BIENNALE DEMOCRAZIA: THE PROJECT
Biennale Democrazia is a cultural event promoted by the City of Torino, under the aegis of the President of the Republic of Italy. March 2015 marked its fourth edition. The aim of this initiative is to create and spread a culture of democracy, which can be developed and put into practice. It is an ongoing public workshop focused on the local context, while at the same time issues on a broader scale are also addressed.
Biennale Democrazia encourages dialogue and is open to all, with a special welcome for young people. The project is divided into a series of preparatory steps and intermediary stages (workshops for schools, initiatives for young people, discussion sessions and other events) that culminate, every two years, in five days of public events that feature speeches, debates, readings, international forums, seminars and entertainment. All for a more thorough understanding of current issues, and proposals for the involvement of people at the local level.
Following the success of the first edition (April 22-26, 2009), which opened with a lecture by the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, at Torino’s Teatro Regio:
- The second edition (April 13-17, 2011) had for its theme Everyone. Many. Few. – a reflection on the relationship between democracy and oligarchy.
- The third edition (April 10-14, 2013) focused on the theme Utopia. Is It Possible? – an overview of utopic visions today.
- The fourth edition (March 25-29, 2015), entitled Passages, took a look at the great transformations that change the conditions of life and coexistence.
- The fifth edition (March 29-April 2, 2017), entitled Emergency Exits – a reflection on the crisis of our time, looking for the answers that we need, but also for new paths to tread and to unforeseen opportunities.
The last edition of Biennale Democrazia counted about 100 events, including lectures, discussions, debates, meetings, readings and workshops, for a total of over 200 hours of involvement at 8 different venues.
The success of Biennale Democrazia is based on the work of a network of more than 70 institutions, organizations and associations. This promotes the circulation of a wide range of ideas, suggestions and proposals, and encourages the active participation of citizens in forging them. An average of 40,000 people participate in each edition – many of them young people and students, through their involvement in training programs offered in 70 schools across the region of Piemonte and elsewhere in Italy. The Biennale Democrazia Campus hosts 200 young people each session – an incredible and unique experience for all.
THEME AND FOCUS OF THE SIXTH EDITION
The title of the sixth edition of Biennale Democrazia, that will take place in Turin from Wednesday March 27th to Sunday March 31st 2019, is THE VISIBLE AND THE INVISIBLE.
Information, images and data, processed by continuously updated technologies, have become an essential part of our lives in society. We live in a “very high-visibility world”, where however the blind spots have not disappeared, the understanding of reality is more complicated, the imagination of the future is shut down.
Reality seems to be in full light like never before, yet the satisfying seduction of Reality television extends and our ability to face social ills is reduced. Society seems to obey the logic of transparency, which doesn’t involve the public authorities, nor those accustomed to find refuge in secrecy, but individual existences, scrutinized, conditioned and controlled by increasingly effective devices. The world seems to have become available, yet democratic societies must face increasing threats and seem unable to authentic visions of the future. Seeing is not enough. Tools to understand, choice spaces, objectives to pursue are needed.
The sixth edition of Biennale Democrazia offers three thematic proposals for reflection and study: Lights and Shadows; The Transparency Society; From Sunset to Sunrise.
1. Lights and Shadows
A copious flow of news, images, videos, photographs and selfies, produces a vivid and “instantaneous” representation of reality every day: a huge mosaic of disconnected tiles that aspires to be objective, exhaustive, all-embracing. Immersed in this chaotic and pervading communication flow, where the visibility gained thanks to social media plays a decisive role, societies become opaque. Social ills stop to be problems to solve and become the subject of helpless looks: poverty, young people without a job, gender violence, environmental looting, migrants reduced to the condition of “non- person”. In this context, however, criticism is still able to raise questions, information can show hidden realities, politics continues to be the space where different points of view can be compared and questioned.
2. The Transparency Society
Democratic politics demands a high degree of power transparency. Public and private powers can be subjected to citizen control and judgement only if they act in public and provide reasons for their action. But how do we ensure that public authorities agree to submit to confrontation, criticism and opposition? In our societies, transparency is following a reversed logic. If, on the one hand, the invisible powers – such as mafias and criminal economies – are strengthened thanks to the support of small and large daily collusions, on the other hand, the individual existences are increasingly exposed to the view and privacy becomes a bargaining chip: companies as Google and Facebook, for example, derive immense profits from the collection of personal data and user preferences processed by algorithms covered by secrecy. Will there still be room for democracy in a world in which politics can be replaced by an aseptic data administration and where big data, increasingly able to predict human choices, threaten to generate new spaces for manipulation and control?
3. From Sunset to Sunrise
Blinded by too many lights, paralyzed by shadows and fears, are we resigning ourselves to live as spectators of an eternal present, in which historical depth and the perspective on the future are canceled out? Themes such as “the decline of the West” and “the end of history” flock to our imagination, nourished by the resurgence of “small homelands” and the emergence of new authoritarian or populist regimes that rise concerns about a slow decline of democracy, outside and inside the West. Today more than ever, the maintenance of democratic coexistence seems to depend on our ability to find new ways of articulating the relationship between centre and periphery, high and low, Europe and regions. After all, the ability to imagine a better future has its roots in the Christian hope and has taken different features: reform, utopia, revolution, emancipation, liberation. Each of the great changes that have marked the history of humanity had to appear utopian at the beginning: the abolition of slavery, the internal combustion engine, gender equality, freedom of speech, universal suffrage, sexual liberation. What ideals and “visions” of the future can regenerate democracy and prelude to the dawn of a new day?