Thoughts On: Manifesta12 2018 (Part Two: Theatre of The Sun)

Theatre of The Sun, Palazzo Butera, M12 (2018)
Photograph from davidyoung's website

        I was intending this as my second essay looking in detail at socially-minded art projects, inspired by my visit to 2018’s Manifesta (M12) hosted by Palermo in Sicily. As I have laboured over my thoughts, research and writing I have come to realise that I have too much to say, and there is too much depth to my response to Theatre of The Sun for it to fit into the 3,000 word limit that I set myself.

        As I write this, I am on the verge of beginning my Honours year of my degree in Contemporary Art Practice. Part of my submission for my degree will be a dissertation, which I have been completely petrified about beginning. I have been tossing and turning so many ideas around in my head, staring at a mountain of unread theory books that I keep buying hoping that I will stumble across the spark of inspiration that will sustain me through the next three months of intense and hellish research and writing...

        Every day I try to will myself to look at this essay, to refine it, to finish it... but I have realised this week that not only was I asking the wrong question about the installation, but that even the format I have been trying to pin this all down into was wrong. I have so much to say, and so much to explore in regards to Fallen Fruit's oeuvre (not even just on this one installation) that I have already started a dissertation-length piece of writing and I didn't even know that I was doing it.

        So, for the moment I will not be 'publishing' a companion essay to the one that I wrote on Becoming Garden on my blog. Perhaps the writing I submit for my dissertation won't feature Fallen Fruit at all (I hear that people change their minds about their topics all the time). But for now, I will publish a very early draft description of Theatre of The Sun, just so I can tick the box on my whiteboard that says I have published this essay (that has turned out not to be an essay at all).

Early draft description of Theatre of The Sun

Conceptually. Theatre of the Sun “… articulate[d] a contemporary point of view about transient and ancient public spaces, which continue to preserve local history and persist in creating themselves anew.” (M12, 2018) Physically, Theatre of the Sun was an installation by the Californian Art Duo Fallen Fruit in Palazzo Butero, a baroque palace under renovation to house the art collection of it’s current owners. The installation, on the first floor of the 18thC Palace, comprised of two main elements: a room lined with specially designed wallpaper and two substantial piles of maps of the centre of the city.

This was no white-box situation, and of the original architecture visible, arching over the installation was a painted ceiling-scene dating from c.1760 “… frescoed by Giaoacchino Martorana … and Gaspare Fumagalli…” as well as an austere mirror and fireplace. Flanking this furniture were two large vertical windows offering a clear gaze out to the shining blue Mediterranean. Lining from rustic floor to delicate ceiling, a patterned cornucopia of fruit, foliage and flowers were laid over a background of vibrant pink, blue, yellow and green. The soft romantic touches in the fresco - of rose pompadour, Ceylon green and indigo – as well as the vibrant blue of the sea, were both echoed by (and given a 21stC update in) the colour palate of the wallpaper. How can I describe the way that the colours of the background merged into each other like a vertical psychedelic sunset.

That pile of maps in the centre of the room, intended for visitors to take away, are The Public Fruit Map poster series, which heralds Palermo’s inclusion as part of the worldwide project: The Endless Orchard. Copies of The Public Fruit Map, (free to take, A2 newsprint printed on both sides, detailing the Endless Orchard of Palermo, Sicily) sat in neat piles on a table in the centre of the room. Upon one side is a map and key, and the flipside contains recipes, a timeline of when various trees come to fruit and Information on L’Orto Botanico and Quattro Canti (Teatro del Sole) as well as a bible quote that Fallen Fruit like to refer to[1]. There is also encouragement of people to share their own images and findings or actions through social media.

The fruits depicted on the walls are not only reflected in the maps – but are crafted from photographs taken by the artists around the city. All of the various fruits, foliage and flowers can be seen in or hanging over walls into public space. The fact that the installation is divided into two elements, leading paths in different directions is important. This neat lock between the walls and the maps, radiating out into the city – the wallpapered room feels to act like a ‘flag’ or a beacon. Calling visitors in to an idealized, fruit-fantasy space, from which they can fill their eyes upon a feast before stepping back out into the noisy, dirty streets in search of the mirages real-life counterparts.

[1] “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not pick your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger.” Leviticus 19:10

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