I developed the project ACTIONS AGAINST BORDERS #1 BREAKING POINT for the first time in Italy in the city of Treviso in January 2019. The project was selected by B#side War Project – International Art Festival on War’s Legacies for the year 2018/2019.The practice of walking, interviewing and recording took place over 3 days in different parts of the city.
Treviso is an ancient city where many civilisations, as the celtics and the romans, crossed each other's paths. After a long period under Austrian domination, the city became officially part of the newly born italian territory in 1886. During World War I and World War II the cities of Treviso and Trieste were representing the first defensive border of Italy, hence both directly involved in the conflicts. The city suffered several bombings especially during World War II forcing the local population to migrate both to other parts of the region and to other countries.
The city walls surrounding the old city center were built during the 14th Century. During WWII, one of several Italian concentration camps was established for Slovene and Croatian civilians from the Province of Ljubljana in Monigo, near Treviso.
Housed inside a compound of shacks, the camp went into operation in July 1942. The prisoners were divided in two distinctive groups: the “repressivi” (to monitor) and “protettivi” (to protect) all the slavic prisoners who feared retaliation coming from the partisans.
In November 1942, there were 3,122 prisoners in Monigo: 1058 men, 1085 women and 466 children including 42 infants. With the arrival of winter, food supplies dwindles and disease decimated the weakest.
The camp ceased to exist in September 1943, although a few dozen of prisoners remained hosted in the facility. However, after the end of the war, from May to August 1945, Monigo's camp was reactivated as a refugee camp controlled by the Allied Military Government.
The historical memory of the concentration camp remained a secret until 1970, when a delegation from the Slovenian government came to Treviso to commemorate fellow citizens at the Municipal Cemetery of the city. Still nowadays many people are not aware of what really happened behind those walls.
During my visit to the city I've had the opportunity to develop my research, to interview people with different background and to understand how regularisation and integration of migrants works in the City of Treviso and consequentially in the surrounding territories. I've had the great chance to visit Arte Migrante Treviso, a non-party and a non-denominational group.
It organizes weekly meetings that are open to everybody , aiming at promoting inclusion through art, creating connections between groups and associations providing concrete support to migrants.. It welcomes students, migrants, workers, unemployed, young people and elders.
On the other hand I've also met few asylum seekers and migrants living a more difficult situation on the streets. The strong presence of veiled racism is preventing these people from finding a house and a regular job.
What comes out from the research is a recollection of migrations experiences, divisions and separation. The opinions of the interviewees are conflicting but revealing how today’s power dynamics do not differentiate from our past history of deportation, imprisonment and abandonment. The present social situation shows that "to the old right to kill or to let live was substituted by the power to make someone live or refuse him/her on the death"(Michel Foucault, La Volonté de savoir , 1978).
Aiming to identify the “breaking point” between good and bad, I approached a new modus operandi of awareness and truth of facts, instead of listening to institutionalised talks or media.
Treviso reveals its deep and historical connections with borders. The main subject of this part of the research is connected to the past and the present memory of borders reconstructed by the several locations I’ve visited: Old City Center, Arte Migrante Treviso, Monigo's Concentration Camp, Station's Square and ISTRESCO Istituto per la Storia della Resistenza e della Società Contemporanea della Marca Trevigiana.
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ph Otto Karl Kamal