Every two years, the European Nomadic Biennial, or Manifesta 12 , hosts an all encompassing art event that takes over the city and aims to enhance international conversation about art, culture and our natural world. Founded in Amsterdam in the early 1990s, Manifesta was conceived following the Cold War as a European platform that uses art installations and creative experiences to discuss sociopolitical concepts, cultural exchanges, and environmental issues. Every two years, Manifesta chooses a new city to host, usually keeping in mind the location's history and atmospheric conditions. This year, the board selected the small city of Palermo, Italy, the capital of the island of Sicily. With a vast history of occupation by almost every European civilization and deep-set relationships with both Northern Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean spanning the last 2000 years, Palermo has a vibrant culture. Presenting social issues such as migration, but also botanical observations such as pollination of exotic plants, Palermo offers a multi-layered platform for international dialogue, as well as highlighting emerging artists.
Entitled The Planetary Garden: Cultivating Coexistence, the part public art installation, part Land Art, is split into three sections of discussion. Garden of Flows explores local plant life, gardening, and its greater existence transnationally, Out Of Control Room discusses global powers within the context, and City On Stage examines existing collaborations between artists and civic bodies at work on real projects within the city. With nearly 50 art installations spread across Palermo, each falls into one of these sections, creating a comprehensive dialogue for the overall project. Theatre of the Sun (2018), an immersive mural at the Palazzo Butera is made of wallpapered plants and maps of the fruit trees growing in Palermo, creating The Palermo Public Fruit Map. This installation is part of a larger resource created by Manifesta, Endless Orchard, an expanding global resource that maps public edibles in cities around the world.
The best representation of Palermo as the historical intersection of cultural heritage, global diversity and botanical cross-pollination can be seen in an 1875 painting by Francesco Lojacono, View of Palemo. Presented in the curatorial statement for Manifesta 12, this painting personifies the product of Palermo's continuous migration. The painting itself depicts numerous plants that can all be defined by their place of origin, and consequently depicts that nothing is indigenous to the area; olive trees from Asia, prickly pear from Mexico, loquat from Japan.
As a small metaphor for the entire mission statement of Manifesto 12, the European Nomadic Biennial has continued to construct discussion surrounding singular cultural identities within an international scope. Seen through the overwhelming number of immersive art installations and experiences, this successful display provides a new perspective on our individual histories as well as the greater influences across the globe.
View more at Manifesta 12.
Title image: Fallen Fruit, Theatre of the Sun, 2018. Courtesy of Manifesta 12.