasoning that the crux of a botanical garden is the successful co-existence of divers, non-indigenous species.


This list in no way diminishes any of the other participants, but only reflects moments that drew my specific attention as I was engaged in the many topics that were being addressed. To my mind Manifesta 12 ranks amongst the strongest in the long history of the biennial, and my thanks and gratitude to address such a precarious series of topics goes out to Hedwig Feijen and her team and to the cultural mediators and everyone that supported them in their efforts.