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Gibellina Photoroad 2023 : Land of Imagination


Now in its 4th edition, the Gibellina Photoroad 2023 enlivens the whole town thanks to its unusual formula, as it is the first open-air and site-specific festival of photography and visual arts in Italy. The project somehow follows the idea that was behind the rebirth of the town after the 1968 earthquake in the Val Belìce that destroyed the old Gibellina, whose ruins are contained and protected by the Grande Cretto, Alberto Burri’s masterpiece of land art.

The new town was rebuilt a few kilometres away and, inspired by its mayor Ludovico Corrao, it has been reborn as a city of art. In fact, it was completely rebuilt through art. He and a group of intellectuals and artists (Arnaldo Pomodoro, Pietro Consagra, Joseph Beuys, Alberto Burri, Mimmo Paladino among them) worked on this unique experiment, creating a kind of “ideal town”, somehow like those projected during the Renaissance.

So, in Gibellina, art is the keyword. Indeed, the whole town is one of the largest open-air contemporary art museums in the world. On the occasion of Gibellina Photoroad 2023, one of the ‘traditional’ museums, the MAC – Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Ludovico Corrao (Ludovico Corrao Museum of Contemporary Art), is hosting an exhibition of great interest, a relevant document for the history of Gibellina and for the history of photography too. It’s The landscape of thought, Gibellina 1980/1981/1982 by Mimmo Jodice. It includes vintage prints printed by him, many of which never been seen before, and is dedicated to the new town raised from the ruins of the earthquake, a theme that became central to his research. Not to be missed is the documentary film dedicated to Jodice (Contrasto, Cineteca di Bologna), which reveals much about the author’s photographic approach and content. His photographs, in which reality, imagination and respect coexist even when they document a tragedy occurred and a rebirth, can also be seen by walking through the streets and squares of the town, in an open-air exhibition, which highlights the cross-references between the images of a Gibellina in fieri and contemporary reality.

In front of a backdrop, somehow between an ideal town and metaphysical scenarios, architecture and works by contemporary masters that cut through and draw the space, the photographic images take their place in the most appropriate places for similarity or contrast. Indeed, large-format prints, outdoor exhibitions and installations, are thought to dialogue with the urban space of Gibellina. And, map in hand, it’s a discovery to see all 38 exhibitions and installations by 30 artists (from 11 countries) in 18 locations. As a tradition, the festival once again covers the entire city, winding through its historic buildings and monumental plazas, from Piazza Beuys to Teatro di Consagra and Palazzo di Lorenzo, Municipio as well as Chiesa Madre, Sistema delle Piazze, Fondazione Orestiadi, Orto Botanico, Labirinto, Giardino Segreto and Cresm. From the youngest beginners to masters, such as Mimmo Jodice, to Magnum photojournalists like Jonas Bendiksen, Francesco Zizola, winner of the 1996 World Press Photo Award. Or Charles Fréger, who uses photography to express contemporary anthropology: his work is on display at the Gibellina Botanical Garden (whose project has also been signed by great names) to be unveiled among vegetation and works of contemporary art.

The works of all the authors offer a view on the world through the lens of the Gibellina Photoroad’s theme: ‘alterations’. As the festival’s director, Arianna Catania, explains: « ‘alterations’ concerns the space determined by the dialectical relationship between creative genius and pre-constituted forms, between individuals and social structures. In fact, photography not only interprets the world but modifies it, transforms it, alters it. This edition of the festival pays homage to photography as a highly intriguing experimental art, in constant dialogue with other art forms, trying to violate their rules and elaborate independent languages, open to endless interpretation».

Gibellina Photoroad, goes on in supporting emerging artists, this year in collaboration with Triennale Milano and Call Fotografia Spazio Aperto, with a site-specific work that aims to bring photography and architecture into dialogue (winning project by the photographer Luca Massaro and the architect Anna Merci). It’s designed around Il sistema delle Piazze, the central square created by the architects Franco Purini and Laura Thermes in the 1980s. Imaginarium, winning project in the Photography Strategy 2022 prize granted by the Directorate General for Contemporary Creativity of the Italian Ministry of Culture, is a collaborative work by four Italian photographers, Alessandra Calò, Nicolò Degiorgis, Giorgio Di Noto and Valentina Vannicola. It emerges from an artists’ residency on the Sicilian island of Favignana. A preview is on show at the Gibellina Photoraod festival and then it will be exhibited at the Tonnara di Favignana site, becoming part of the permanent collection of the Ex Stabilimento Florio’s. Other authors presenting their works at the festival are Antonello Ferrara, Catherine Leutenegger, Cédric Raccio, the studio Entangled Others, Francesca Serravalle, Gloria Oyarzabal, Ieva Stankutė, Jennifer Niederhauser Schlup, Kensuke Koike, Marta Bogdańska, Matteo Delbò, Matteo De Mayda, Mishka Henner, Rossana Taormina, Rossella Pezzino De Geronimo, Ruben Martin De Lucas, Salvatore Di Gregorio, Salvatore Esposito, Smith, Sjoerd Knibbeler.

The festival is organized by the cultural association On Image and supported by the Municipality of Gibellina and the Fondazione Orestiadi.

Paola Sammartano


Gibellina Photoroad 2023
Open Air & Site-Specific Festival – IV Edition
July 28 – September 30, 2023
91024 Gibellina – TP

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