Civita di Bagnoregio is a village in the province of Viterbo, in northern Lazio, famous for the karst phenomena which are leading to the erosion of its territory and its gradual disappearance. Only 16 people live in the village and it is accessed via a bridge. But instead of being protected, the town has become the symbol of promotional campaigns that attract thousands of tourists every year and risk putting its conservation even more at risk.
Because of its fragility, Civita was chosen by a collective of artists to give rise to an imaginary festival, Civitonia. A festival that never took place. Between January and June 2020 twenty-one artists temporarily lived in Civita di Bagnoregio: Chiara Bersani and Marta Montanini, Cheap, Fratelli D’Innocenzo, Daria Deflorian, Francesca Marciano and Valia Santella, Eva Geatti, Francesca Pennini and Vasco Brondi, Alice Rohrwacher, Simona Pampallona, Anagoor, Alessandro Sciarroni, Michele Di Stefano.
They gave shape to gestures, writings, performances, rituals, spells, installations, visions “capable of fertilizing landscapes that have by now atrophied” and then convened a festival that has never existed to reflect on “mass tourism, a phenomenon that threatens the fate” of Civita for a long time. “The unexpected appearance of the festival, acting in the mesh of reality like a spell, wanted to produce questions and imaginative acts capable of prefiguring other possibilities for the future. The aim was to tear apart the model of exploitation which condemns Civita to think of itself without alternatives, evoking bifurcations and waste”, explained the artists in a press conference on December 18 at the Macro museum in Rome.
The artistic directors of the event, the actress Silvia Calderoni and Giovanni Attili, explained: “The artists we involved actually carried out their residency in Civita di Bagnoregio. They stood with open hands, listening. In an attempt to interrogate this land, they placed themselves in the center of its perimeter. Their screams and gasps have inhabited it. With a valuable delivery: imagine. Let it be a full imagination, we told them. So full and carefree as to be enough on its own. To comply with this order, our companions and our travel companions didn’t have to make anything: no performance, no theatrical action, no film. For us, only the imaginative act was precious and indispensable. We didn’t ask for anything else”.
The question the artists tried to answer was: “Can art play a restorative role?” But the idea was not to bring the imagination to a level of reality, to leave reflections, ideas and inspirations open in their potential. Let them be unproductive. All the interventions of the artists have been collected in two volumes.
The photos in this gallery were taken by the photographer Simona Pampallona, one of the artists who participated in the residency. Pampallona imagined the exhibition Go out, in which he mixed his vision with the instinct of his son Valerio. Together they explored the valley surrounding Civita, to dwell on presences normally ignored by occasional visitors. “The tourist industry has transformed these places into waste, traces of a petrified past that no longer speaks. Rather, they carry potential via reserves within them,” said the photographer.
“We live surrounded by imaginaries, often the most terrible ones. Thinking something that won’t happen to me has the sense of building, not destroying. Destruction is a simple thought, it is always present. But how do you build on something that has already been devastated?” wrote Pampallona in the volume of the initiative. “And yet, the Civita bridge is emblematic: it has been rebuilt several times. One has passed through defying death, yet life continues to exist. We should photograph each other more, double up and see each other again – so many doppelgängers who acknowledge their mistakes and rebuild on the rubble. We should stop and think again, sitting on the ancient rocks of Civita”.