Not only the sun, but also tunneling and terracing the Sicilian landscape—to channel and retain water—has led to one of the largest agricultural engines in Europe. Control over water in Sicily though gave origin to the first extortion structures back in the 19th century. From the Palermitan underground qanāt tunnels to contemporary ad hoc pipes that bypass the city’s infrastructure, water and politics have developed hand in hand.
What would it mean to water without water as a form of emancipation from weather, whether there are water cuts, irrigated vineyards, appropriation of collective resources, increasing temperatures or recurrent droughts?
On a volcanic enclave between the Tunisian and Sicilian coasts, circular dry-stone walls enclose single-tree gardens. In Pantelleria, an island without fresh water sources, the dependence on rain and air humidity is crucial to grow a citrus tree per household—historically used to avoid scurvy by securing a supply of vitamin C all-year round. Without that microclimatic confinement for humidity and wind protection, the precious citrus trees inside would otherwise never fruit.
CLIMAVORE, inspired by the microclimatic garden typology of Pantelleria (Jardinu Pantescu), created a series of installations that set a stage around trees in Palermo to envision how to water with stones. To flourish on dry waters.
Three structures scattered around the city repurpose easily available materials, while monitoring the live performance of the trees. The chosen sites were : Bastione di Santa Maria dello Spasimo (a garden behind a roofless church), Giardino dei Giusti (a recuperated Medieval urban orchard), and Volpe Astuta (a confiscated property from the Sicilian Mafia, recently opened to the public).
Developed in collaboration with agronomists from the University of Palermo, they sense the water stress inside and outside the new microclimates. In response to the growing instability of seasons, the installations screen those datasets online.
Throughout the exhibition a network of local food establishments offered a CLIMAVORESecco al Sacco (a takeaway meal using drought-resistant ingredients) to collect and be eaten by the trees. They featured ingredients such as manna, carub, moringa, drought-tomatoes, local nuts, or heirloom drought-resistant Sicilian grains, in the form of panini, pizza, or ice cream.