The story of Art at the Centre 2018
The two-day festival closed over the weekend, after creating a mosaic made of a workshop, a conference with special guests, new exhibitions, an interactive exhibition, the opening of new spaces, the conferment of the Minimun Prize and a musical evening courtesy of Hydro. All in the name of sustainability and, of course, with art at its centre.

Art at the Centre of a responsible social transformation: on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th May, the spaces of Fondazione Pistoletto hosted the traditional festival of exhibitions (please see our previous article for the details), conferences and seminars focusing on artistic practices of transformation of the social contexts in which they develop, realized by Cittadellarte and its network of international subjects. Besides art, the key word of the initiative was “sustainability”: Art at the Centre 2018 was in fact part of the “Festival of Sustainable Development“, a globally celebrated event dedicated to the UN’s 17 Goals of Sustainable Development. For the occasion, Cittadellarte was able to mix and link different fields, from art to architecture to music. Let’s see how art was at the centre of a responsible social transformation throughout.

The opening (please click here for the live video posted on Facebook)
Art at the Centre was officially opened at 18.30. Paolo Naldini, director of Cittadellarte, introduced and launched the festival. After the welcome courtesies, Naldini talked about the conference “(NOT) Understanding the Landscape” and the workshop “Strame” (Unweaves), focusing on sustainable fashion: “At Cittadellarte, the textile industry is examined, regenerated, reformulated and taught, because Cittadellarte is a school where you come to learn and teach. Today, most of us have taken part in a series of lessons, since learning is a continuous process, more and more necessary in times like these of intense, fast and deep change. This is what we nurture: the ability to learn.”

Naldini then illustrated the peculiarities of the space Semiurbani: “Today, – he explained – we are launching the project Semiurbani, a visitable space dedicated to the neighbourhoods aligned on the axis of factories along the river Cervo. It is an extremely meaningful space, dedicated to urban agriculture, urban farming, urban green, urban gardens and balconies and all those expressions of care for nature, green areas, houses, streets and squares. Semiurbani is a place of exchange, learning, sharing of techniques, storing of equipment, nesting of initiatives, ideas and projects. A space open to all the inhabitants of Biella every day of the week.”

The director of Cittadellarte also presented the exhibitions: “Every year, on the occasion of Art at the Centre, our new or revised exhibitions open to run for a year. They are not only a place to visit and gather information, they also function like a laboratory, some of them being actual educational devices. Besides, exhibitions are also where people meet: this is the sense of a total school like Cittadellarte.”

The Minimum Prize
Following the introduction, Create London (in the person of Scott Pearl, head of programme; please click here to hear his comments) was awarded with the Minimum Prize, celebrating subjects promoting a responsible social transformation, reserved for great people who have dedicated their lives to the causes of peace and civil progress in the world. Giuliana Carusi Setari, president of Fondazione Pistoletto, handed the prize while presenting Create London to the audience. Before the official proclamation, Carusi Setari thanked Michelangelo Pistoletto, Maria Pioppi (the artist’s wife), Paolo Naldini and all Cittadellarte’s team for the work carried out, declaring herself proud to be its president.

“Create London – here is the citation for the prize read by the president – realizes spaces where to learn to practice inhabiting as a transformative device and to negotiate the sense of this practice with the communities. Create redefi nes the role of art in the social context, and builds bridges made of relationships and collaborations. Assemble, Folly for a Flyover, Londra/London, 2011 It also erects physical portions of the built city. It regenerates urban areas together with the communities inhabiting them, which, through the processes promoted by Create, discover and activate themselves as social fabric, a woven texture of shared living. The networks started and facilitated by Create’s projects re-articulate and multiply that minimum relationship connecting people to one another: the relationship along which the social lymph runs, made of intelligence, emotions, projects, dreams and needs. This minimum relationship is the precondition of each agency that overcomes the individualized, compartmentalized, monadic level of modern living. Create’s projects act like an enzyme in this crucial phase in the social process: the passage from one to two, to many, to everybody”.

The occasion also saw the presence of Griet Dobbels, who presented her exhibition “The Map is not the Territory (Montedellarte)”. It consists of an artist’s book (published by Viaindustriae), a video and an installation visualizing the process and the artistic outcome of “Montedellarte”, realized by Dobbels on Monte Cucco, near Biella, on 1st October 2017.
A group of hikers drew a physical map in the landscape by walking along a contour line, while people from all over the world could watch and participate in the hike via the project website and app. The process of this dynamics resulted in “The Map is not the Territory (Montedellarte)”, exhibited at Cittadellarte.

The conference “(NOT) Understanding the Landscape”
On Friday, before the official opening of Art at the Centre, there was the first part of the conference “(NOT) Understanding the Landscape”, organized by iLab – Industrial Landscape Biella. The event was divided in three phases, with the participation of special guests and a large public. The first session, called “The Landscape”, was held in the morning, and introduced the themes of the conference and included the speeches of the organizers Paolo Naldini, Paolo Furia, postdoctoral researcher in Theoretical Philosophy, and Federico Vercellone, professor at the University of Turin.

The second session, in the afternoon, called “The Biellese and its transformations – Exercise for a collective self-portrait”, was anticipated by a speech by Michelangelo Pistoletto; followed by the local stakeholders’ work tables and the final plenary restitution.
The third phase, called “Metamorphoses”, involved all the other guests (please see our previous article for the complete list), including the anthropologist Marc Augé.

The workshop “Strame” (Unweaves)
The spaces of Fashion B.E.S.T Studios hosted the workshop for the project “Strame”, with the participation of students from Biella’s Technical Institute of Superior Education “Q. Sella” (specializing in Textile Clothing and Fashion) and Institute of Superior Education “E. Bona”. The activity was curated by Silvio Betterelli, assisted by Valentina Donadel.

“For Art at the Centre – explained Betterelli – we have worked at the project “Strame” with students, who have carried out a free and creative exercise so that passamenterie, ropes and threads supplied by the Antica Fabbrica Passamanerie (Ancient Passementerie Factory) MV1843 were elaborated and interpreted to dress the body. They were archive passamenterie and leftovers from production: this way we recycled and re-invented materials which wouldn’t usually be used”. The participants have in fact re-sewn forms, volumes and lines along new visions and solutions of textile frames made of warps and wefts, working directly on the body.

“The Cosmos in your Hand”
Part of Friday’s programme was also the experiential exhibition “The Cosmos in your Hand”, curated by Ruggero Poi (director of Cittadellarte’s Learning Environments and Schools Department).
“We have set up an exhibition for children from 4-5 year olds to primary school pupils, – explains Ruggero – also involving families willing to share an experience in which parents and children can discover together the peculiarities of the universe surrounding us. It is an interactive exhibition where you can play with science with your own hands, in a context dedicated to art: “The Cosmos in your Hand” narrates the origins of the universe, from the Big Bang to the formation of the planets, the constellations, the alternating of day and night on Earth and, of course, the atomic component.”

The strong link between art and science of the exhibition is not new: let’s think of how ASI and ESA (the Italian and European space agencies) selected the Third Paradise as the central element of the logo for the mission VITA. It was a historical choice: for the first time a humanistic symbol – born from art – had been used as the logo for a space mission (please see our previous article for more information).

Demopractic Constellations – Cittadellarte’s social impact
“Demopractic Constellations” is one of the new exhibitions opened on the occasion of Art at the Centre, curated by Michele Cerruti But and Juan Sandoval, with the scientific consultancy of SocialFare. “Art’s ambitious project to take on the challenges of contemporaneity and the responsibility to create of a new civilization is the mission Cittadellarte has embarked on in its twenty years of action and practices, – writes Cerruti But on the Art at the Centre magazine – “its tale is a structured universe of not only ideas, but also subjects, actors and people. Stars that materialize, generate and regenerate themselves in their mutual connections and through hundreds of projects, exhibitions, seminars, actions and working sites on a local and interlocal scale. “Constellations” is a collective process of self-reflection activated by Cittadellarte to analyse and rethink its social impact.

The exhibition presents twenty years of experiences and projects following the sequence of the actions carried out, each characterized by a different constellation of actors, and which can be described through four areas of impact or drivers. Each area is then detailed through an articulated model of quantitative and qualitative indicators allowing to “quantify the intangible”, i.e. the scope of social innovation implemented by Cittadellarte, pilot scheme of a work model applicable to local projects, to the network of embassies and, more generally, to art for social transformation as practised all over the world. “Constellations” is therefore the dynamic narration of what Cittadellarte does rather than is, of its constant striving to raise awareness, to produce knowledge, to activate co-responsibilities and to stimulate creation, which are Cittadellarte concerns, and the way these can change society.”

“Hydro X Arte al Centro – Musica per paesaggio futuro”
On Friday night, to conclude the presentation of Art at the Centre, Cittadellarte immersed itself in the music of Hydro: the internal courtyard, also the setting for the dinner served by Crossquare, turned into a stage for the entertainment, curated by different groups and DJs: the musical programme was in line with the theme of the event, i.e. the landscape and the responsible social transformation. The curtain raised on the artists of Sala_Macchine with WARM UP!, a DJ set by Aaron Inker, Paolo Mologni and Marco Cassisa.

The show continued with the fourth instalment of the third season of the programme Sala_Macchine called “(NOT) Understanding the Landscape” (from the homonymous conference), creating an alternative representation of the landscape through electronic music. The stage was then taken by the trio composed by Riccardo Sala (at the saxophone), Andrea Beccaro (at the drums) and Luca Biasetti (live electronics). After midnight the performance moved to Hydro, with the exhibitions of the DJs Ma Nu and Intergalactig Gary.