In-ruins residency | 2023 edition
deadline 30 June 2023
This year the project will take place in the Province of Cosenza for the first time, to engage with the history of the Archaeological Park of Sibari. This area of the Calabrian territory, topographically known as Sibaritide, saw the rise, expansion and decline of the great polis of Sybaris. Following the destruction of the Greek city, the Hellenistic center of Thurii and the Roman city of Copia were founded, partially overlapping its ruins. This exceptional stratification makes Sibari one of the largest and most important sites dating back to the archaic and classical ages in the Mediterranean.
The Park includes:
the Sibaritide National Archaeological Museum,
the Horse Park Archaeological Area
and the Amendolara National Archaeological Museum.
In the sixth century BC, a group of Achaeans occupied the fertile plain between the rivers Kratos and Sybaris and founded a city named Sybaris, after the river. Here, the settlers discovered a cosmopolitan environment hosting the exchanges of multiple Mediterranean populations. They settled peacefully and contributed to the establishment of a commercial network that fostered the city’s wealth and expansion. Sybaris prospered, occupied the entire plain and became the center of commercial and cultural routes linking distant places in the Mediterranean and Italy. Strong and stable alliances connected the new colony to twenty-five peoples and four different cities, covering an area touching on both the Ionian and Tyrrhenian coasts via the internal Apennine roads. The two extremes of “the empire of Sibari” were Poseidonia (later Paestum) on the Tyrrhenian Sea and Metaponto on the Ionian Sea, both founded by Sibari. It became one of the richest and most powerful cities of Magna Graecia and, after having defeated and conquered the rival Siris (Policoro), it came to cover an area wider than 9 kilometers, counting over 300,000 inhabitants. However, wealth and opulence increased the moral and military weakness of the Sybarites, who got defeated in 510 BC. by the Crotonians who, it is said, diverted the banks of the Traente river to submerge the city. Yet, Sibari was not razed to the ground. Thanks to the decisive intervention of the forces of Pericles, in 443 BC the Panhellenic colony of Thurii was founded. The urban layout of the new center is attributed to the famous urban planner Ippodamo di Mileto known as the first architect to have conceived and applied planimetric schemes to city planning. Ancient sources even claim that historian Herodotus briefly lived in Thurii in this period. In Roman times, the Hellenic city was partly incorporated by the colony of Copiae to then be completely abandoned in the 7th century AD due to rising groundwater.
Aiming at weaving new connections between the past and present of the site and its ongoing excavations, the In-ruins curatorial team - in concert with the Management of the Archaeological Park of Sibari - proposes to explore the contemporary topicality of the stories it preserves by inviting national and international artists to present projects (research or production-based) inspired by the following research axes:
1. CONTACT ZONE
Upon their arrival on the Ionian shores, the Achaean settlers discovered a cosmopolitan environment hosting the exchanges between numerous Mediterranean populations. Sibari tells the story of the Mediterranean Sea as a contact zone, nurturing the intrinsically nomadic and traveling nature of men. The site embodies an idea of culture that does not meet the paradigms of stability and fixed identity on which both nationalist rhetorics and xenophobic theories are based. The Park is proof that places are not immune to the transit of people and time, as well as of the movement of ideas and material cultures. Proof of the anthropological constant of the unarrestable transformation of same places through different peoples, Sibari invites you to unearth traces of a cosmopolitan and shared Mediterranean, able to decentralize and erode hegemonic, universalist and univocal narratives.
2. LA DOLCE VITA
At the time of its maximum expansion, Sibari had a perimeter of over 9 km, more than 300,000 inhabitants and was considered the capital of tryphé, "sweet life", and hybris, "hubris". It is even reported that the city used to organize “cuisine olympics” to discover new recipes and tastes. However, the extreme wealth and opulence increased its political and military weakness until its defeat at the hands of the Crotonians. It is no coincidence that the link of the ancient city to the luxury and vices leading to its destruction remained imprinted in our vocabulary: sybaritic, adj: worthy of a sybarite and, by extension, exaggeratedly refined, soft or lascivious; sybaritically, adv: in the manner of the sybarites, with excessive refinement and softness: eg. live sybaritically. Millennia later, "la dolce vita" has become a brand of the Italian lifestyle in the world; while sybaritic can certainly be described the last twenty years of Western global hegemony - roughly spanning the period between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the election of Donald Trump - and characterized by an extreme and geo-localized prosperity in the US and Europe accompanied by systematic failures in the fields of foreign policy, international diplomacy and human rights. Also thinking of the default of cities like Detroit, the unbreathable air of hyper-productive megalopolis like New Delhi, the exorbitant costs of places like Milan and New York, the story of Sibari encourages us to interpret the end of an empire as a creative, moral and political opportunity.
3. TO FREE THE LANDSCAPE
With the military intervention ordered by Pericles, the city was partially preserved and the Panhellenic colony of Thurii was erected on its foundations. The new city did not overlap perfectly on the remains of the ancient Sybari: the urban layout with orthogonal streets of the new center is in fact attributed to Ippodamo di Mileto, known as the first architect to have used and theorized regular planimetric schemes in city planning. His approach adapted to the orography of the territory, so as to identify the best natural locations where to erect temples, altars, theaters and markets. Ippodamo's approach to urban planning seems particularly relevant when considering the present state of the Calabrian landscape, punctured by thousands of uncoordinated and often uncompleted building investments. This opens critical spaces to conceive of the archaeological site as a privileged vantage point from which to document, explore and rethink the surrounding urban and natural landscape.
4. FAIRY TALES, HUMANS AND ANIMALS
Anecdotes and short stories are attributed to the inhabitants of Sybaris. These tales came to constitute the body of the so-called sybaritic fable, one of the three archaic fable genres - together with the Aesopic and the Lydian-Phrygian - which distinguished itself by the exclusive use of men and not animals as characters. The logoi sybaritikoi as reported by ancient historians such as Athenaeus are short literary compositions with a markedly humorous and brilliant vein, which the Sybarites loved to narrate during their opulent banquets and in their frequent moments of rest, also voting for the funniest. The plots of these frivolous and cheeky stories were the Sybarites themselves grappling with eccentric misadventures triggered by the libertine lifestyle of the city. Perhaps exported by the playwright Epicharmos, the genre gained great success in Greece through the work of authors such as Aristophanes. This narrative specificity of the ancient Sybaris seems particularly fertile for researchers animated by an interest in folk and traditions linked to cynicism and irony; or, on the contrary, exploring post-human, zoo-centric, zoe-centric approaches.
5. ECOLOGY OF RUINS
In Roman times, Thurii was partially incorporated by the colony of Copiae to then be definitively abandoned in the 7th century AD due to rising groundwater. Still today the Horse Park Archaeological Area is crossed by a drainage system consisting of hundreds of meters of pipes. Climate change and the rise in sea levels can only further compromise this scenario, shared by still inhabited centers such as Venice and Taranto. Cities of ancient and modern foundation share the present risk of disappearance and evoke mythical tales of disappeared, and now invisible civilizations.
6. AMENDOLARA MUSEUM: ARCHEOLOGY AS INDIVIDUAL EXPLORATION
The National Archaeological Museum of Amendolara, located about 30 km north-east of the archaeological area of Sibari-Thurii-Copia and the Sibaritide Museum, is located in the heart of the homonymous village in the Province of Cosenza. The collection includes the finds donated to the Italian State by Vincenzo Laviola, a doctor of Amendolara, who carried out archaeological research throughout his life. Engaged in the preservation and custody of the historical and archaeological heritage of his land, Laviola’s story leads us to reflect on the interdisciplinary qualities implicit to archaeological research, conceived not only as a process of reconstruction of genealogies and origins, but also as a poetic and individual experience.