Manifesta purposely strives to keep its distance from what are often seen as the dominant centres of artistic production, instead seeking fresh and fertile terrain for the mapping of a new cultural topography.

If you dig, you always find the sea

A contribution to the archeology of Palermo coastline

Education: schools project

This artistic and pedagogical project was initiated as a collaboration between architect Valentina Mandalari and artist and anthropologist Lorenzo Bordonaro as part of the education research programme of Manifesta 12.

The project proposed to explore the transformation of the Palermo coast using the format of an archaeological-ethnographic investigation. Two primary school classes conducted simultaneous campaigns of "archaeology of the contemporary territory" in two parts of the city – the southern beach of Romagnolo and a northern one of Vergine Maria. Despite being geographically afar, both neighbourhoods share a similar urban evolution in the years following the Second World War. Both have been changed from traditional fishermen neighborhoods into a sort of dysfunctional periphery. The hectic and unregulated growth of the city started in 1950s deprived Palermo of a recreation public space at the cost of the sea. An enormous amount of debris has been brought to the cost and pushed back the coastline to 150-200 meters.

In spring 2018 the students of both schools excavated around 400 kilos of cement tiles, Venetian floors, grits, marble, majolica, terracotta and calcarenite bricks that belonged to demolished liberty villas and other constructions. These fragments of contemporary urban archeology, carefully sorted and analysed, formed an exhibition in the crypt of the church of SS. Euno and Giuliano.

Beyond the excavation work carried out by the participants, archeology in this project intended to uncover the stories and the trace of how the urban transformation led to the social change. The students conducted interviews with the inhabitants of the surrounding areas, collecting family memories of the neighbourhood transformations.

The project further developed into a Manifesta 12 Mediation Kit “Un sacco di Palermo”, and continued in the following years at the Urban Ecomuseum Mare Memoria Viva.