“EU STARTS4Water”, when water is the keystone of sustainability
Relying on the collective contribution of a panel of speakers, Cittadellarte has recently identified a series of challenges on the theme of water. The regional challenges, emerged as a result of the debate among the experts, will be the pivotal contents of the artistic residency STARTS4Water, which will be held in the spaces of Fondazione Pistoletto.

Water is life. All living things need water to survive. Not only does the human body consist of 60% water, this resource is also essential for producing food, clothing, computers, moving the flow of waste and keeping us and the environment healthy. However, there is no sustainable approach to this asset”. The project STARTS4Water develops from these reflections and, combining art, technology and science, aims at addressing one of the most urgent challenges of our time, i.e. a sustainable use of water. STARTS4Water will support artists, researchers, technology experts and other interested parties in the search of a common ground and a suitable language to respond to territorial challenges related to water. Focusing on clean water as a fundamental right of all human beings and on the conservation of life in our seas and oceans, the project is based on the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and in particular on Goal 6 “Clean water and sanitation” and 14 “Life below water”.

The programme
Placing themselves at the vital hub between the local and the global, and at the crossroads of art, industry and technology, eleven STARTS4Water residences will critically address environmental issues, transform the way we manage our shared global habitat and create new narratives and strategies for understanding, enhancing and governing the use of water in a more inclusive, integrated and sustainable way. A series of 101 events (conferences, networking events, acceleration events, expert meetings, workshops, summer schools, presentations, exhibitions etc.) will facilitate the sharing of knowledge on local and regional water challenges between communities and industry in Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece, Croatia and Italy, building a more complete picture of needs and issues, and leading to better decisions by both water providers and users/citizens in regards to sustainable water management.

The residences
STARTS4Water will launch a call for eleven artistic residences in July 2021. Water will be their common denominator, but the challenges will be rooted in local and regional contexts. For the STARTS4Water Consortium, sustainable water management can be achieved by changing the behaviour of individuals. Through a series of STARTS Academy workshops, intersectoral and transversal networking activities, field expeditions and discussions involving the citizenry, STARTS4Water will collaborate with wider communities and offer new narratives to inform and communicate on the theme of this common mission.

The debate
In recent weeks, Fondazione Pistoletto has brought together numerous experts who have defined the objectives of the residences that Cittadellarte will host in October; the professionals were from different fields, but all involved – in their own specialities – on the subject of water. Cittadellarte has therefore networked and given voice to them in an exercise aiming at identifying the residency/regional challenges. As explained by Paolo Naldini, the project “will get artists to work on selected regional water challenges, which have been identified thanks to the collective discussion”, also with a view to “let nature speak, defining rights and duties of the environmental matrix”, as added by Franco Piunti, one of the experts involved. Applying the working methodology suggested by Juan Sandoval, director of the Art Office and of UNIDEE Residency Programs, the intertwining of the various participating actors has led to an understanding of the general challenges from different points of view, i.e. from climate, geomorphological, social and urban planning perspectives. Starting from their respective fields of research, the speakers have argued what they believe to be the challenges that the territory in question (the Piedmontese Alps and the western Po Valley reaching as far as the coasts of Liguria) will have to face in the next ten years with respect to water.

The experts
Who has animated and participated in the collective debate? Elisa Palazzi, researcher at the Institute of Atmospheric and Climate Sciences (ISAC) of the CNR and professor of Climate Physics at the University of Turin; Marco Giardino, professor of Applied Geomorphology at the Department of Earth Sciences of the University of Turin; Michele Cerruti But, professor of Urban Planning at the IUAV in Venice and academic coordinator of the UNIDEE Academy; Ianira Vassallo, architect and PhD in Territorial Planning and Public Territory Policies, and researcher and lecturer in Urban Planning and Urban Design (ICAR 21) at the DIST (Interuniversity Department of Sciences, Project and Territory Policies) of the Polytechnic of Turin; Claudio Tonin, head of research at the Biella branch of STIIMA – National Research Council; Luca Ridolfi, full professor of Hydraulics and Fluid Mechanics at the Polytechnic of Turin since 2003; Silvia Berra, manager for Confindustria since 2004, dealing with Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainability issues since 2012, and secretary of the Nobilisation and Technical Textile Section of the Biellese Industrial Union since January 2019; Diego Presa, former deputy mayor and councillor for the environment of the city of Biella and former president of ATO2 Vercelli, Biella, Casale and Valenza; Luca Sala, veterinarian, director of the Prevention Department of Biella’s Local Health Authority; Michele Lerro, lawyer, member of the board of directors of CORDAR Biella and former president of Co.S.R.A.B .; Maurizio Di Lella, expert technician in hydraulic and OO.PP interventions for the territory of the province of Biella and part of Regione Piemonte’s technical sector for Biella and Vercelli since 2001; Andrea Polidori, agronomist, owner of the Agronomy and Landscape Architecture Studio and president of the order of agronomists and forestry doctors of the province of Biella and Vercelli; Franco Piunti, doctor and former president of the Textile and Health Association.

The ideas
The collective discussion has led to the definition of the challenges of the future residences, which will be outlined in detail and made known at the time of the public call. The considerations and analyses on the common theme of water have been numerous and particularly significant: water in the world of fashion, its uses in the socio-political sphere, an in-depth study of geodiversity, water as an infrastructure of the territory, water not only as a resource bringing a territory together but also as an asset to be protected. The basis for articulating the challenges was also built: predicting the impact of change in the event of a disaster by better managing the territory, declining it locally, in view of adapting to extreme climatic events; looking at waterways with an ecosystemic approach; engaging social awareness around the problem of water infrastructure and the unsustainable waste of energy – and consequently of water – caused by international trade and the consumption of meat; proper management of water resources; relating water to the use of land, avoiding wild urbanisation with limitations in land consumption; translating and declining global and regional problems in local contexts; ensuring that art can serve as an engine capable of creating an instinctive connection with society also on the environmental front (this way resolving the related critical issues not only from a scientific, but also from a humanistic point of view); promoting forms of education that take sustainability into account.

The behind the scenes
The STARTS4Water Consortium is led by Luca School of Arts with the participation of Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto (IT), V2_Lab for the Unstable Media (NL), UrbanDig project (GR), UR Institute (HR) and TBA21. S+T+ARTS (Science, Technology & the Arts) is an initiative by the European Commission launched as part of the research and innovation programme Horizon 2020. Its aim is to support collaborations between artists, scientists, engineers and researchers to develop more creative, inclusive and sustainable technologies. The project is funded by the European Commission Directorate General for Communication Networks, Contents and Technology.

Cover image: Aquatocene, Robertina Sebjanic.