Publication: Between Land And Sea 2024 — V edizione

Editorial by Eva-Maria Bertschy and Izabela Moren

Hopefully. This was the word used in the description of their project SAPLINGS by ethnographer Elisa Bertuzzo and media artist Doireann O’Malley, which we received back in 2023, currently being developed during a shared residency with Fabio Aranzulla and Luca Cinquemani of Aterraterra. “Hopefully, the research will include members of the Bangladeshi community in Palermo”, meaning, hopefully, they will let us in. Hopefully, they will trust us. Hopefully, they will want to be included. Hope is a feature of uncertainty; we hope for the best only if we don’t know.

Was it hope that accompanied Abou Bakar Sidibé on his journey since he left his hometown of Bamako ten years ago to seek his fortune in Europe? Probably more of a blind faith. But certainly a fierce determination to defy all kinds of obstacles, which he could never foresee, but that continually stood in his way in new shapes and forms. And then something completely unpredictable happened: on Mont Gurugu, an informal settlement on the border fence of Melilla, two European filmmakers gave him a camera with a few instructions. Because he did not follow the instructions but his own vision and intuition instead, Abou became a filmmaker and toured all over some of the most important film festivals. He has been documenting his life ever since. We wanted to invite him to the festival three years ago, but back then, he didn’t have a residence permit and wasn’t allowed to travel to Italy. Now, he will join the festival as a resident (in all legality) for three weeks.

There are many ways in which uncertainty can be confronted, lived with, lived despite and lived through. Working with many different collaborators and institutions, often when sitting down at the dinner table after a meeting or event, we realized that if there is one feature that innately connects our practices and methodologies, it is working alongside uncertainty in myriad different ways. While the world around us seems to get continuously less solid, the series of encounters under the title UNCERTAIN ENVIRONMENTS brings together artists, curators, activists and researchers in various points of the city for talks co-curated with our partners in Istanbul, Spain, Prizren, Brussels and Palermo that exchange the different methodologies and strategies people and organizations have developed. Often, this requires initial observation and a fragile balance between certainty and precariousness that depends on establishing one’s own rules and the flexibility of changing them constantly.

As philosopher Byung-Chul Han puts it, every solution creates another problem. Sometimes, when people are convinced of their abilities, they take the risk of venturing into radically unknown territory. But while they were big stars in their home town, celebrated musicians, dancers and football players, they must first prove themselves in a new context, feel like they are starting from scratch, try to understand the new rules, find new supporters and fans.

The play KONAMI – THE FOOTBALL DANCE tells of this often frustrating experience, the many other connections between football, dance and showbiz, and an incalculable milieu characterized by power, money and corruption. With this piece, the transnational ensemble La Fleur returns to Palermo after starting work on it last year with a workshop with a group of young local dancers.

The work by Genny Petrotta, which was initiated during last year’s edition with a video installation in Piana degli Albanesi, tells of a time in which major historical upheavals took place: Towards the end of the Second World War when Sicily had already been liberated but was still occupied by the Americans and many different players were competing for influence over the territory in a geostrategic game. In this context, when many people were starving and faced an uncertain future, a few young people, many of whom had just been discharged from military service, decided to declare an autonomous peasant republic in their home town. In a context of great uncertainty, a Utopia can take hold because “the oppressed become aware of their situation in a more radical way in times of war”, as the Brazilian activist Douglas Estevam from the Movimento Sem Terra comments on the historical episode. With her poetic re-enactment, video artist Genny Petrotta intends to preserve her home town’s political and cultural heritage to enable people to refer to it in times of crisis.

Simone Mannino and the Mediterranean Ensemble (founded three years ago during the Between Land and Sea Festival) are also pursuing a utopia – with actors from Palermo and Tunis building a bridge across the Mediterranean. In the new piece that premiered last year in Tunis and will be seen for the first time in Italy, they explore the idea of a multi-ethnic and multicultural
world without conflict, based on the historical figure of Heliogabalus. Born in an era similar to ours, characterized by transitions and decline, Heliogabalus represents a moment of possibility for significant transformation and new visions. They also relate a milieu in which influential people dispute their power on future developments, and everyone becomes corrupt sooner or later.

For the first time, the urban will have an architectural dimension during the festival through a collaboration with the team of :AFTER, the architectural festival, which was hosted in the form of a grand tour of the island in 2023, and architectural practice Michalski&Wagner. Its nomadic format will set camp in the industrial area of Ex-Chimica Arenella to host ARENA ARENELLA,
a full day of programming that invites the most innovative architectural practitioners internationally and other spatial agents to reflect together on what sustainable development and place-making means today and can bring for the future, taking as its point of departure the Reinventing Cities competition for which the Arenella site has been nominated by the city government. Arenella, like Between Land and Sea, is a vast site that can only be confronted by putting our best practices together and embarking on a journey to make the unknown real. Hopefully.

All these and many more relevant projects, ideas, questions and works will be explored and discussed in the current edition of the Between Land and Sea Festival.In doing so, we hope to find a little peace and confidence in a time that sometimes doesn’t leave much to be hoped for. We thank all the artists, professionals and partners for sharing their expertise, trust and time. Your contributions have been instrumental in the progress of this edition. We invite everybody else to join us to think and celebrate together, and we look forward to the potential contributions you can bring to the table.