On October 11, 2022, during the proclamation ceremony held at the Opéra Garnier in Monte-Carlo, DAAR was awarded the Prince Pierre Foundation Prize for artistic research. The award will be used to continue DAAR’s engagement in the formation of the Entity of Decolonization in Borgo Rizza in Sicily. Present at the ceremony, the deputy mayor of Carlentini, Salvatore La Rosa, a generous supporter of the critical reuse of the former fascist rural town built in 1940 by the Entity of Colonisation of Sicilian latifundium.
Ente di Decolonizzazione – Borgo Rizza – is the new project by DAAR – Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal – which explores the possibility of critical reuse and subversion of fascist colonial architecture through an art installation.
Starting from the decomposition and recomposition of the facade of the Entity of Colonization of the Sicilian Latifundiium (1940) in Borgo Rizza (Siracusa), the installation is composed of several modules-sittings that are the platform of an open discursive space where the public is invited to reconsider critically the social, political and economic effect of fascist and colonial heritage and at the same time is invited to image collectively new common uses. The installation is presented and activated in several venues in Napoli (2022), Berlin (2022), Bruxells (2023) and Albissola Marina (2023).
The first activation of the “Ente di Decolonizzazione – Borgo Rizza” took place in May 2022 at the Mostra d’Oltremare in Napoli, which first opened in 1940. Conceived as a colossal exhibition to display the territories and people overseas in areas colonized by the fascist regime, it closed only 40 days after its opening, when Italy entered the Second World War. It has since had many temporary uses, including hosting refugees from the Second World War and from earthquakes in the 80s; acting as a vaccination center; and providing a venue for public events.
The second activation of “Ente di Decolonizzazione – Borgo Rizza” took place at the Akademie der Künste in the Hansa Quarter in Berlin built in 1957 for the International Building Exhibition (Interbau). On this occasion, we were interested in exploring how modernist architecture was deployed for the representation of a democratic Germany. Today, Interbau (1957) and the Karl-Marx-Allee are on the way to becoming UNESCO world heritage sites for their Post-war architectural and urban modernism. With the participation of the public visiting the biennial, members of local associations, and students from New York University Abu Dhabi we looked into what the rhetoric of modernity is hiding, and how it has been mobilized in different contexts. Modernist architectures, both in the former colonies and the colonizing countries, have been built as isolated sacred objects to be admired; therefore, for us, it is not enough just to reuse them, they need to be profaned, to be used against themselves, and open for new common uses different from those they were designed for.
Ente di Decolonizzazione – Borgo Rizza
A project by DAAR – Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti –
Research: Sandi Hilal, Emilio Distretti, Alessandro Petti
Project coordinator: Sara Pellegrini
Public program curator: Matteo Lucchetti
Design assistance and executive production: Orizzontale and Zapoi
Documentation: Pietro Onofri
Website design: NERO editions
Online platform editor: Michele Angiletta for NERO editions
Acknowledgements: Corrado Gugliotta, Salvatore La Rosa, Iole Lianza, Laura Mariano, Remo Minopoli, Nicolò Stabile, Kathryn Weir
Co-commissioned and co-produced by La Loge – Brussels and Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, Madre Museum – Naples, Comune di Albissola Marina
Project supported by the Italian Council (10th Edition 2022) program to promote Italian contemporary art in the world by the Directorate-General for Contemporary Creativity for the Italian Ministry of Culture.
Material: wood, plaster, plexiglass
Dimensions: 350x600x45 cm
Courtesy the artists
Hurting and Healing: Let’s Imagine a Different Heritage (19.3 – 28.8 2022)
This spring’s exhibition at Tensta konsthall poses the following question: How can the understanding of cultural heritage be decolonized by societies and organizations shaped by European knowledge systems? In this project, Charles Esche, director of the Van Abbemuseum and Tensta konsthall engage in dialogue with a number of artworks, artists, researchers and guest curators with the purpose of looking closer at how western-centric perception of cultural heritage can be challenged and redefined.
The exhibition has its origins in Palestine and in a close working relationship between Esche and the artists/architects Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti. In their Refugee Heritage, they speculate on what would happen if the Dheisheh refugee camp in Palestine was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and afforded the same status as, say, the Pyramids of Giza, Birka or the Taj Mahal. The installation, which consists of light boxes and photo albums, makes reference to the camp and its relations with the Palestinan villages from which people were driven out in 1948. Dheisheh, created in 1949, can be understood as a permanently temporary society within a stateless nation, existing both in adherence and in contradiction to the UN regulations. By proposing it as something to preserve and nurture, the conditions for how a world heritage site can emerge are shifted for a moment. Can exile take us towards a different understanding of the need for a nation state? What should be preserved once the occupation of Palestine is a historical memory?
From this central question, the exhibition contains a series of works that each present concrete proposals for how new cultural heritage can be imagined, or shift, twist and turn existing perceptions of how the past works in our time and in the future. Several works address the historical colonial exploitation, inequality and devastation caused by global capitalism. As for example Jonas Staal’s documentary images from Rojava, images that depict the process to establish democratic confederalism in the Kurdish area of North Syria, and Taus Makhacheva’s balancing act, in which museum paintings are moved between mountaintops in the Caucasus Mountains by a tight-rope walker, and an installation by Otobong Nkanga addressing the subject of land exploitation in Brazil, Namibia and locally. Also in the exhibition is Renzo Martens & CATPC’s portrayal of a conflict over cultural heritage between a group of artists from the Democratic Republic of Congo and an American museum. The exhibition will also present works by Katarina Pirak Sikku, FCNN, Jeannette Ehlers & La Vaughn Belle, and others, all of which relate to Scandinavia’s colonial past and future.
Participating artists: Brook Andrew, DAAR (Decolonizing Architecture Art Research) Sandi Hilal & Alessandro Petti, Jeannette Ehlers & La Vaughn Belle, FCNN (Feminist Collective with No Name), Edi Hila, Patricia Kaersenhout, Manjot Kaur, Taus Makhacheva, Rabih Mroué, Renzo Martens & CATPC (Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise), Otobong Nkanga, Katarina Pirak Sikku and Jonas Staal.
Higher seminar and the book launch of Refugee Heritage by DAAR – Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti, with a Photographic Dossier by Luca Capuano, May 24, 2–5 pm, 2022 at Tensta konsthall
Stateless Heritage confronts dominant Western conceptions of heritage and presents different narratives, reorienting heritage towards nonhegemonic forms of life and collective memory. Dheisheh refugee camp is at the heart of the project, however, we believe this approach could extend to other camps, and forms of subjugated heritage, bringing a new perspective on notions of restitution, repair and return.
The exhibition presents an installation of large freestanding lightboxes of photographs of Dheisheh camp by photographer Luca Capuano. In 2010 the photographer was commissioned by UNESCO to record Italy’s world heritage sites. In 2016, DAAR commissioned Capuano to photograph Dheisheh camp, taking the same care to document this living monument of ‘permanent temporariness’. The spatial placement of the light boxes evokes the topography of the camp giving visitors an insight into its urban and social fabric. In a separate space, a series of open books placed on top of plinths of varying heights will display photographs of the 44 villages from where refugees in Dheisheh originally came, also taken by Capuano. The undulating heights of the plinths form a kind of landscape, or ruin, within the gallery.
The final part of the exhibition is a space of discussion and action. Stateless Heritage presents a call for the official international recognition of the cultural heritage of the refugee, through proposing a refugee camp as a UNESCO world heritage site. A nomination dossier will be available for visitors to read, and a plaque claiming Dheisheh’s world heritage status installed on the gallery wall. Visitors will be invited to consider if the camp should be recognised as a World Heritage Site. This space will also host a live element activated by talks and events by community members, artists, activists and thinkers. These artworks are part of a wider movement, in which heritage is being used as a tool to challenge and resist colonialism and occupation in Palestine. They have wider pertinence too, as calls grow to recognise how heritage and conservation can expose colonial and imperial legacies. The exhibition also raises issues of migrant and refugee justice, at time when UK government is enacting its New Deal on asylum, and as the fundamental right to claim asylum is under threat internationally.
13 October 2021 — 30 January 2022
On the occasion of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition, Venice Biennale, (22 May to 21 November 2021), the Stockholm-based, DAAR presents a new installation in the Central Pavilion in the Giardini entitled Stateless Heritage. The intervention is part of an ongoing effort to challenge dominant western conceptions of heritage and open to emancipatory forms of collective narration. Accompanying the art installation is a book nomination dossier which attempts to deactivate the claims of objectivity and universalism contained in the conventions followed by UNESCO in determining World Heritage status; the book presents different narratives that do not fit within such statist discourse, reorienting heritage towards non-hegemonic forms of life and collective memory. Here an informal conversation with Sven-Olov Wallenstein.
On the seventy-third commemoration of the ongoing Nakba, May 14, 2021, the Common Assembly of the Stateless Nations and their allies, discussed the nomination to recognize Dheisheh refugee camp and the forty-four villages as World Heritage Sites.
The nomination book-dossier of Dheisheh refugee camp and the forty-four village of origin is available HERE.
Six years ago, in one of our gatherings inside the Concrete Tent, we asked: do refugee camps have a history? Is the camp just a site of misery or does it produce values that need to be acknowledged and protected? What is going to happen to the camp if Dheisheh is recognized as a World Heritage site? And how should the concept of heritage change in order to acknowledge the camp’s condition?
In 1940, the Fascist regime established the “Entity of Colonization of Sicilian Latifundia / Ente di Colonizzazione del Latifondo Siciliano” following the model of the “Entity of Colonization of Libya” and colonial architecture in Eritrea and Ethiopia. These territories were considered by the regime “empty,” “underdeveloped,” and “backward” and therefore in need to be “reclaimed,” “modernized,” and “repopulated.” For this purpose, the “Entity of Colonization” inaugurated in Sicily eight new rural towns and as many remained unfinished. Today most of these villages have fallen into ruin.
However, what does not seem to be in ruin in Italy is the persistence of colonial and fascist rhetoric, culture, and politics. Despite the fall of fascism following the Second World War, Italy’s de-fascistization remains an unfortunately unfinished process. This is one of the reasons why Italy still has visible architectures, monuments, plaques, and toponymy that celebrate the fascist regime. Furthermore, Italy – having lost its colonies during the Second World War – has never embarked on a real process of decolonization.
In 2017, the nomination of Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its fascist and colonial architecture built during the period of Italian occupation, posed a series of fundamental questions for both the ex-colonized and the ex- colonizers: who has the right to preserve, reuse and re-narrate fascist colonial architecture?
The installation presented for the 2020 Quadriennale d´arte- FUORI at Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome, home to the First International Colonial Art Exhibition (1931) and other propaganda exhibitions of the regime, proposes to rethink the rural towns built by the “Entity of Colonization” in Sicily starting from the nomination of Asmara as a World Heritage Site. The installation is the first intervention ”Towards a Decolonization Entity / Verso un Ente di Decolonizzazione” that will be made up of those who feel the urgency to question the broad historical, cultural and political heritage steeped in colonialism and fascism, and thus begin a common path towards new practices of decolonization and reparation.
VERSO UN ENTE DI DECOLONIZZAZIONE, 2020
A project by Sandi Hilal e Alessandro Petti (DAAR)
Photographic dossier: Luca Capuano
Installation: Video projections, photographs and plexiglass
Research and texts: Emilio Distretti, Husam Abu Salem
Graphic design: Diego Segatto, Rosanna Lama
QUADRIENNALE D’ARTE 2020 | FUORI
Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Roma
30 October 2020 > 17 January 2021 more
Hosted by Alserkal, join the Round table discussion “Mutual understanding” with Mary Ellen Carroll, Lumumba Di-Aping, Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti, Katya García-Antón, Basim Magdy, Jahnavi Phalkey and Akeel Bilgrami.
SEPTEMBER 2, 2020, 7PM (GST)
Watch the video recorded conversations between Katya García-Antón, Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti around the question “How will we Return?”
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