I always loved the name of this list, but now I can picture it connected to
the discussion: it allow me to imagine ourselves speaking in an Istanbul
cafeteria, in Tunisia, in my beloved South of Italy or in Marseille wrapped
by the same delicate perfume, the Yasmin.
the list of cities and places can be much longer of course, but it isn't in
any way a list.
it just bring us to the subject of geography - and some how to ask
ourselves if perfume, tastes, "sensations" are or can be part part of what
we call cultural heritage.
one thing is sure: there can not be meaningful discussion if one does not
put things in context.
right now, talking about geography in the Mediterranean Rim is a sensitive
political act. define the boundaries of cultural heritage in Mediterranean
Rim is a sensitive political act: what shall we protect and feed and, most
important of all, connect with? once we eventually define this geography,
have those place the same citizenship, the same chance to survive and be
integral subjects of the conversation? are they this very conversation? if
not, why? can we bring them in?
in 2014 I have experienced the precise feeling of a cultural deprivation,
which allow me to discuss this topic from a personal-not so personal point
In those days Salvatore an I were in Yale for a semester. I was taking
different classes, among them one about women and autobiography. one book
was the transcription of a blog written by a young woman from Iraq of my
exact age (I'm 37 now). She passed to two Iraqi wars, as I did: me watching
it from television, she under the bombs, desperately searching for water,
electricity, internet connection - her fading link to the world outside.
autobiographies are pretty much like conversations: you enter someone else
life, the part they allow to share in a intimate/public way. in this space
- speaking with this unknown Iraqi girl - I found my self realizing
(meaning here "to feel") that Iraq was the Fertile Crescent (la Mezzaluna
Fertile) I have studied in history since I was a kid. books and teachers
always told me that this were the roots of our "civilization": from this
sophisticated people we have learned, among many things, how to build
we where bombing this essential, vital part of my (our) cultural heritage,
but no tv, no journalist, not even teachers at my school were calling it
the Fertile Crescent. we were all calling it Iraq. we were all watching to
stereotyped images from this young "Arab" country, forgetting and oblivious
that 70 kilometers far from Baghdad there is Babylon: yes the biblical
city, yes one of the 7th marvelous things humanity have build in
I broke in tears, feeling ashamed of me, of the news, of my teachers, of my
5 years studying ancient greek, and philosophy and history in high school.
names have meanings, as geographies do: could have been so easy for "us"
to bomb Paris or the Colosseum?
I was protesting as a girl for abstract causes, and abstract populations
different and far away from me, from my context, from my life (in the past,
the present and possible futures): I couldn't "relay" to this people as I
could have with any "European" (and maybe I can include in the definition
what was once the URSS for a lot of good reasons).
but to do so - to feel, to perceive - you need the right tools: language to
name things, relations to connect and shared imagination - at least.
after reading this autobiography I started systematically to call Iraq
Mesopotamia: it worked, it changed things in my head. And I started to make
little experiments, such as telling people about Babylon and so on whenever
I could (small things, like train conversations, or class conversations, or
family conversation when was natural to touch the topic). it worked as
well: I sow people staring at me, generally a little confused...
the self exercise brought immediately questions: as an artist, or a
professor, or even as a simple tourist, what chances do I have to work or
visit Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Turkey or even Tunisia? what universities I can
connect with? what equivalent of Erasmus project exists to make young
people exchange, make friend and live and know this countries and cultures?
to make friends?
My options were - are - desperately poor. this is where the sense of
cultural deprivation comes in. I become aware I'm loosing something which
belongs to me, which is part f me. I want to benefit form it and I'm
prevented to do so. I desire this connection.
I believe this are interesting point to build upon in a discussion about
cultural heritage: places (or geography as Katerna first brought to the
table), language, connections, desires, imaginations (imaginaries perhaps?).
in this time of digital/ubiquitous technologies and networks, we can
describe geographies using relations and languages, maps which are alive
and ever changing: when people refer or speak about Mediterranean Rim, what
"places" they talk about? is that different from the past? how it changed?
what emotion they express? what are the topics? what is the geography
described by the media, the institutions, the people? which are the alive
connections, the bridges, the the influencers? what tell us the relational
graph? what all of it tell us about the imaginaries around the
this can be an interesting perspective to approach a complex matter such as
geography: we can learn a lot from this, and this is what Salvatore was
describing above about the Real Time Museum of the City and Digital Urban
I would like to add two experience, different but connected in my opinion,
which are interesting as "acts" and "performance - as we need performative
approach to create meaningful, alive things in the world, including
the first happened in Riace, a little village in the county of Reggio
Calabria (deep south of Italy, near Sicily). the village, famous for the two
bronzes <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riace_bronzes>, was dying: only 400
people remained. an unexpected mayor, Domenico Lucano, decided years ago to
use the public money you receive to accept migrants to restore abandoned
old homes, give them to migrants and create projects to make migrants work
in the village. a sort of miracle studied as a model happened: the village
growth to 2000 inhabitants, the migrants not only created welt, but they
reanimated ancient, artisanal traditional job forgotten and left behing.
schools re-opened, as bars and cafeterias. even the pope likes it and a tv
series will be soon released in Italy, but in the words of the mayor he
works in "institutional isolation".
I believe this story is key for this discussion, as it speaks about
migration as a value: it literally transform one of the most terrifying
tragedy of the mediterranean sea today into a space for opportunity, from
death to life. culture exist in, through and because of migrations and
migrants. the sea we are talking about is a history of migrations and
migrants: shall we include this two words in the definition of the cultural
heritage we are trying to address here? well... ok, it is a rhetorical
question: I'm convinced it is a precise, clever act of imagination bringing
a whole set of new, fresh opportunities for all of us.
the second is an artwork, the Incompiuto Siciliano by Alterazioni Video:
this is a sublime operation of language in which a marque of shame for the
south was transformed into a new architectural style, the Incompiuto (the
Unfinished): a new born cultural (exquisitely mediterranean) heritage is
suddenly recognized by cultural institutions such as the Biennale, city
administrators and people.
I invite you to discover this amazing project by visiting the site
of summarizing it, but I stress how again a problematic space is
transformed a space for opportunity, for new potential, for imagination,
even for economy to be performed. and there is more. the project tells us
about the ability to change the "gaze", something which we can describe as
the ability to create new "sensibilities", to literally "sense" something
and perceive it as possible. this is where art comes in not as a mummified
object, but as catalyst for innovation (possible, potential futures) in
one last thing. maybe a certain "gaze" for unfinished, problematic,
abandonned spaces can have a room in the definition of cultural heritage we
are attempting here. Maybe it can help in imagining systems and
institutions based on and capable of coexistence, conflicts, mutation or
more poetically metamorphosis.
It is nice for me to couple the word cultural heritage with all this images
*[**MUTATION**]* *Art is Open Source *- http://www.artisopensource.net
*[**CITIES**]* *Human Ecosystems Ltd* - http://human-ecosystems.com
*[**NEAR FUTURE DESIGN**]* *Nefula Ltd* - http://www.nefula.com
*[**RIGHTS**]* *Ubiquitous Commons *- http://www.ubiquitouscommons.org
Professor of Near Future and Transmedia Design at ISIA Design Florence:
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