“…there are ten, twenty or a hundred Mediterranean seas.
Around the Mediterranean there are not two places that are the same. Sicily, rather than combines the fragments together, split in two the Mediterranean. North against South, East against West.” [Fernand Braudel The Mediterranean in the Ancient World, The Penguin Press, London 2001 (f.p.1998)]
Two diagrams, installed in the outdoor spaces of the Radicepura Foundation, used to catch “impressions” like a photo-camera. Thus, their outcomes arranged – installed – inside the Radicepura Foundation’s venue.
The diagrams represent four Mediterranean areas, North/South and East/West. They are thought to be relational devices that let visitors interact with the Radicepura spaces; also, they are a tribute to the XX Century photographic social tradition of the physiognomic investigation such as that of the great German photographer August Sander.
(from the exhibition The plural always outweighs the singular, Radicepura 2018)
Diagram #4 (Gazebo) is a composition of four pavilions placed on the gardens nearby the Glasshouse of the Radicepura botanical park. Each pavilion’s roof with a different primary color, together they recall the communication campaign and image of the Premier League: the most popular national league of the most popular sport in the world. A real Photo-Booth (reminiscent of Franco Vaccari’s Live Expositions), built to let Radicepura visitors dive in the colors of the globalization, although amplified by the Mediterranean summer light, and be part of a video catalogue (Story) of a multitude of self-portraits (Selfies).
Diagram #5 (Garden) is a squared flowerbed, divided into four areas by two intersected metallic bars, that match with the glasshouse’s architecture, the congress hall of the Radicepura botanical park.
The garden aims to underpin the value expressed by the foundation as a symbolic and functional collector of an international community revolving around the Mediterranean, with a social portrait of Mario Faro – CEO of the Radicepura Foundation, and of his international relations. Relatives, friends, guests are all invited to suggest a plant example that can be representative of, on a subjective perspective, their own elective place. Plants become kind of a botanical “madeleine”. Displaced on the appointed area of the diagram, they create a Mediterranean garden made of simple forms and yet, while growing, rich and elaborated.
In the indoor spaces, paper sheets would have displayed as printed forms that describe each donator’s choice.
Unfortunately, the dynamics suggested did not succeed and the work remained unfinished, leaving the small olive tree donated by the Radicepura’s founder, Venerando, alone. That may be because relational aesthetics do not reach enough grasp in an environment such as that of a south Mediterranean country like Sicily, whose economy is actually dominated by relational capitalism dynamics? I’m not sure but, at the end, this is the “impression” produced by the installed device.
Solo show of a comprehensive collection of works
Mineo (Homes for America), photo installation 2014. Inkjet prints on baryta paper mounted on plasterboard panels, variable dimensions.
One of the largest centers for asylum seekers in Europe is located in the former homes for the American soldiers stationed at Sigonella, which is itself the largest military base in the Mediterranean. The title (Homes for America) refers to the work published by Dan Graham on Arts Magazine, December 1966. Also, the documented landscape references the Townships photographed by David Goldblatt. Both references contain connotative meanings and suggestions that reflect on the meaning of citizenship in the era of globalization.
Naval Air Station Sigonella “The Hub of the Med” is a U.S. Navy installation in Sicily, Italy. It is located at some 40 km south of Mount Etna. Because of its location near the center of the Mediterranean Sea, NASSIG is the Navy’s second largest security command, second only to that located at Naval Support Activity Bahrain. In 2011, after the Navy considered ending its lease for family housing in Sicily, it had closed the Mineo housing area. Mineo housing area was leased by Pizzarotti & Co. to the Italian government as a housing center for asylum seekers, many of them refugees from the “Arab spring” revolts in Tunisia and other North African countries. It has since grown notorious in local media and among immigration advocates, who say the facility puts too many people in units, with little access to health care and little progress on their cases.
WELCOME “Benvenuti!” On behalf of the entire Housing staff, welcome to your new home! Our purpose is to provide you with adequate, safe, and secure living quarters, and to support you and your family while you reside in the Mineo Housing Complex. The Mineo Trouble Call Desk provides assistance to meet routine, urgent, and emergency breakdowns or repairs not deemed the responsibility of the resident in accordance with the lease. It is your responsibility to promptly report any maintenance issues which may cause structural damage to your unit or effect habitability […]
RESIDENT RESPONSIBILITIES Residents are required to keep the Housing staff informed of any changes in projected rotation date, home and mobile telephone numbers, or people other than immediate family living in your quarters. Preventive Maintenance Inspections (PMI) are a requirement according to the Lease and are not optional […] Be advised that you will be held financially liable for returning quarters to the original condition upon check-out […]
Guests are welcome to visit you and your family while you reside in the complex, but please ensure your guests comply with all Security regulations. You, as the sponsor, will be held accountable for the actions of your guests […] Maintain your household noise to a minimum, keep your yard and carport areas tidy and clean, and be respectful towards your neighbors […]
Housing inspectors make rounds within the complex on a daily basis. If, during these inspections, they notice that residents are not in compliance with any rules and regulations, they may issue either a “friendly reminder” or a “violation notice”.
VADEMECUM According to the Dublin Regulation (no. III 1. 604/13) you cannot decide freely in which Nation to request protection […] For the Regulation, a “citizen of a third country” is any person who is not a citizen of European Union or who is not a citizen of a State which doesn’t subscribe to the Regulation for doing an agreement with the Union […]
During the procedure to establish whether Italy is the competent country to examine the request for asylum, your status on the Italian territory is therefore that one of an asylum seeker […] The law establishes that you may seek the assistance of a lawyer. If you are unable to pay a lawyer, you may do a petition for receiving free legal assistance (sponsored by the Nation) […]
If they send you to CARA they will give you a nominal certificate (a paper where your personal data and your legal condition are reported). So, they will give you an appointment at the police office. The police will make you some photos and will take fingerprints (“foto segnalamento”). Later, they will give you an appointment to formalize your application […]
If you decide to benefit of the welcome procedures of the CARA, your stay here last the necessary time to obtain the documents and, once you obtain your permit of stay, you must leave the Centre.
EUR_Libya, photographic series, Giclée prints on cotton paper on dibond panels, variable dimensions, 2010-12.
With his new photographic project, shown now for the very first time after two years in production, Federico Baronello analyzes the symbolic representation of power in its purest form, through architecture. The starting point for his research is the «Fascism embodied in stone» mentioned by the Italian historian Emilio Gentile: the ideology of power illustrated by the magnificent buildings of Italian rationalism spread between the two poles of new Fascist Rome, the Foro Italico and EUR.
Already its title, EUR_Libya, points to the paradoxical sense of the work. The artist further suggests a metaphysical aspect: the architecture depicted appear as archeological monuments abandoned in the empty midday sun, reminiscent of the De Chirico’s Italian Piazza, but also of the Italian colonial landscapes in Africa.
Lost in time, a surreal landscape fixed in sunlight, monumental but empty, silent, found here in Italy, but it could be anywhere in the Mediterranean or even in Africa. Indeed, on closer observation, the architecture in the photographs of Federico Baronello is transformed through a surreal manoveur by the very transgressive nature of the artwork itself (i.e. the photo-montage).
A visual strategy inherited from the Dadaist who through the process of appropriation and de-contextualization developed the neo-avantgarde criticism during the ’60s and ’70s. However for Baronello the combination and overlapping of images and places, reminiscent of the strategy of visual artists such as Hans Haacke, without any direct bearing, does not embody the same ideological criticism. Baronello’s investigations are not a work about the real, as is the case of the German-American artist, but rather it is about the freedom of imagination, the utopia of the possible, inscribed by a minimal and discreet gesture.
As if Libya, or better North Africa, according to the definition of the ancient Greeks and then the Latins, might become Rome, and Rome in turn could really become the capital of a unified Mediterranean world. By inquiring into the meaning of Fascist architecture today, the artist questions the political and symbolic role of the institutions and of the cultural landscape in its broadest sense. In these photographs the ideological result of architecture undergoes a profound transformation, as if the original imperialist ideology had passed through the anthropophagous assimilation theorized by Brazilian modernist Oswald de Andrade, as the ultimate destiny of colonialism.
An economic post-colonialism, indeed. The names and logos of national companies that have long held trade and economic relations with Gaddafi’s Libya, appear as imprints on the surface of the «Fascism embodied in stone» photographed by Federico Baronello.
Anna Cestelli Guidi, presentation text for the solo show at the galleria collicaligreggi, Catania 2013.
Vittoria, 720p HD movie, 10′ 28”, 2009. [w/t Takuji Kogo]
Vittoria is situated in the Province of Ragusa on Sicily. It is a center for cherry tomato production. Spread along a 100 km stretch of coast covered with sheet-plastic greenhouses.
Developments in industrial agriculture have made it possible to produce vegetables throughout the year. The most successful producers are able to ceaselessly cultivate high quality organic tomatoes and vegetables in large scale greenhouse complexes and distribute them all over Europe.
This industrialized system has enabled seasonal migrant tomato pickers from Tunisia to stay and work all year round. During the 1980’s and 90’s low-cost labour played an important part in the growth of the industry.
In between the many greenhouses are small brick buildings. These are homes to the migrant tomato pickers. They look like the stereotypical huts seen beside meadows in Sicily or found on the locations of spaghetti western films. But today they adorn satellite dishes.
However in recent years many of the Tunisian pickers have left the plantation huts and moved to apartments in the town. Some of them belong to the third generation of migrants. Some are involved in the recruitment of new laborers to the farms. They are often seen at the Ferry Port in Palermo welcoming new recruits and their families from Tunisia.
Today many migrant tomato pickers from the former eastern block countries have come for work at the plantations. These are mainly Romanians, but also some Poles, Albanians and Ukrainians. Many of which are no longer seen as illegal due to the expansion of the European Union*.
Regulations for working conditions on the plantations are often neglected. For example migrant workers usually work on 5 month seasonal contracts but stay on for another 3 months without pay, receiving unemployment benefit from the Italian government instead. Also the regulations on working hours are easily ignored since the pickers often live on site, making it possible to work day and night.
The black labour market has flourished due to the hard competition between the Tunisian and Romanian workers. This can be seen at the town square early each morning when migrant workers without contracts, standing in ethnic groups, wait to be picked up by farmers for day work.
Nearby there is a huge wholesale vegetable market which provides some of the best quality tomatoes in Europe. The area around Vittoria functions as one giant vegetable factory. Trailers and trucks owned by global distribution companies are continuously seen coming and going day and night.
*The Schengen Agreement was extended to include Romania and Bulgaria in 2007 and has gradually been disassembling internal borders and checkpoints.
Portopalo, photographic installation, Durst Lambda prints on paper, variable dimensions, 2009.
Although it may seem paradoxical, “landscape” is a fundamental and recurrent theme of Modernism. So is it for those contemporary artists who through modernist models and structures once again put our way of seeing the landscape on the line. This practice clearly does not stop at the optical effect alone (or the “small pleasures”) but acts as a genuine investigative process. In this active exercise, the research (of documents and practices) overlaps with the taking apart and recomposition of the geographic and social space.
Jean François Lyotard discerned how in the dominant capitalist society, signs are immediately and totally transformed (and neutralized) in information. Breaking the traditional alliance or uniformity of purpose that bound art to Capital, some artists have taken the trouble to dismantle the information and restore the value and fullness of the signs.
For some years now, Federico Baronello’s work has efficaciously pursued this line. The works presented at the gianluca collica gallery of Catania show us a landscape; a very precise landscape, that of Portopalo and the southwestern Ionian Sea. In this landscape (presented through photographic prints and full-HD video) the information is profuse and different: the realization and the installation of sculpture groups along the Portopalo promenade, by the local parish priest Don Palacino, in memory of the 283 migrants drowned off Capo Passero in 1996 (with a religious-pop aesthetic, with obvious though surely unconscious references to Picasso as well as Ed and Nancy Kienholz); the probable installation again in the same waters off Portopalo, by the Institute of Nuclear physics, of an immensely powerful underwater telescope, a kind of antenna devised to reveal astrophysical neutrinos of the highest energy; the remains and markings of Islamic culture “etched” onto the seized fishing boats in the port of Portopalo.
In Baronello’s works, all these pieces of information reacquire the meanings of a story but above all are presented as signs of modernity: useful signs enabling us to understand also what we see.
Giovanni Iovane, presentation text for the solo show Portopalo at the gianluca collica gallery, Catania 2009.