Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society

Photo of the Week: Giacomo Parrinello

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Photo © Isabelle Charron

This photo depicts a detail of the Cretto, a massive and contested land-art piece conceived by Italian artist Alberto Burri and realized between 1984 and 1988. The piece is located in Western Sicily, Italy, in an area struck by a major seismic disaster in 1968. The Cretto – meaning crack, rift – consists of a thick, white layer of concrete that extends over 100,000 square meters among vineyards and olive groves, and covers the remains of Gibellina, one of the towns that the 1968 Belice Valley earthquake left in ruins. Pathways such as the one reproduced in the picture run along the concrete layer like cracks in a dry land, shadowing the streets and alleys of the bygone town.

Burri conceived the Cretto as a monument to the victims of the disaster, and as a permanent memento to the destructive power of earthquakes. While rebuilding plans had relocated the new Gibellina 18km away from the old settlement, the creator of the Cretto also tried to re-establish a symbolic connection with the abandoned site. Contested by some for its extension and the radical transformation of the landscape it entailed, the Cretto is now a preferred location for performances and plays and one of the main attractions of the area. In 2012, responding to an appeal by artists and intellectuals, the authorities have funded a two-year plan of restoration to be completed in 2015, which includes an extension of the Cretto’s surface to meet the original plan of the artist.

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