In 2013 Fare Ala collective launched Pizzo Sella Art Village, an unsanctioned street art project highlighting the unlawfulness of the villas built by a construction company affiliated with the Mafia on a panoramic stretch of Sicilian coastline.
The history of Pizzo Sella Art Village
In 1978 a construction company affiliated with the Sicilian Mafia obtained a series of planning permissions to build villas within a natural reserve near Palermo (Monte Gallo mountain).
Here the collusion between the local government and the Mafia underlying the so-called Sacco di Palermo (the building speculation from the 1960s and 1970s that led to the deconstruction of green areas and villas in Palermo to make space for ugly apartment blocks) allowed the illegal construction of 170 villas and -de facto- the privatization of a whole mountain.
In 1984 these buildings were impounded but, while most of them were left unfinished and eventually abandoned, 50 villas were turned over to their legal owners. They now constitute a guarded residence, thus blocking the access to the mountain to the rest of the population.
Welcome to Pizzo Sella Art Village
In 2013 the art collective Fare Ala made a commercial ironically promoting the derelict villas near Palermo as a luxurious vacation spot with a famed art gallery. The video went viral and many street artists actually went to Pizzo Sella Art Village to take part in the provocation.
Through their unsanctioned and spontaneous interventions, they nurtured the myth-poiesis that eventually achieved the original goal of Fare Ala art group: to put under the spotlight the environmental defacement represented by the complex of abusive and abandoned houses that ruins the landscape of Pizzo Sella’s promontory.
Artistic interventions at Pizzo Sella Art Village
Street artists are still coming to paint at Pizzo Sella Art Village. The project has evolved organically, without the supervision of a curator or any other interference, as street artists spontaneously arrived from all over Italy and created their artworks in total freedom.
On the many unfinished villas dotting Monte Gallo mountain, I spotted artworks by Nemo’s, Mangiatori di Patate, Exit/Enter, Hopnn, Ema Jons, Bibbito and Collettivo FX -unauthorized artworks that call attention to the illegal condition of those buildings.
Further stressing the paradox of “vandalizing something that constitutes a vandalization in the first place”, in 2016 several street artists were arrested while painting at Pizzo Sella Art Village. However, this occurrence only increased the popularity of the project, thus achieving the original goal of fuelling a debate on the illegal privatisation of the area.
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Not only street artists were inspired by the symbolic potential of this place. In 2018 Pizzo Sella Art Village hosted the Belgian collective Rotor as part of the international manifestation Manifesta 12. On this occasion, the Belgian architects rediscovered two paths leading to the top of the mountain (one for humans and one for wild animals) and transformed the concrete skeleton of an unfinished house into an observation point for breathtaking views.
This environmental intervention was yet another occasion to experience the area as a means to discuss the unlawfulness of those constructions and the privatization of a vast green area of Palermo, as well as rethinking the relationship between men and landscape.
The future of Pizzo Sella Art Village
While the destiny of the abandoned buildings on Monte Gallo mountain is still unclear, Fare Ala collective plans on giving the area back to Palermitans. Their future plans involve the opening of trekking trails that would make this natural reserve accessible to all citizens, while keeping their artistic practice, which is based on relational and processual moments of making art, at the core of the ongoing discussion about the criminal defacing of such a breathtaking landscape.