Italian Limes is a research project and installation commissioned La Biennale di Venezia for the Monditalia section of the 14th International Architecture Exhibition. The aim of Monditalia was to illustrate the contemporary Italian landscape and condition through 40 installations, focused on 40 different places on the Italian territory and investigating 40 different topics. We chose to work on the Northern Italian border as a spatial device, in order to understand how it changed after the advent of the Schengen Agreements. The research is focused on the concept of ”movable borders”, a definition recently introduced into national legislation. As a result of global warming and the consequent—and now constant—retreat of the Alpine glaciers, the watershed—which runs along perennial glaciers at the highest altitudes and determines the borders between Italy and its neighbouring countries—has shifted considerably in recent years. So between 2008 and 2009 the Italian government had to negotiate a new definition of the frontier with Austria, France and Switzerland, introducing into national law the unprecedented concept of a mobile border and thus negating the possibility of determining its own boundaries with certainty.
We decided to pick this topic for three main reasons: first, we wanted to show how borders—even within a continent like Europe that prides himself to have abolished national frontiers—are still alive and present; secondly, we wanted to point out how climate change is causing transformations not only at an environmental level, but also deep down to the very fundamental symbols of national states, like borders are; finally, we wanted to address the role of technology and the systems for spatial representation in the definition of the contemporary life and epistemics of the world.
We selected the area of the Similaun glacier (crossed by the border between Italy and Austria) as our case study. In May 2014, we then installed a network of solar-powered GPS units on the surface of the glacier, following a 1-km-long section of the border, in order to monitor the movements of the ice sheet throughout the duration of the exhibition in Venice. The geographic coordinates collected by the sensors were broadcasted and stored every hour on a remote server via a satellite connection.
We then designed an exhibition for the space that was assigned to us at the Corderie dell’Arsenale. The installation we created is made up of three elements laid out on a linear sequence: a three-dimensional model of the summit of the Similaun glacier, in scale 1:3000, which is used as a basis for a projection-mapped video about the evolution of cartographic documents of the area and the explanation of the dynamics of the movable border, from 1920 (when the border between Italy and Austria was determined) until nowadays. A collection of previously unpublished documents from the archives of the IGM (the Italian national mapping agency); this collection comprehends photographic material, maps and campaign journals that testify to the indefatigable work of the people responsible for maintaining the border and to the evolution in the techniques and instruments used over the course of the last century. Finally, an automated drawing machine—controlled by an Arduino board and programmed with Processing—was then specifically designed to translate the coordinates received from the sensors into a realtime representation of the shifts in the border. It operates autonomously and can be activated on request by every visitor, who will therefore be able to take away a map—different on each occasion—of a section of the boundary between Italy and Austria, created at the exact moment of the visit to the installation.
- Creative Directors Marco Ferrari
- Art Directors –
- Designers Marco Ferrari, Pietro Leoni, Angelo Semeraro, Claudia Mainardi
- Illustrators Marco Ferrari, Elisa Pasqual
- Photographers Delfino Sisto Legnani
- Editors –
- Copywriters Marco Ferrari
- Production coordinator Alessandro Mason