Palermo in Palermo, The Sound of Rivers by Alessandro Librio


In the heart of Palermo historical centre, within the Arab-Norman UNESCO’s circuit, one of the biggest installations ever created.

A sound route covering almost 3 kilometers, an area of 728.296 m² to be closed to traffic for 24 hours, 148 loudspeakers, and 3 kilometers of electric wire. It is Palermo in Palermo. The Sound of Rivers by artist Alessandro Librio (b. 1984, Erice), one of the biggest urban sound installations ever created, a tribute to his city of adoption, curated by Giusi Diana, promoted by Palermo City Arts Office in collaboration with City Library and Palermo Archive, and produced by Nero’ with the support of Fam Fabbriche Chiaramontane, N38E13, and Curva Minore.

On Sunday, September 3, from 5am for 24 hours in a row, Palermo is going to be awakened by the sound of its two old rivers, the Kemonia and the Papireto, thanks to a urban sound installation that flows within the heart of Palermo historical city centre, along the UNESCO’s Arab-Norman circuit. Librio digs deep into the roots of his city, and returns the sound of its underground buried rivers. The voice of the city’s fluvial streams will come to light, and meet the modern urban network that stands today above their natural riverbed. The artist will bring back Palermo sixteenth-century urban soundscape, when the two rivers disappeared from the surface. “Like an archaeological excavation in the city’s geologic memory, poetically combining environmental themes, and aiming at educating the public about both the sound and visual landscape,” says curator Giusi Diana.

An evocative sound artwork and a unique public art project which combines environmental and ecological themes, and also offers to the public historical, documentary, and artistic insights thanks to an exhibition that will be open until October 27, 2017, in two venues: the Municipal Historical Archive of Palermo and the recently refurbished sixteenth-century Church of Saints Crispin and Crispinian, both located where the ancient Kemonia’s riverbed once laid. These buildings will host Librio’s research collections and related artworks: site-specific installations, videos, a set of photographs shot at the river mouths, and visual artworks.

The exhibition at the Municipal Historical Archive will reflect on the significance of some eighteenth-century paintings hosted in the building: the Quadroni delle Acque (Paintings of the Waters) by Giovan Battista Cascione (1729–1790), the Royal Architect of the Palermo’s Senate, depicting the Gabriele and Uscibene rivers among others, and The Ancient Map of Palermo, by cartographer Domenico Campolo, showing the original medieval route of the rivers Kemonia and Papireto crossing the city of Palermo, a work commissioned by the Senate of Palermo after the 1726 earthquake.

Palermo in Palermo. The Sound of Rivers constitutes the second chapter of the Palermo Sound Trilogy by Librio, started in 2011 at the 54th Venice Biennale with the sound installation Palermo in Venice, where the Sicilian capital’s environmental soundscape, portrayed by overwhelming traffic noise, was poured over the quiet streets of Venice for 24 hours in real-time. This served to completely bemuse passers-by, as citizens in each city had long grown accustomed to getting around their respective cities in totally contrasting ways.

The third act of the trilogy will engage with the overseas city of New York. “The amalgamation of urban soundscape, formerly experimented with in Venice, will occur again during the third and last act of the trilogy, Palermo in New York, scheduled for 2018, where sound becomes words and vice versa. Venice had its focus on the urban soundscape—car traffic—and Palermo’s on the natural sound of the two underground rivers, New York would be on the anthropic landscape; I will bring the sound of the historical markets of the Sicilian city in the Big Apple,” says Alessandro Librio. The different phases of the trilogy will be also presented in Palermo through a site-specific version of the sound installation Palermo in Venice in the Church of Saints Crispin and Crispinian.

Alessandro Librio
Palermo in Palermo, The Sound of Rivers

Curated by
Giusi Diana

Promoted by
Palermo City Council, Palermo City Arts Office

In collaboration with
City Library and the Palermo Archive

Produced by
Nerò’

With the support of
Fam, Fabbriche Chiaramontane
N38E13
Curva Minore

Sound installation
Sunday, September 3, 2017
From 5am, for 24 hours
Palermo, City Centre

Opening of the exhibition venues
Sunday, September 3, 2017
10am, Municipal Historical Archive
Via Maqueda 157
11am, City Library, Sts. Crispin and Crispinian Church
Piazzetta Brunaccini 2

Opening hours
Mon-Fri, 9am–1.30pm
Wed, 9.00 am–1pm, 3.30 pm–5.30pm

The exhibitions will be open until October 27, 2017

Free entry