Manifesta 12 Palermo: A City Rebirth


Once termed the 'Beirut of Italy', Palermo has diligently strived over the past few decades to reclaim its city from organized crime strong hold to historical and cultural attraction. Which made it the perfect location to host Manifesta, the world's only roving European Biennial of Contemporary art. Manifesta is nomadic, relocating every two years, distancing itself from known cultural and artistic centers to make way for new ones. This year Manifesta 12 descends on Palermo with the theme "The Planetary Garden. Cultivating Coexistence."

In the heart of the Mediterranean, Palermo's rich history and struggles with migration, organized crime and climate change gave Manifesta 12 an ideal location.  As the capital of Sicily, the city that has worked hard to change its notoriety and its recent Unesco recommendations for World Heritage sites has brought more tourism to the area. Manifesta's intent of creating new cultural landscapes makes Palermo an ideal spot for collaboration. Intent on working with local communities to open dialogues between artists and communities Manifesta attempts to implement works in a cross-disciplinary basis that reflect the needs and desires of the inhabitants.

For Palermo, historically invaded by Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians, and Aghlabids to name a few, its rich cultural diversity has been marred by uncontrolled urban blight and destruction from World War II.  With mass migrations and organized crime controlled building projects, the city has renovated damaged historical and housing sites and created new green spaces. But like many cities in Europe, Palermo faces the same issues and challenges Manifesta seeks to explore. "Manifesta 12 in Palermo is a great challenge to rethink how far cultural interventions can play a role in helping re-shaping one of the most iconic Mediterranean crossroads in our history as part of a long term transformation process. Manifesta 12 will raise questions such as: 'Who owns the city of Palermo?' and 'how to claim back the city?' The city's migration problems are symbolic of the far wider crisis situation which the whole of Europe is facing right now, "says Hedwig Fijen, Manifesta Director.

The biennial will open June 16 2018 and the projects will be announced in preparation.  Events for the public are held at various venues, for instance The Botanical Garden of Palermo, also the key inspiration for the Manifesta 12 concept.  Like the gardens, rich in diversity of plant life both indigenous and non, Palermo can be the garden in which careful tending can produce a bounty of new life for its inhabitants.

Jennie Olson Six
Cultural Italy Staff Writer
Instagram: jennieosix