Agata Polizzi - Boundaries / Limes, 2018
The artistic investigation conducted by Bianco-Valente (Giovanna Bianco and Pino Valente) explores the relationship between human beings and landscape in its social and cultural sense, analyzing the relational contexts and the possibilities oﬀered by the interaction of these factors. The artists’ manner of seeing identifies completely with the objects they are studying, becoming physical and tangible. It transforms informations observed into concrete results, fostering new points of view. With Terra di me, Bianco-Valente undertake a voyage into the unknown, experiencing a kind of loss of certainty, even of the smallest things. This can be disconcerting and painful but also extremely useful for reminding ourselves how pointless it is to hide behind our convictions. Instead, we can discover the existence of other ways of thinking and acting.
The planning of this project has a literary and documentary connotation, given the artists’ dialogue with an important collection of maps and nautical charts of sixteenth- to seventeenth-century sailing routes preserved in the Villa Zito in Palermo. These maps describe far-reaching itineraries along a coast that has always been multicultural and highly travelled. Thus the need for an upgrade of these itineraries, a necessary rereading that inevitably leads us into the world of today, chronicling it, observing the fluid and fragile sociological and geopolitical situation, too rapid and complex to be understood under a single label.
As if out of a sense of obligation, Bianco-Valente attempt to re-examine the concept of boundaries, going beyond it and transforming it into what will be an exciting exchange of experiences with a group of men and women, residents like them of southern Italy, who spontaneously and generously have agreed to share their life stories and their hopes and fears for the future. Intense encounters have resulted, heart-breaking, real, devoid of artifice, as if springing from the fear of forgetting or from the impossibility of forgetting – from the desire to understand.
The scene is Palermo, a city at the edge, or limit, of the Mediterranean, a port city, with many people, all of them real. Here words meet and slowly form a narration; they intersect with feelings and allow relationships to form. And they become the scaﬀold of Bianco-Valente’s project, the two artists gradually abandoning all control over the work to allow ideas to flow freely.
In this search for stories, the artists have set in motion an experimental process, creative and therefore diﬃcult, in which they must continually adjust their roles and look for alternatives.
They must redefine their objective, literally “define it all over again” in a diﬀerent or more precise manner, monitoring the relationship between identity and diﬀerences.
In connection with the practice of marking points of reference on geographical maps, they must transfer from the map of daily existence the necessity of redrawing the boundaries between what is inside and what is outside, asking us to come face to face with the need to determine where our existence begins and ends – or rather our insecurity.
Because of its nature, the universal element in their assumption is the sea, or rather “a sentimental intimacy with the sea”, defined by Franco Cassano in what I find to be an extraordinary essay on the Mediterranean Basin (Il pensiero meridiano, Southern Thought, Laterza, Roma-Bari 1996), in which he identifies the sea as a “great relative”, capable of handing down experiences, a “house in which we were born”. By examining this region in this way, we are given the key to understand the idea of leaving a place or belonging to it, which, as Cassano once again says, “makes every man a foreigner and every foreigner a man, makes a friend of the act of leaving, causes us to be inhabited by more than one soul”.
In this common experience, which precludes any form of cultural or social narcissism, one can imagine the possibility of a common horizon, circular and infinite, distorted in comparison to the actual truth of leaving.
Terra di me attempts to describe a condition that is physical but also psychological, developing a sense of survival, capable of adding meaning to the condition of being uprooted – like looking into a mirror that reflects something that doesn’t really exist.
A passage by Richard Sennett (The Foreigner, Notting Hill Editions, Honiton 2011) is revealing. The sociologist describes his theory of Manet’s use of mirrors in his paintings, or rather the distinction between the reflection of things and what we prefer to recognise as the truth.
It shows us the fallacy of a feeling of apparent stability that is in fact illusory because it comes from a lack of experience of the world, the uprooting that everything makes vague, uncertain, and slow to be understood. Memories of the past are unreal because they have faded; the present is unreal because it is uncertain.
What art perhaps tries to do is to oﬀer, in this suspended time, an acceptable vision of oneself, a bearable image of reality, capable of restoring to humanity its ability to see, of revealing the richness that diversity provides. It suggests finding a new way of being individuals, of being considered equally human regardless of where we live, freeing ourselves of an obsolete idea of ethnocentricity and thus of any attitude of superiority. We must rethink the definition of where “the centre of the world” is in the light of globalisation, which inevitably keeps us all in motion, in voluntary and temporary exile, consciously bearing in mind Sennett’s words that “a country is not a physical place but a need that changes place” and which can be found in many locations. A country assimilates us, responds to our expectations, and is the time and place where it is possible to look into the mirror and recognise our own image.
Taken from the catalog of the show "Terra di me - Land of me", Silvana Editoriale, 2018