Clichés about the affinity between Italy and Spain aside, it is true that cultural and artistic exchanges between the two countries are less intense than one might expect.

In Barcelona, an exhibition, an urban installation, workshops and other initiative are an attempt to redress this lack of reciprocal recognition.

Fundació Enric Miralles, Barcelona. Foto: Irene Pietrella.

The Apulia Region, the heel of the boot, is the protagonist in Italia Republica Creativa, the second multidisciplinary festival to disseminate the most contemporary of the Italian art scene in Catalonia through the ItmakES project, which has been active for more than a year now in the area of design. Italia Republica Creativa, an initiative of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura, was launched last year and featured Sardinia in an effort to increase the cultural dialogue between the two countries. “We want to make a claim for the Mediterranean and place a spotlight on lesser-known territories such as Apulia, from the Tremiti Islands to the county of Salento, where tradition mixes with the avant-garde, history and research, says the consul Gaia Lucilla Danese.

Fabrizio Bellomo, Villaggio Cavatrulli, Archetype 1; Cursi, Melpignano (Lecce) 2016.

This year’s programme opened in the Filmoteca with a series of films made in that region, including the documentary 10YearsOn by Alessandro Piva with live sound by Fedele Ladisa, founder of the electronic musical trio Agent of Time. To offer a panorama of this emerging artistic scene and the territory it belongs to, there is a photographic exhibition open until 18 June in the Enric Miralles Foundation.

Erosioni. Exhibition view. Foto Irene Pietrella.

There, among the layers of boxes full of projects and models the works making up Erosions. Puglia: legends, utopias, visions are on view. “Erosion is an environmental phenomenon which tends towards the search for balance. When you see this space crammed with boxes and files, you immediately give up on the idea of hiding them behind false white walls and you start to look for a balance by which container and contents contribute to the composition of a multiform portrait of this ancient territory, populated by legends whose memory challenges a present in constant struggle between harmony and conflict”, explain Ilaria Speri and Massimo Torrigiani, curators of the exhibition and also the artists of the installation which shows the 864 pages of the book Cinema Territory documenting through the work of photographers from all generations and styles the 264 cinemas (both open and closed down)  in Apulia and tells of their importance for  the development of the territory and its people.

“It is a questions of creating synergies through a transnational language such as art.”

The collaboration with the Miralles Foundation is proof of the willingness of the Consulate. “It is not just a question of organising activities at the headquarters of the Istituto Italiano, but also collaborating with public and private Catalan institutions to create synergies through a transnational language such as art”, says Danese, who presented ItmakES a year ago in the Contemporary Art Museum of Barcelona – another of the centres involved in the initiative.

Giorgio di Palma.

This does not mean that there are not projects thought up specially for the Istituto such as Mutations, new forms of craft and design in Puglia, a permanent installation for the gardens of the Giorgio Di Palma Centre.  Well-known for works that synthesise dialogue between contemporary design and the traditional techniques of creations in ceramics, Di Palma explored the artistic side of everyday and trivial objects which acquire new meaning in his hands, albeit losing any functional sense. “I want to create unusable but essential objects, objects that you want but you do not need.”, says Di Palma, since that is how he can protect against the raging consumerism in today’s society, where what is considered necessary today will be relegated as useless tomorrow. Di Palma approaches ceramics, which is one of the typical crafts of the area, through irony and provocation as seen in the fifteen ice-cream cones which seem to be melting into the wall of the garden as if the pupils from the neighbouring Italian school had thrown them against the wall in play, protest or to let off steam.

Giorgio di Palma.

“We want to plan for a 360º view of current creation, alternating emerging young people with artists who are established in Italy, but not well enough known in Spain”, adds Angelo Gioè, director of Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Barcelona and responsible for ITmakES Art, which has launched a programme of artists residencies and is also planning a call for application for research travel grants to Italy, aimed at Spanish curators so that they can get to know young Italian artists and include them in their projects. Giving visibility to Italian artists and coordinating abroad is also the objective of a census which has already started in Catalonia ad will be expanded to other parts of Spain.

The peak of the festival will be on 2 and 3 June when there will be a big part on the Moll de Costa ferry port (Grimaldi Terminal) with workshops for different kinds of public, gastronomy masterclasses, live music, street food and DJ sessions.