The streets of Palermo were buzzing with energy as the Biennale Arcipelago Mediterraneo (BAM), opened its third edition with a series of events in various locations across the Sicilian capital. This was the weekend before Italy’s snap general election, a fact that the organisers couldn’t have anticipated. ‘I kind of like it,’ said BAM’s artistic director Andrea Cusumano. ‘It’s almost as if we’re interfering to voice our views.’
Inaugurated in 2017 – initially, to lay the groundwork for the arrival of Manifesta 12 in Palermo the following year – BAM has made a point of reinventing itself with each iteration, with one constant: the city of Palermo, geographically closer to North Africa than Rome, remains its main protagonist. This sprawling edition is centred on live arts and experimentations, activating the city’s many hidden gems and claiming its public space. ‘My dream is to create a new kind of Black Mountain College here,’ said Cusumano, who was previously Palermo’s deputy mayor for culture and has big plans for its art scene. ‘That’s why we don’t have a curatorial theme, it’s more about the setting as a signifier.’
At Fondazione Merz’s new space inside a former factory, a show titled ‘Isolitudine’ comprises four solo exhibitions. There, Chilean artist Voluspa Jarpa mines declassified CIA documents to create room-size installations. Usually focusing on the United States’ secret operations in South and Central America, on this occasion she delved into Operation Gladio as well, which took place in Europe during the Cold War. The Nato countries’ intelligence agencies were involved in clandestine anti-communist operations that have led to a series of right-wing terror attacks across Europe, including in Italy. In a city that has seen its share of violent bloodshed, her installation is sure to strike a nerve, especially as Palermo commemorates the 30th anniversary of the murders of anti-mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino by mafia bombings.
Next to Jarpa’s work, a stunning multi-part installation by Istanbul-based artist Guido Casaretto incorporates material elements from his own community’s history to contemplate the story of the Levantines, or Constantinople Italians. Wood from a church bench in Istanbul’s Levantine quarter and a clay amphora, for example, are broken down to create new sculptures following strict mathematical calculations. This show-within-a-show forms a poetic rumination on migration, complex identities, and interwoven histories across the Mediterranean region.
BAM’s programme will keep evolving throughout its duration, with more exhibitions and events added at different times, including an upcoming installation by Rafael Herman at an as-yet-undisclosed location. In a practice that explores light’s physical and metaphysical qualities, the artist captures landscapes in zero-light pollution areas.
Using a super-long exposure technique he has developed himself, Herman portrays nature’s unseen beauty. During a residency in Palermo’s Fondazione Sant’Elia, which culminated in a major exhibition there earlier this year, he captured nature reserves near Mount Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, on Sicily’s east coast.
This long-term approach characterises this edition of BAM, with many of the works on view resulting from artist residencies in the city. Earlier this summer, artists Stefania Galegati and Efi Spyrou invited Palermitans to participate in the performance La Fila Lunga (the long queue), in which 150 people gathered in piazza Magione for hours, forming a meandering line to wait for nothing at all. The event was filmed and a screening, offering a moody meditation on the passing of time, took place in the magnificent yet slightly shabby galleries of Fondazione Sant’Elia, in the city’s busy historical centre.
On the museum’s façade windows, Ukrainian artist Daria Koltsova, who’s been in residency there since the spring, created crisscrossing patterns with adhesive tape, referencing the simple means Ukrainian citizens use to protect their windows from the shock waves of explosions. Historically, and during the refugee crisis of the past several years, Sicily has always had a welcoming policy towards immigrants. It remains to be seen how a political turn to the far-right after the weekend’s election will impact the Mediterranean’s largest island.
BAM, 3rd Edition – Biennale Arcipelago Mediterraneo, until 22 January 2023, Palermo, fondazionemerz.org
Nicole Hollis designs a gem of a Napa Valley guest house
Interior design studio Nicole Hollis has crafted this elegantly balanced Napa Valley guest house, working alongside Arcanum Architecture
By Martha Elliott • Published
‘Wellbeing transcends all culture’: Kohler and Nada Debs unveil hammam-inspired installation at Design Miami 2022
Design Miami 2022: Nada Debs created a hammam-inspired installation in collaboration with the Kohler WasteLAB team, using materials from landfill and Kohler's waste flow
By Maria Sobrino • Published
Yinka Ilori pop-up shop hots up Shoreditch retail
Yinka Ilori's colourful pop-up shop (until 3 January 2023) opens in east London with new collections and interiors inspired by West African architecture
By Rosa Bertoli • Published
Venice Biennale 2022 closing review: who, how and what on earth?
As the sun sets on the 59th Venice Art Biennale (until 27 November), we look back on an edition filled with resilience, female power and unsurprisingly, lots of surprises
By Harriet Lloyd-Smith • Published
Bruce Nauman’s Venice mega-show is a full body experience
Focusing on the American artist's performative 'Contrapposto Studies', Bruce Nauman's show at Punta della Dogana, Venice, gives new meaning to body language – on view until 27 November 2022
By Laura May Todd • Published
Mitico: art, luxury hospitality and home cooking collide in Italy
Spearheaded by the Belmond hotel group and Galleria Continua, new initiative Mitico introduces the work of four major artists on the grounds of four iconic Italian hotels
By Amy Serafin • Published
Ai Weiwei unveils first-ever exhibition of glass sculptures in Venice
On the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, Ai Weiwei unveils his first show of glass works, including one of the largest Murano glass sculptures ever
By Harriet Lloyd-Smith • Published
Jes Fan: the artist probing the intersections of biology, identity and creativity
Multidisciplinary artist Jes Fan uses fungi, bacteria and hormones to produce thought-provoking sculptures that explore how art and biology come together to break down social constructs. This article originally appeared in the August 2022 Issue of Wallpaper*, on newsstands now and available to subscribers
By Drew Zeiba • Published
Flower power: Porsche’s immersive installation blooms at Milan Design Week
For ‘The Art of Dreams’, Porsche explores nature and technology with an immersive installation by botanical artist Ruby Barber of Studio Mary Lennox
By Simon Mills • Published
Stanley Whitney’s Italian paintings reveal an art practice in transition
American abstract painter Stanley Whitney’s works from the 1990s to mid-2000s, made in Italy and now on display as a collateral event of the Venice Biennale 2022, show an evolution of form and colour
By Amah-Rose Abrams • Published
A Practice for Everyday Life gives 59th Venice Biennale a richly surreal graphic identity
London-based graphic design studio A Practice for Everyday Life (APFEL) gives an otherworldly identity to the surrealism-infused 59th Venice Biennale theme ‘The Milk of Dreams’
By Jonathan Bell • Published