From Art to Urban Politics – and the Other Way Round. the Art Festival “Paratissima” and Its Complex Relationship with Processes of Urban Regeneration in Turin, Italy

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 1:15 PM
Room: Booth 67
Distributed Paper
Magda BOLZONI , University of Turin, Torino, Italy
Art can be a mean of claim, empowerment, participation, protest. But what happens if such forms of art are then adopted as tools of urban regeneration? This paper focuses on the relationship between art, civic participation and urban regeneration processes analysing the social impacts and political appropriation of an alternative, non-institutional yearly art event in the city of Turin, Italy.

In order to move away from its fordist past, the city of Turin has betted on culture, creativity and entertainment as core elements of a new path of development. In this frame the City launched a contemporary art fair for international galleries, “Artissima”, taking place every year in the first week of November. Against its institutional, elitist approach, a group of young artists founded in 2005 “Paratissima”, an alternative, parallel open art exhibition, affirming the freedom and the social value of art. In 2008 Paratissima moved to San Salvario, a multicultural, mixed neighbourhood looking forward to emancipating from its problematic past. The event took place into empty stores, shops, internal yards and streets, mingling art and everyday-life in unconventional spaces, tackling local social issues and involving inhabitants, shopkeepers and social associations. Occurring there ever since, it has contributed to re-shape the neighbourhood and to attract new flows of people and investments in the area.

Relying on interviews and ethnographic fieldwork, the paper analyzes the ambivalent relationships between Paratissima, other forms of civic participation and the neighbourhood social and cultural fabric, highlighting benefits and criticisms of short and mid-term influences over the neighbourhood’s transformation. Moreover, it examines the processes that have brought both the local authorities and the organizers to consider this format as a successful and replicable model of urban re-development, and it problematizes the path towards institutionalization that this event, born as critical and alternative, seems to have taken.