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SI FEST is back in Savignano: 32nd edition


September is a month plenty of photography in Italy. For instance, the 32nd edition of SI FEST, which began on the 8th, will continue over the weekends of 16-17 and 23-24. For this occasion, Savignano sul Rubicone, in Emilia Romagna, comes alive with photographers and enthusiasts of photographic images, to discover exhibitions, projects and talks. New for the 2023 edition is Testimone oculare (Eyewitness), an original project, which lines the one launched in 2022 dedicated to the new generations. In both cases the aim is to bring the culture of photography closer to an ever wider audience. This is one of the points on which Alex Majoli, full member of Magnum Photos, who has been entrusted with the artistic direction of SI FEST for the second year, is working. “I am a photographer and I will always be one. I like to experiment in my work and I have done so with this edition of SI FEST: with the ‘Eyewitness’ project related to the prison and by taking photography in schools”, says Alex Majoli.

Testimone oculare, hence the title of this edition of the festival, is a collective work, made together by professional photographers and incarcerated people: with SI FEST 2023, photography has crossed the prison walls, symbolic boundaries of the many places on the margins of the contemporary world. It’s in this space, defined as “between the inside and the outside”, that SI FEST investigated, reaching out to the Casa circondariale in Forlì. Four professional photographers (Arianna Arcara, Cristina De Middel, Lorenzo Vitturi, Marco Zanella) collaborated with six detainees documenting what they wish to see, or see again, from the outside world: the result: six reportages that offer interesting points of view.

In today’s world, we communicate more with images than with words, so we should all know the communication codes inherent in photography, which is a language in itself. In the exhibition route involving schools, the exhibitions are associated with school subjects in order to better understand the students’ points of view. “Photography and all the arts in general must take an interest in society. Photographs cannot just be relics and entertainment in museums or festivals. Instead, they must take part in the aletheia (the truth, what must not be hidden or forgotten, ed.) of our collectivity”, Alex Majoli says.

So in Savignano schools we can look at the imagined future, between video games and dystopian novels, by Jacky Connolly in Descent Into Hell and Inner Journey by Marvel Harris (literature). And it is a world of solitary animals inspired by the theories of sociobiology that Jim Naughten portrays in Eremozoic (biology).

Also on show are the projects (religion) Lee and the Sea Things by Olivia Arthur and What’s Ours by Lebanese artist Myriam Boulos, as well as Sleeping by the Mississippi (geography) by Alec Soth. Karolina Wojtas (Abzgram) and Angelo Vignali (Rituale numero uno) dialogue with geometry and physics. For the sciences, Evidence by Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel is an artist’s book created from the archives of scientific institutions, industry and government agencies.

Also of interest are the winning works of the awards associated with the 2022 edition of SI FEST: from Sanae Mazouz‘s family diary (“Marco Pesaresi” Prize) with Subtle Maze, to Fabio Malgara‘s Protocollo K (“Werther Colonna” Portfolio Prize). Renata Busettini and Max Ferrero instead pay tribute to ten courageous women with Vietato morire. Storie di ordinaria resistenza (Portfolio Italia Prize – Gran Premio Fujifilm).

The Marco Pesaresi Prize for Contemporary Photography 2023 has been awarded to Ariya Karatas for her project Arjen, which, from an unconventional point of view, reconstructs the figure of her father, a man on the border between the West and the East, in search of a unique language, which for Ariya could be photography. Tommaso Palmieri is the winner of the Portfolio Prize “Werther Colonna” SI FEST 2023, with the portfolio (Bo)yz In The Hood; special mention to Pierluca Esposito for the project Lights and Shadows, Ukraine 2023.

“The festival has been and is an eyewitness to 32 years of photography in Italy observing the growth and development of new artistic trends, photographic styles and innovative techniques. SI FEST has supported the work of emerging photographers, contributed to the celebration of masters of photography, and recorded the changes in the way photography has been perceived by Italian society over the years,” says Mario Beltrambini, Vice President of Savignano Immagini.

The festival stands out for the role it gives to photography and images in the spaces of education. “Special places, some privileged, others, those on the margins, where exclusion is experienced, but also dreams and hope. There, as in Testimone oculare, photography has become a direct interpreter, being able to narrate an imaginary, and the poetry that everyone carries inside and that, in every situation, manages to liberate,” Filippo Giovannini, Mayor of Savignano sul Rubicone, explains. The schools’ projects are the result of the workshops Paesaggio interiore and UnderSavignano, il fanciullino e Marco Pesaresi (curated by Marialuisa Cortesi Susanna Venturi and Mario Beltrambini): the students were confronted with Pesaresi’s works housed in the Fototeca comunale. And in Savignano and at Castel Sismondo in Rimini, the retrospective Rimini Revisited – Beyond the Sea. Marco Pesaresi (curated by Mario Beltrambini and Jana Liskova) is still on show. Also linked to the Fototeca comunale is La cultura del progetto, curated by Jessica Andreucci and Giuseppe Pazzaglia, an initiative (winner of the Strategia Fotografia 2022 call for entries) with which the Municipality of Savignano supports the creation of photographic campaigns in its territory. Finally, SI FEST KIDS, with the works of the very young, and SI FEST OFF, an independent section of the Festival, this year dedicated to Romagna Tin Bòta, a charity initiative that has brought together four hundred photographers and illustrators, in support of the territories affected by the floods.

Paola Sammartano


47039 Savignano sul Rubicone FC

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