Sunday, May 11, 2014

Gibellina -- the memorial

The earthquake of January 14, 1968 devastated the village of Gibellina.  As I wrote in an earlier post, the state chose to remove the people and resettle them 20 kilometers away in a new town which was to be an outdoor exhibition for new urban planning ideas and young Italian architects.

What remained was a ruin. (Some say the new town itself is a modern ruin).  Years later, between 1984 and 1989, the artist Alberto Burri created one of the largest public art projects in the world, a 25-acre concrete landscape best known as Il Cretto di Burri, but officially Cretto di Gibellina.

A month later, I am still not sure what to think.  It is a crude, blow-up version of one of Burri's "cracked" paintings.  It is a tomb of the town, and not a memorial.  It ignores the real ruins which still stand on the hillside.  It seems to be more about the artist than the people who died and once lived here.  
On the other hand, it is also unforgettable, a serene and terrifying landscape that can't help but make you reflect on the instantaneous destruction of the town.   Rather than fetishize the ruins (we are all too familiar of that in Rome!), it creates an even texture of the former town, and offers you only pathways to walk and reflect. In in its dull concrete plainness it also heightens your awareness of the spectacular surroundings and views.

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