the exhibition “Poseidonia, city of water: archaeology and climate change” was inaugurated on 4 October at Paestum’s Archaeological Park after an intense year studying and preparing it.
The idea of an exhibition on such topical issues formed suddenly and irresistibly when – during a visit to the Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery in Rome – my eyes met the painting by Federico Cortese “Ruins of a bygone world…”, the only work on loan now displayed in the exhibition.
Before me were the temples of Paestum submerged in water. In 1892, the artist was ahead of his time and had unknowingly portrayed the study of the Kiel University that was to include Paestum among the 42 UNESCO world heritage sites around the Mediterranean which might end up under water due to rising sea levels as a result of global warming.
The need to talk about Paestum and water, intended as both a resource and a threat, was urgent. That is why, together with Paul Carter and Adriana Rispoli, we described the indissoluble bond between the city of Poseidon and the liquid element, turning not just to archaeology, but also to the contribution of hard science, to latest-generation techniques and contemporary art.
This is an invitation to come to Paestum to see an exhibition that is much more than just that: it’s a dynamic interaction of past, present and future that seeks to highlight the difficult relationship between mankind and the environment, to make all of us aware of the need to let go of habits that are harming our world.
We’ve living in the time of Greta Thunberg, of international agreements against climate change, of environmentalist movements and #plasticfree slogans. While in the past mankind shouted out its desperate need for equality and freedom, now it needs to fight tooth and nail to defend its planet from destruction, because there is the actual risk of a collapse of civilisations as we know them today.
We can draw lessons and guidance from history to avert that.
The exhibition illustrates the relationship between the city of Poseidonia-Paestum and water across the centuries, through the land reclamations, aqueducts, floods, encroaching marshland, harbours and fisherman. It portrays Paestum as a synecdoche of the world. A local example that bears witness to human resilience, that is people’s ability to adapt to criticalities and overcome them.
This is the time for us to change, to open our eyes, to identify problems and transform our attitude and thoughts.
We are the custodians of our world’s memories, of the cultural heritage from the past and the environment we live in today. We need to work together as a team to preserve our future now!
I look forward to seeing you in Paestum to visit the exhibition in the Museum and, every evening after sunset, admire “Metamorfosi”, the video projection by Alessandra Franco on the main facade of the Temple of Neptune.