Year XI, n°37, September – December 2021 [ Ricco Patrimonio / Povera Patria

Year XI, n°37, September - December 2021
§Ricco Patrimonio / Povera Patria

curated by Cristina Alga and Paola Bommarito

How miserable life is in the abuse of power
(to Franco Battiato who does not die)

The words country, patrimony, property all share the root “pater”, father. The native land is the land of the fathers, hereditary assets pass from father to son, in Italian “patrimonial” is the name given to  tax on movable and immovable property that one owns. Thus “patrimonio”, the word that in Italian is most frequently used to name natural and cultural heritage, finds its roots in a patriarchal culture in which inheritance was essentially measured in economic terms.

This vision of patrimony as a Italy’s greatest wealth – the beautiful country made up of regions that compete for territorial primacy based on the highest number of “assets” – has nourished institutional policies, has created generations of graduates in the preservation of the cultural heritage and yet it has given very little to future generations which, when talking about inheritance, should be at the center of the debate.

The semantic link between patrimony and possession/ownership – which goes to extremes with the securitization of public real estate – is challenged by the tortuous but constant advance of the movement of common goods which also affirms the theory of commons in Italy, shifting attention from belonging to use.

In the definition of the Rodotà Commission, which has not yet come to legislative completion, the reference to naturalistic and cultural assets as common goods is defined as follows: «Things that express usefulness functional to the exercise of fundamental rights as well as the free development of the person», specifying that they must be protected and safeguarded by the legal system, also for the benefit of future generations. «Common goods, among others, are: rivers, streams and their sources; lakes and other waters; the air; parks as defined by law, forests and wooded areas; high altitude mountainous areas, glaciers and perennial snows; the shores and stretches of coast that have been declared environmental reserves; wildlife and protected flora; archaeological, cultural, environmental heritage and other protected landscape areas» [1].

This definition, focused on the use value of heritage, is supported by the concept at the core of the Faro Convention, that of a patrimonial community made up of people who attach value to specific aspects of cultural heritage, aspects which they desire, within public action, to preserve and pass on to future generations.

«The 2005 Faro Convention marks a trend towards the implementation of community agency in the processes of safeguarding and enhancing bio-cultural, tangible and intangible heritages. The idea of heritage as a shared cultural capital and as a fundamental right goes hand in hand with the empowerment of the subjects taking part in the heritage communities as direct custodians, and therefore stakeholders when it comes to take action, define, interpret, disseminate and enhance the role of culture as a drive for the developement of sustainability» [2].

The Faro Convention thus introduces a central question at the institutional level: if heritage is the common good that we safeguard in order to bequeath it to future generations, who decides what is heritage? Here then lies the link between heritage and power: who decides the tools and criteria that define what is cultural heritage?

If, to paraphrase Appadurai, heritage is a cultural fact, it means that it is a space for negotiation, a space of conflict that directly affects the processes of value attribution at all levels of social representation, of the sense of belonging of communities that are impermanent and plural.

The point, then, is not only that of preservation, or rather, it is preservation aimed at the social use of assets, and free development of the constitutional rights of each citizen.

Costa Sud, Palermo _ dal progetto “Ponte di Mare” di Ecomuseo Urbano Mare Memoria Viva

Following up on these observations, we are interested in contributions that reflect, starting from the artistic and natural heritage, on issues related to democracy, the exercise of citizenship, cultural rights, the definition of common assets and their management between the public and private sphere.
Stories of struggles, of activism, not aimed merely at safeguarding but rather at empowering, at the idea of “living” and experiencing heritage.

We are interested in collecting testimonies and projects describing patrimonial communities in action, stories of direct management or participation of citizens in cultural life. Artistic practices that focus on actions of cultural activism, works of artists that investigate the link between places and people, and work on the sense of community.
Experiences of participatory archiving of heritage, mapping of assets, co-planning and co-management of historical, artistic and naturalistic sites, collective processes of patrimonialization, community regeneration of spaces and pieces of land in disuse in cities and countryside, islands and mountains.

In the park
Hey!  the little boy wonders,
who’s that lady?
It’s a statue of Charity.
something like that
his mother answers.
But how’d that lady
get so-o-o-o- beat-up?
I don’t know, she’s always
been like that, I think.
The city should do something about it.
Get rid of it, fix it.
Well, don’t drag your feet, let’s get going.

by Wisława Szymborska

[1] See Commissione Rodotà (transl. ours).
[2] See Bindi L., Comunità Patrimoniali (transl. ours).
[3] Szymborska W., La gioia di scrivere – Tutte le poesie (1945-2009), Adelphi Edizioni, Milano 2009, p. 599