[eng] Imago mundi: 3500 individual pieces that together paint a portrait of Mediterranean humankind

Article published on Nov. 1, 2017
Article published on Nov. 1, 2017

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

The exhibition Imago Mundi - Rotte Mediterranee (Mediterranean routes) opened its doors on 18 February 2017. The show features 19 countries whose shores are lapped by the Mediterranean Sea in 3,500 stories that are at once so different and yet so similar. We have visited it for you.

"Here, everything is uneven, jumbled, shimmering, like in the most hybrid of continents." (G. Bufalino)

This is exactly what awaits the visitor beyond the glass door of Palermo's ZAC Cantieri Culturali alla Zisa Pavillion. It is as though thousands of different stories all want to be heard at once - a joyful and colourful mix of voices, each patiently awaiting its turn. 

The exhibition is part of the Imago Mundi collection, a project by Luciano Benetton as part of the Biennale Archipelago Mediterranean (BAM). The project is comprised of works of art from 19 countries which at first appear to be very different, but share the same soul, the same Mediterranean kinship. 

The exhibition  

It is like a huge puzzle - 3,500 canvasses, each measuring 10x12. The water of the Mediterranean sea flows through all of the stories. At times stormy, at other times reassuring. Each panel elicits an outpouring of confused emotions: disorientation, curiosity, a desire to know more, astonishment, indignation, sadness, joy. Each little tile is a story.

Separately, each canvas could appear almost insignificant. But gradually stepping back and widening the lens, the impact is increasingly explosive. Like in real life,  the exhibition is a sum of its parts. 

The images come in quick succession: a Muslim 'rosary' juxtaposed against the typical colours of Morocco; the photo of a devastated city in Libya; a Bible pierced with a nail in Campania, Italy; an irreverent middle finger fromTunisia; a cup of coffee in Croatia; a hand grenade in Albania; a bunch of flowers from Lebanon; mobile phones playing videos from Syria, Israel, and Palestine. The images side-by-side, provoking nothing but awe at their beauty. 

The centre of the Mediterranean

Above the middle of the exhibition hangs a photo of Sicily taken from space by astronaut Luca Parmitano. Immediately underneath this, hang the works relating to this island - at the centre of the exhibition just like Sicily is at the centre of the Mediterranean. This section is called 'Sicilian Identity: Contemporary Artists from Sicily.' The works capture the essence of the island, in all its facets: from the suffering caused by the scourge of the mafia, to its abundant oranges, its diversity, its tones and its scents. Once again, it is only looking at everything as a whole that it can be fully perceived. 

The message

A place is never just a place, people are never a faceless crowd. Each place, each people tells a story, a story of a thousand facets, created by pain and joy, by victory and defeat, by traditions from far away and new customs. It is made up of corrupted minds, but also of minds that use their own honesty and courage to fight that corruption. We are all part of the same great race, the human race. All of these small canvasses are a mirror. There you will find our story, our character, our diversity, our wealth. Indeed, we have found it right here, where everything is uneven, jumbled and shimmering.