Manifesta 12 Things To See At Europe’s Nomadic Biennial – Paul Carter Robinson

Manifesta 12 © Paul Carter Robinson Artlyst 2018

Manifesta 12 is Europe’s Nomadic Biennial

Within a rough and ready Manifesta 12, there are few things that stand out head and shoulders above the rest. Many are interventions scattered within the palazzos and offices throughout the city. Locations are often in spectacular buildings, some intact, others in the process of serious restoration. In some cases the dominant architecture overshadows the contemporary art, as you are drawn to the frescoes, mosaics and secret corners that consume your attention. The many installations placed by the team of curators at Manifesta 12 are well thought out. There several artists who know how to blend the new with the old successfully filling the spaces with a double intervention containing varying characteristics. Manifesta 12 is well worth the trip to stunning Palermo. It will not disappoint. Until 4 November 2018.

Masbedo Protocol no. 90/6 Manifesta 12
Masbedo Protocol no. 90/6 Manifesta 12          Photo:P C Robinson © Artlyst 2018

Everybody is talking about Masbedo the creators of one of the most spectacular works at Manifesta 12.  Masbedo at the State Archives: Masbedo, videoartists (Nicolò Massazza (1973) and Iacopo Bedogni (1970)) has created a work located in the Sala delle Capriate of the State Archives of Palermo, a sort of “ossuary” of the Sicilian public memory that preserves documents from the 17th century to date. Thousands of folders, largely disintegrating, tell a manzonian image of Italy, made of “cries”, edicts, complaints. Needless to hide the fascination that is felt in this sort of mausoleum that assumes an almost sacred tone, so that the artists have orchestrated, with a slight gesture, the space almost like the nave of a church, culminating in what looks like a real altarpiece. But there is no painting, as much as a digital screen depicting a puppet dressed as a workman, created and animated by Mimmo Cuticchio.

The work, entitled Protocol no. 90/6, explain the artists, “is inspired by the vicissitudes of the director Vittorio de Seta. Several times during his professional career De Seta underwent the control of the Authorities. His art so close to the world of the most humble workers, fishermen, farmers, miners, was suspected of concealing a creeping belonging to the “subversive” communist societies “. During the period of inspections to the Archive, the two artists find a document certifying a complaint against De Seta, one of their cultural references, dated 1956, exhibited on a lectern. “This card has become for us the symbol of how much our video installation would like to communicate. The puppet is the metaphor of an artist. The artist is a man who frees things even when he is tied up and controlled “. Like De Seta.


Khalil Rabah 'Relocation Among Other Things' Manifesta 12
Khalil Rabah ‘Relocation Among Other Things’ Manifesta 12

Khalil Rabah ‘Relocation Among Other Things’. Rabah is a Palestinian artist born in 1961 in Jerusalem. For this work he has created a Mixed media installation. A grandfather’s watch, chipped Limoges porcelain cups, plastic trays, various aluminium flatware, religious icons, fake Nike t-shirts placed inside a fake Louis Vuitton bag, albums of black and white photographs, coins, rings and postcards, tools and strange utensils and instruments in boxes, empty frames, books, videotapes and CDs, old chandeliers and new Taiwanese radios, exotic mobile phone covers, strings and strings of beads, electrical wires and rings, vases and sunglasses, stacks of colourful prints on fabric. A portrait of resilient bodies that traverse oceans and lands, travelling from everywhere; objects oating out of history, gatherings and assemblages on tables, in markets and shop windows, displaced and displayed: goods that want to nd a home. Like the formations of flora in the botanical garden itself, diverse objects and artefacts, assemblage/sculptures of similar items, come together in the already existing vitrines in Tineo Pavilion, part of the Orto Botanico.


Malin Franzen Palermo Herbal 2018 Manifesta 12
Malin Franzen Palermo Herbal 2018 Manifesta 12


Malin Franzé born in Stockholm in 1982 and studied at Malmö Art Academy in Sweden. She works with video, objects, and installations, often using the documentary material. Her works explore the role of legends and myth, as well as religion and politics.

Palermo Herbal, 2018 Mixed media. The Sicilian botanist Paolo Boccone (1633–1704) used a particular method to add colour to pressed plants and print them directly onto paper, a procedure known as nature printing. Boccone cultivated special interest for plants containing toxins that could be used in medicine. His research led him to make a Grand Tour of northern Europe, where the majority of his prints are still found. In Palermo Herbal, Malin Franzén combines Boccone’s nature printing method with modern systems of scientific imaging to depict plants capable of growing alongside toxic substances, such as the reeds or other plants found on the estuary of the Oreto River and in the abandoned park at Acqua dei Corsari in Palermo.

 Cooking Section  'Garden of Flows' Manifesta 12
Cooking Section  ‘Garden of Flows’ Manifesta 12

Cooking Section  ‘Garden of Flows’ What is Above is What is Below, a series of installations creating microclimates to water without water by Cooking Section (Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe) Daniel Fernández Pascual is a Visiting Lecturer in the School of Architecture at the Royal College of Art. Together with Alon Schwabe, he co-founded their independent research-based practice Cooking Sections. At the RCA, they run ADS3 –Banking Nature: Speculation on Disappearing Spaces. The studio focuses on speculative and gambling tactics in the construction of space. As part of the main outcomes, students will learn critical skills to develop an independent professional practice.

ADS8 RCA London @ Manifesta 12
ADS8 RCA London @ Manifesta 12

ADS8 will use Manifesta, the nomadic European Contemporary Art Biennial, as a cultural and spatio-temporal framework. Manifesta is a travelling platform, and a project based on community: its success depends on the collaboration between the international and local actors and the involvement and engagement of the local communities.

The 12th edition of Manifesta (M12), with OMA as creative mediator, takes place in Palermo, Sicily. So does this studio. ADS8 will refer to OMA’s Palermo Atlas, an urban study that will serve serve both as a creative mediation model for the biennial and a blueprint for the city’s development.


The Call-A-Spy installation by Peng Collective
The Call-A-Spy installation by Peng Collective

The Call-A-Spy installation by Peng Collective provides a direct anonymous phone link to desks of employees of secret services like the NSA, FBI and Department of Homeland Security (USA), Verfassungsschutz (Germany), BND (Germany) and Direction Générale de la Sécurité Intérieure (France). Thanks to a secret database with 5,000 direct desk numbers of different intelligence agencies, the Call-A-Spy system enables the public to call spies and start a private conversation with those who surveil us, though we cannot see them.

Patricia Kaersenhout The Soul of Salt, 2016
Patricia Kaersenhout The Soul of Salt, 2016

Patricia Kaersenhout is an artist, activist, and visual feminist. Born in 1966 in Den Helder, Holland, Kaersenhout has pursued an artistic path exploring the relationship between her background from Suriname (on the north-east coast of Latin America) and her Western European education. The common thread of her work raises questions about the movements of the African diaspora and its connections to feminism, sexuality, racism and the history of slavery.

Caribbean tradition has kept alive the legend of the “Flying Africans”, slaves who were said to avoid eating salt so as to become light enough to fly back to Africa.  The many variants of the legend have a common origin, based on a shared experience. In the video, an African spiritual leader blesses a mountain of salt. During the ceremony, a group of refugees sing an old slave work song. Visitors are invited to take some salt home and dissolve it in water as a symbol of the dissolution of past suffering.


Laura Poitras Signal Flow, 2018 Video installation, Manifesta 12
Laura Poitras Signal Flow, 2018
Video installation, Manifesta 12

Born in Boston, USA in 1964, Laura Poitras is an American director, film producer and documentary maker. In 2015, her work Citizenfour received an Oscar for Best Documentary. After the US invaded Iraq, Poitras presented 9/11 Trilogy, three feature-length documentaries. The first of these, My Country, My Country (2006), follows the family of an Iraqi doctor during the occupation by the United States; The Oath (2010) interweaves the stories of two men involved with Al Qaeda, and Citizenfour (2014) focuses on the revelations of the informer Edward Snowden about the enormous scale of the NSA’s global surveillance programmes. Her most recent film, Risk, about the life of Julian Assange, was presented at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2016.

With a varied set of new works, Laura Poitras creates a collective work presented as a narrated journey through the Sicilian countryside. In particular, the installation highlights the imposing presence of American military bases on the island, which serves as a key site for American military communications and international military operations using drones. For over thirty years, Sicilians of all generations have opposed the creation of these infrastructures. The immersive installation grew out of a film-clinic conducted by Poitras with local filmmakers.

Fallen Fruit Austin Young and David Allen Burns Manifesta 12
Fallen Fruit 2018 – Mixed Media by Austin Young and David Allen Burns – Manifesta 12

Fallen Fruit is the result of an artistic collaboration begun in Los Angeles in 2004 between David Burns, Matias Viegener, and Austin Young. Since 2013, David and Austin have continued to work on the project tog-ether. Fallen Fruit’s first initiative was to map all the fruit trees growing on the public land of Los Angeles. Later, the collaboration between the two grew to include serial public art projects, site-specific installations and happenings in cities throughout the world. Working in photographs, videos, and wallpaper, David and Austin always use with fruit as a material or artistic means; their practice aspires to re-imagine the ways we interact with public space, especially in urban areas, such as the community dynamics of a city and our direct experience of news events.

Like culture, fruit moves along routes of territorial expansion, international trade, and migrations: seeds travel across the globe. Fruit is a natural subject, but also a cultural and at times even “political” one.

Theatre of the Sun is composed of an immersive installation made of wallpaper and the Public Fruit Map of Palermo, which shows the location of hundreds of fruit trees in the city’s public and private spaces, trees that are quite often entirely neglected and ignored. The maps are free and, like the fruit, they become a shared resource. The Public Fruit Map of Palermo is part ofEndless Orchard, an expanding, global project which seeks to map the presence of edible fruit in cities throughout the world, offering a contemporary reflection on the theme of public spaces, which preserve local history and at the same time are constantly changing.

Three Collateral Events to see During Manifesta 12

Avner Sher Bridge Palermo Jerusalem
Avner Sher Bridge Palermo Jerusalem

Coinciding with the opening of pan-European art biennale Manifesta12 in Palermo, internationally acclaimed artist Avner Sher takes over the central historical location at the Monumental Complex of Steri, Sala delle Verifiche, and the adjacent courtyard. The artist and architect turns to the urgent topics of migration and refugees with this extensive and timely solo exhibition comprising of wall-based works and large scale sculptural outdoor installations.

Elsewhere in the exhibition the viewer is confronted with pain and injustice. The ground is dotted with small pieces of dark coloured wood, appeals for help in African languages, reminiscent of notes written by drowning refugees. The artist’s works become a stark echo of the despair of those in political existential limbo.

The collateral event, Avner Sher Bridge Palermo Jerusalem is curated by Flavia Alaimo and Ermanno Tedeschi –  at Sala delle Verifiche allo Steri di Palermo, Piazza Marina 61

Poetry of the Flow Yahon Chang Curated by Maria Rus Bojan Collateral event at Manifesta 12 in Palermo
Poetry of the Flow  Yahon Chang  Curated by Maria Rus Bojan Collateral event at Manifesta 12 in Palermo

In the exhibition Poetry of the Flow, Taiwanese artist Yahon Chang’s site-specific installation converts the monumental space of the Sala delle Armi in Palazzo Chiaramonte-Steri into an interactive environment, tackling philosophical, spiritual and existential issues that revolve around the contemporary human condition. Employing Chinese ink painting techniques, Poetry of the Flow shows multiple large-scale ink paintings that cover the entirety of the exhibition space that surround the viewer.

Over the last 2,000 years, Palermo has been occupied by numerous European countries and has long-term connections with North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. The artist draws inspiration from the social context of the city which hosts Manifesta 12, with its lavish historical, syncretic and cultural values.


Incompiuto. Unfinished public works
Incompiuto. Unfinished public works Manifeata 12 Collateral

Incompiuto: The Birth of a Style” is a documentary research by Alterazioni Video on what the artist collective defines as “the most important Italian architectural style of the last 50 years”. Winning project of the first edition of the Italian Council contest, the ten years long reaserch on the Italian territory form a new perspective with which to re-read the Italian landscape. The completed catalogue includes about 750 unfinished works in Italy, of which 250 in Sicily.

The research is presented in Palermo, among the collateral events of Manifesta 12, with an exhibition, a book, and a workshop. Curated by Davide Giannella, the show includes a video installation at the former Church of S. Mattia ai Crociferi and the exhibition of the entire photographic atlas at the Centro Internazionale di Fotografia di Palermo. The publication, edited by Alterazioni Video and Fosbury Architecture, defines a typological index and creates an Italian catalogue of unfinished works. The book also features the contributions of Marc Augé, Marco Biraghi, Filippo Minelli and Davide Giannella, Wu Ming, Leoluca Orlando, Antonio Ricci, Salvatore Settis, Robert Storr and Paul Virilio. It

Photos: Paul Carter Robinson © Artlyst 2018

Go to Palermo…Get a map and see Manifesta 12. This excellent Biennial runs until 4th November 2018