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Orto Botanico di Palermo (Palermo Botanical Garden). Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani. Courtesy: OMA for Palermo Atlas, an urban interdisciplinary study for Manifesta 12.

Manifesta Reveals Concept for Its 2018 Edition

Manifesta, the roving European biennial of contemporary art, has unveiled the concept for its 2018 edition, in Palermo. Announced at a press conference in Rome on November 27, the twelfth edition of the exhibition will focus on the history of Palermo as a hub for diversity, continuous migration, and cross-pollination. As a result, gardens will be a central theme.

Its four creative mediators—Dutch journalist and filmmaker Bregtje van der Haak, Spanish architect Andrés Jaque, Italian architect and OMA partner Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, and a Swiss curator from the Kunsthaus Zurich, Mirjam Varadinis—have cited French botanist Gilles Clément’s 1997 description of the world as a “planetary garden,” where humanity is in charge of being its gardener, as a starting point for the exhibition.

“Twenty years later, the metaphor of the planet as a manageable garden is still attractive, not as a space for humans to take control, but rather as a site where ‘gardeners’ recognize their dependency on other species, and respond to climate, time, or an array of social factors, in a shared responsibility,” the mediators wrote in a statement explaining their curatorial vision. They also stressed that Palermo is an ideal location for Manifesta, since it is at the forefront of globalization. In response to the ongoing refugee crisis, Palermo’s mayor, Leoluca Orlando, a champion of migrants’ rights who first became well-known for fighting and consequently greatly reducing the power of the mafia, has made huge strides in redefining models of citizenship. He has moved to abolish a residence permit, the document a migrant needs to legally live in a country, and declared that mobility is a human right.

Titled “The Planetary Garden. Cultivating Coexistence,” the exhibition will present four main sections: “Garden of Flows,” which will explore toxicity, plant life, and the culture of gardening in relation to Palermo’s garden, Orto Botanico; “Out of Control Room,” which will investigate global power dynamics; “City on Stage,” which will focus on Palermo’s existing civic plans; and “Teatro Garibaldi,” which will host a library and a café, as well as debates, workshops, screenings, and other programming. The biennial, opening on June 16, 2018, will announce participating artists and other projects at a later date.

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