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Terraformation

Bridging Worlds

Terraformation is a project dedicated to constructing a museum in a rural area of Sicily using natural techniques, led by a group of artists and architects from diverse backgrounds who met in Berlin. The project in collaboration with Farm Cultural Park, aims to bridge the gap between rural and urban resources and address current environmental and economic crises.

 

The museum serves as an example of collective cooperation between individuals and disciplines and stands at the intersection of two global discourses: ecology and the socio-economic marginalization of the Global South.

 

Berlin's call for affordable housing and sustainable living finds resonance in Sicily, a region known for its rich farming tradition and numerous vacant areas. Young people relocating to other cities for better job opportunities cause brain drain and economic decline, especially in rural areas.

 

Terraformation is a project that wants to inspire new ways of thinking about our relationship with the environment and each other, creating a model for sustainable, community-driven development.

Terraformation Settlements

Andrea Mineo, June 2024

When I was invited by Farm Cultural Park to create an art intervention for the multidisciplinary quadrennial at the inauguration of a 12-hectare rural area in Sicily, located in Butera, Caltanissetta province, I proposed a unique series of residencies aimed at co-creating a cultural hub for present and future artists. The residencies are called "Terraformation Settlements," referencing both the science fiction term of modifying the ecology of a distant planet to resemble Earth's environment and the nomadic practices in rural settings without infrastructure, electricity, and water.

 

The purpose of the settlements is twofold:

  • explore, create and integrate artists in the rich natural environment and

  • collaborate on the collective construction of a small museum using natural construction techniques.

 

For this purpose, I wanted each settlement to be overseen by architects with expertise in earth construction techniques. For this collaboration, Farm Cultural Park offers the area where artists and architects will design and build the museum and additionally the opportunity to stay in guest apartments during the settlements in the nearby contrada in Butera.

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ORIGIN
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We Have Everything, The Rest Is Missing

"Abbiamo Tutto Manca il Resto" (We Have Everything, The Rest Is Missing) is a Farm Cultural Park multidisciplinary quadrennial that launches in the year 2024, and its title already reflects all the idiosyncratic and paradoxical dynamics of the south Italy, Sicily in particular and the Global South.

https://www.abbiamotutto-mancailresto.com/

Agricultural wisdom

Terraformation project that started in June 2024 aim is to embrace the challenges that the context presents environmentally, economically, and the social structures. Despite these challenges, Butera and the entire region boast a wealth of agricultural wisdom and a vibrant farming community that advances important projects in permaculture, art, and cultural exchanges, such as the Farm Cultural Park and Giardino Delle Belle.

Challenges

Rising temperatures and prolonged periods of drought have made Sicily more susceptible to wildfires, which devastate crops, vineyards, olive groves, and citrus orchards. These productions are crucial to the agricultural economy, leading to significant losses for farmers.

Slash-and-burn agriculture has been a traditional practice, used to clear land for farming. While it can be effective in small-scale, its impact is more severe today. The practice involves cutting down vegetation and burning it to clear land, releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

Due to climate change certain parts of Sicily is experiencing very low rainfall and high evaporation rates, leading to depleted reservoirs and dry lakes. The drought has affected the agricultural sector, which relies on irrigation for crops such as wheat, citrus fruits, olives and grapes. During our residency the many farmers we spoke, reported no rain since more than three years.

Another concern is that in Sicily, drinking water is typically extracted from aquifers, underground layers of rock that contain water, and in large tanks that were built after World War II. For three decades, the region has lacked an adequate management structure, with no new projects, and maintenance has not been carried out adequately. Structural damage, cracks and leaks in the infrastructure lead to water to escape and failing to retain effectively when it rain.

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CHALLEGES
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Ambassadors 

The Terraformation initiative not only results in a permanent museum on-site at Farm Cultural Park but also allows artists from around the world to discover and become ambassadors of this rich natural area of Sicily. The invited artists are specialized in practices centered around ecology and their connection with nature. The Museum will be constructed using earth building techniques, gradually assembled through incremental additions facilitated by present and future artists' settlements.

The museum, created by and for artists, seeks to integrate individuals in balance with nature, promote ecological living, share natural building knowledge, and invigorate the local community.

OPPORTUNITIES

Institution of the earth 

The Earth Museum can be viewed as both a sculptural monument and an institution of the earth, where nature provides materials and guides its own construction and future artistic interventions. Constructed mostly with native materials and local resources, the project faces unique challenges due to the absence of water and electricity networks in the rural area. Despite these challenges, working within these constraints becomes a transformative practice for both the artists and the context itself. It shifts from limitations to potentials, discomfort to comfort, and from symbolic to practical.

June/September 2024

In its initial phase, the project includes (1) the selection of a specific area, (2) observation and description of plants and organisms within it, (3) transplantation of the plants into designed pots, and (4) a collective initiatic ritual. Future settlements will involve excavation and foundation construction for the building. The museum will represent the first intervention in the rural area of Butera, which will evolve into a cultural and ecological site overseen by other initiatives of the Farm Cultural Park in the future.

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Context
Between urban and rural areas

Building an museum in Butera as opposed to Berlin lies in the contrasting urban dynamics and societal needs of the two locations. Berlin, a bustling metropolis, grapples with issues of gentrification and housing scarcity. Increasingly, young professionals seek a return to nature and adopt eco-conscious lifestyles amidst urban challenges. Conversely, Butera, a quaint countryside town, boasts a wealth of agricultural wisdom from its aging population and a vibrant farming community. However, it faces depopulation and economic vulnerabilities. Therefore, establishing a museum in Butera presents an opportunity to bridge these urban-rural disparities, fostering ecological awareness throughout natural building techniques and sustainable practices while revitalizing a struggling rural economy.

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* The town’s charm lies in its rich agricultural heritage, preserved by an aging population and a passionate farming community. Yet, it faces significant challenges, including depopulation and economic vulnerabilities, as the younger generation seeks opportunities in larger cities.

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* In Berlin, a growing movement has been fighting for affordable housing and protesting against skyrocketing rents. Activists and residents have been voicing their concerns through various campaigns and demonstrations aimed at tackling the city’s housing crisis such as Deutsche Wohnen & Co. Enteignen, Mietenwahnsinn Stoppen and Berliner Mieterverein.

Main Property Owners in Berlin are Deutsche Wohnen SE, Vonovia SE and TAG Immobilien AG.

These organizations and entities have been central to Berlin’s debate over housing policies and the struggle for more equitable and affordable living conditions.

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Location 
Between urban and rural areas

The area of the building stretches into a limestone quarry called Piano Alastra, located in the municipality of Butera. Once, a construction company in site managed the extraction of limestone, which was used for road construction. When the company closed, they took everything, leaving only four empty concrete platforms that now emerge like pauses in the wild vegetation carpet. These solitary pedestals seem ready to host the working site for the museum, offering new life and perspective to this corner of the world. The light colour soil inspiring countless options for using this mineral: from stucco to natural cement.

LOCATION
BERLIN-SICILY

Minimizing environmental impact

By working directly on the existing concrete platforms, we significantly reduce the labor and costs typically associated with laying foundations for the museum. Most importantly, this approach eliminates the need for additional concrete, minimizing our environmental impact.

 

The hills and rugged terrain of Butera tell an ancient story: the name itself has Arabic origins, from "Butirah," meaning "steep place." This name perfectly captures the sloping landscape harsh and captivating nature of this land.

These solitary pedestals seem ready to host the project in integration with the nature, offering new life and perspective to this corner of the world.

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Working in four elevations

The concrete platforms can serve as various stages for the construction process, each dedicated to a specific phase of the project:

  1. The first platform will be used for mixing materials, laying out and drying the mud bricks. Equipped with tools, sand, clay and straw container, and the water tank. By being the closest platform to the street level, is easy to reach when transporting materials. The platform is shaded by a tree which it makes easier for the volunteers to work in hot seasons.

  2. The second platform will be dedicated to the main construction site, where the structural elements, including the wood timber framework, are assembled and the dried mud bricks are layered to form the walls and other structural components.

  3. The third platform will focus on the roofing process, involving the gathering and assembling of roofing materials like tiles and beams, and also serve as a storage area for materials needed for the final stages of construction.

  4. The fourth platform and the smallest, will be set up with scaffolding and informational displays, providing a comprehensive overview of the construction process, detailed renderings of the finished building, and serving as an educational space for visitors and workers to learn about the project, its techniques, and its progress.

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*By organizing the construction process into these distinct platforms, we create an efficient and educational workflow that not only facilitates the building of the structure but also engages and informs the community about sustainable building practices.

THE PLATFORMS
FIRST SETTLEMENT

First settlement / Common goals

The first Settlement took place on 1-22 June 2024 with the artists: Rachel Harris, Sandra Chrzanowski, Luïza Luz, Andries De Lange, Vincenzo Fiore Marrese and Andrea Mineo. We had also a remote group of collaborators such as the artist Andrea Kantos and the architects Simon McNair and Vladimir Michel who follow the progress of the project from different cities. 

Given the vast territory, we felt the need for a map and decided to create a non-scientific map. This was the first common goal that evolved as follows:

 

-Phenomenological approach ⟶ Andrea M.

- Sensorial approach ⟶ Rachel with help from Sandra

- Critical thinking approach ⟶ Vincenzo M.

 

Second common goal was to create a pathway on the land, necessary to reach the highest hill. The pathway resulted in a collective installation resembling a staircase on a slippery hill.

The third common goal was successfully accomplished and included the study of the local plants and soil types with assistance from a local botanist and geologist. This research resulted in a series of meetings and interviews such as the one with the botanist Lucia Termini from Giardino Brassica Ti­neoi, pedologist Riccardo Scalenghe, and Mario Carbone from Giardino delle Belle, a permaculture expert. These meetings served as inspiration for a series of works and texts.

The fourth common goal was to transplant the plants to the selected area and prepared the site for a series of rituals that included, fire, and sharing circles. 

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*the pathway on the hill

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*the sharing circle 

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*the oven building by Luïza and Andries

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*the transplantations 

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*clay harvest 

*meeting with the botanist Lucia Termini from Giardino Brassica Ti­neoi (photo by Andries De Lange & Luïza Luz

*meeting with the pedologist Riccardo Scalenghe (photo by Andries De Lange & Luïza Luz)

*meeting with Mario Carbone from Giardino delle Belle, a permaculture garden (photo by Andries De Lange & Luïza Luz).

Artists' works exhibited at Palazzo Tortorici / Farm Cultural Park

ARTISTS' WORKS

Rachel Harris

“Sensoric Map Meditation”

Harris created a texture-­based work mapping her encounters with plants in the area. Her ‘map’ envelops the notions of feeling and encountering other beings as one walks through and with the landscape. It emulates the feeling of walking through a field and softly running one’s hands / fingers through the long grasses as a gentle breeze passes. If one remembers / memorizes the textures — like one would a poem — they can find a pathway through touch­-based sensoric input / output.

Through interactions with the work the viewers can physically and psychically recite / appropriate this pathway.

The piece takes on a bird’s eye view, yet disjointed; Bird’s eye, but the bird is flying around and seeing the landscape from different perspectives all the time. Simultaneously, from above and below, back on the ground level from a sensoric encounter approach. The piece invites viewers to follow the pathway and re­remember the textures and feelings of the plants and create a dialogue with the stage the plant is at during their current encounter. The pathway weaves and dives through the landscapes creating loops and repetitions. 

The path follows one approach or direction which one may take. In a way, it takes you on a nature or guided meditation having both psychic and physical capabilities in that you may either imagine the path as you run your hands along its flora directly on the map and in conjunction with the maps of the other artists or you may psychically walk the path depicted through the textures of the plants seen and felt here on the map. It can act as both a meditation and scavenger hunt inviting those of all ages to take part in one

way or another which fits best to them. As people run their hands over the surface of the Sensoric Map Meditation the object slowly deteriorates emphasizing the impact we have on nature as humans in our current relationship towards it. If we can learn as a species to tread more softly, to touch more gently, to move responsibly — with rather than against — the natural world, then we can reintegrate ourselves as the part of it we are and were always meant to be.

The work was realised with the support of Sandra Chrzanowski and as part of the first edition of the Terraformation Art Residency curated by Mayer Pavilion in collaboration with Farm Cultural Park.

Vincenzo Fiore Marrese

“Deep Mapping Instable Habitats”

 

Wheat paste (hand­made with flour and water), trashed bread paper bag (found object), burned vegetation, ashes 24×29×5 cm.

I once got lost in a snowstorm in a rural area. I met only one more person along the way, but we spoke different languages. All I could say was the name of the place I was looking for, a former church in the middle of a forest. The person bent down and drew a map in the snow to tell me how to get there. During our residency, the curator challenged us to find a new way of mapping a rural outdoor space. Then, I started to read some papers related to counter­mapping practices. Exploring the power structures behind mapmaking, I discovered a scholar who emphasized the gestural aspects of a famous map compared to its graphic elements (1). This concept made me consider the map drawn in the snow and inspired me to create a purely gestural map. In brief, it involves a bag of white powder for future artists aiming to activate the piece. They are to pour the soil onto the ground and trace a temporary map with their finger or a similar tool. This approach ensures that the map remains dynamic and responsive to its surroundings. After finishing, put the soil back in the bag. 

Meanwhile, our outdoor area had been burned down, seemingly due to slash­and­burn practices by locals. I picked up a discarded paper bag from the street near our outdoor area, where littering is a significant issue. However, I needed to strengthen and make this bag more durable for future artists. I've devised a spell through a secret collaborative ritual, details of which I cannot disclose. I can only talk about the elements involved. I used flour and water as glue to strengthen the bag. It was the same flour we used to make sweet treats last night. Something that gave us pleasure. Then, I mixed the burnt plants from our outdoor area with the glue. After we completed the ritual, I got the bag. Then, I filled it with the ashes of the burned area.

1. Martin Brückner, «Colonial Counter­Mappings and the Cartographic Reformation in Eighteenth­Century America», XVII­XVIII [En ligne], 78 | 2021, mis en ligne le 31 décembre 2021, consulté le 08 juin 2024.

* “Love Potion,” 2024; time-based art; video formatted as an MP4 file; 1920×1080 pixels; filmed in the countryside of Butera, Caltanissetta, Italy.

* “Slash-and-Burn Environment,” 2024; environmental art; a picture taken before and after the artwork was almost entirely burned during a fire and later activated by a time-based action with Sandra Chrzanowski, Andries De Lange, Luïza Luz, and Andrea Mineo; concrete pillar block, natural found objects (animal skulls, animal vertebrae), natural raffia; 68×77×31 centimeters; 26.77×30.31×12.20 inches; contrada la Strada, Butera, Caltanissetta, Italy.

* “Deep Mapping Unstable Habitat (also known as Deep Mapping Instable Habitats),” 2024; counter-mapping; deep map, the process involves secret ritual collaboration.

* “Deep Mapping Unstable Habitat (also known as Deep Mapping Instable Habitats),” 2024; elements for a secret ritual collaboration; wheat paste (handmade with flour and water), found object (trashed bread paper bag), burned vegetation.

Andrea Mineo

“fluid Bricks”

Clay, sand, straw, limestone, gravel, wool and water.

During the Terraformation art residency, dedicated to designing a museum built with natural techniques, various meetings with local experts enriched the project experience. Among these, the meeting with botanist Lucia Termini from the Giardino Brassica Tineoi, the meeting with pedologist Riccardo Scalenghe and the meeting with Mario Carbone from Giardino delle Belle, a permaculture expert. These three meetings have been the key-stone of this work titled "Fluid Bricks". Following the advice of Mario Carbone we ventured into an abandoned brick factory in Gela. Adjacent to the factory was a vast area marked by cracked clay dunes. Armed with buckets, pails, and hoes, we filled the car to the brim with raw clay. This clay, which I mixed in various proportions with sand, straw, limestone soil, gravel, and water, served to create a series of raw brick prototypes for the future construction of partition elements in the museum. Other techniques and materials will be used for the structural elements of the museum. The series of bricks I created can be used in various ways; for instance, they were employed in an installation of an altar.

Inspired by the rich variety of local plant forms, the project features a series of bricks that mimic the vegetation of the area. I abandoned the idea of the square brick, typical of fast and aggressive industrial production. Instead, the brick I de­signed is intended for slow and careful production, stable and flexible, offering a wide range of combinations and uses: partition walls that transform into sinuous sculptures, floors, and surfaces to appreciate the texture.

 

One of the prototypes is inspired by the Medicago Arborea plant, known as Tree Medic, whose hook­shaped seeds cling to the fur of grazing animals and are transported from one place to another. Another prototype draws inspiration from the large leaves of the Agave, which in nature are very resistant and stable. By using various types of mixtures, it is possible to notice not only the different tonal gradations but also how each brick reacts to the elements. These prototypes represent an attempt to integrate nature into the construction process, respecting the times and rhythms of the territory. Their unique shape and properties make them ideal for interior elements of a future museum that aims to tell the story of the place through traditional materials and techniques.

* installation view at Palazzo Tortorici, Farm Cultural Park

* Exhibition view at Palazzo Tortorici, Mazzarino, Farm Cultural Park

* first prototype of mud bricks. Details of the wooden template

* Medicago Arborea plant, inspiration for the first prototype adobe brick 

* Agave plant, inspiration for the second prototype adobe brick 

Andrea Mineo
“Talking Stones”

Printed text book, engraved rock, site specific installation visible following the coordinates Latitude: 37.2403819 ; Longitude: 14.2066862

In the area of Butera countryside, following the coordinates

Latitude: 37.2403819 ; Longitude: 14.2066862

you will find a big rock. A small inlet is engraved in the rock where a book titled Talking Stones is kept. The book was written during the residence Terraformation in Italian and English language, and printed in few copies. Insert your hand inside the rock, pick the book and read the small story about two ancient stones that discuss climate change and possible solutions. A girl named Elara ventures into the steppe one summer night, finds the stones, and listens to their message...

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