Italian Limes – Venice Biennale
Italian Limes explores the modern notion of the border within the context of the most recent advancement of the technologies for spatial representation and the massive consequences of climate change that hit the Alpine ecosystem over the last decade.
After the signing of the Schengen Agreement in 1995, Italy’s northern frontier has recently experienced a dramatic shift in scope and nature: the primary mountain passes of the Alps have evolved from political filters between NATO-allied countries and the southern tip of the Iron Curtain into infrastructural channels, governed by EU regulations, market standards, and logistical performance.
Between 2008 and 2009, the last stage of this transformation forced the Italian government to negotiate a new definition of the frontiers with Austria, France and Switzerland. Due to global warming and and shrinking Alpine glaciers, the watershed—which determines large stretches of the borders between these countries—has shifted consistently. A new concept of movable border has thus been introduced into national legislation, recognising the volatility of any watershed geography through regular alterations of the physical benchmarks that determine the exact frontier.
Through an immersive and interactive installation that connects an automated drawing machine in the Arsenale with a network of solar-powered GPS sensors installed on the ice sheet of the Similaun glacier, at 3,300 metres above sea level, Italian Limes unveils the political dimension intrinsic to the problem of representing territory. The exhibition shows how natural frontiers are subject to the complexity of continuous ecological processes, depending on the technologies and norms we use to represent it.
Displaying unreleased materials from the archives of Istituto Geografico Militare (Italian national mapping agency), Italian Limes reveals how the mostly inaccessible territory of the Alps—for the last century, a region that was widely considered Terra Incognita—has been a constant laboratory for technological experimentation, and how some of the systems of control that have played a fundamental role in the definition of the modern sovereign state have been rendered all but invisible through the evolution of topographic surveying into the hyper-precision of satellite-based GPS.
Italian Limes has been selected among the best of Venice Architecture Biennale 2014 on The Guardian
Italian Limes is a project by Folder (Marco Ferrari, Elisa Pasqual) with Pietro Leoni (interaction design), Delfino Sisto Legnani (photography), Dawid Górny, Alex Rothera, Angelo Semeraro (projection mapping), Claudia Mainardi, Alessandro Mason (team).