Parma's old hospital becomes a huge installation by Studio Azzurro

On the occasion of Parma 2020+21, the old Old Hospital becomes a huge installation by Studio Azzurro, telling the story of this precious place in the city.

It is entitled Hospitale - The Future of Memory the installation that Studio Azzurro has designed for Parma Italian Capital of Culture 2020+21: it opens from September 5 to December 8, 2020 and is the largest installation of Parma 2020+21, conceived specifically for the cruise of theOspedale Vecchio that, since 2016, is the subject of a major urban regeneration intervention that will create a permanent multimedia museum dedicated to the memory of the city.

The installation by Studio Azzurro, produced by the Municipality of Parma with the contribution of Fondazione Cariparma, takes the form of a video-narrative, articulated in several parts, that tells the story of the Hospitale born from the waters, through the virtual presence of actors Marco Baliani and Giovanna Bozzolo, who will assume from time to time the role of “narrating self” or witnesses of the events. Eight large textile surfaces, which will occupy the walls of the nave, will become the screens on which the story of the history of the Old Hospital will be articulated from different points of view.

At the entrance, the visitor is confronted with a synchronized single-image reproduction of the front facade of the hospital as it appears in the 18th-century watercolor by Alessandro Sanseverini and completed with present-day images, accompanied by a specially designed soundtrack. Arriving at the altar, one encounters a set-up characterized by the presence of eight semi-transparent tulle wings: the first group is arranged in the center of the space, right under the dome, forming the ideal development of the altar formerly present there. The other four cloths, arranged at the corners of the intersection of the arms, become screens that reproduce the silhouettes of the four statues (in the very place where they were placed) that portrayed The Compassion, The Help, The Charity, The ’Love for One’s Neighbor.

The Witness is, finally, the space for the eight stories of the Hospital’s history. In the largest part of the nave, eight synchronized video projections are presented: the eight themes that encapsulate the history of the Old Hospital from the time of its founding to more recent times. It is a tale of a history almost unknown to the city’s inhabitants themselves: the Parma of religious and then civil assistance, but also of popular revolt.

Studio Azzurro is an artistic research group, founded in 1982, in Milan by Fabio Cirifino, Paolo Rosa and Leonardo Sangiorgi: with its research it investigates the poetic and expressive possibilities that so strongly affect the relationships and networking patterns of our age. Following practices akin to relational aesthetics with a focus on the social consequences of artistic actions and works, he designs and creates first video environments, then sensitive environments, theatrical performances and films. In addition to the development of experimental works, the group is characterized by more popularizing experiences such as the design of museums and thematic exhibitions, through which, without renouncing research, it has been able to build a communicative context that allows active and meaningful participation of the viewer within a narrative framework inspired by hypertextuality and the oscillation between real and virtual elements.

The Ospedale Vecchio is one of Parma’s most important monumental complexes and the symbolic building of the city’s hospital history and humanitarian services dispensed over the centuries. Located in the Oltretorrente district, it was the city hospital from the 15th century until 1926. It was founded in 1201 by Rodolfo Tanzi; on the ruins of this building, in the second half of the 15th century, construction began on the first nucleus of the complex we see today. The entire new structure is organized around the large Latin-cross cross surmounted by a central dome: 120 meters long by 100 meters wide, with 12-meter vaults and, in the center of the two arms of the cross, the altar. The hospital was divided into two sections: the Hospital of Mercy and the Hospital of the Exposed. The former consisted of four wards for the sick, infirm, wounded and orphans and could accommodate about 300 sick people. The Hospice of the Exposed was for foundlings only: the term “exposed,” in fact, indicated the child abandoned at an early age or not recognized at birth.

The restoration of the entire Old Hospital complex, part of the Il Futuro della Memoria project (approved in 2015 by the municipal administration at the proposal of the Department of Planning Policies and Territorial Development and Public Works and now being implemented by Parma Infrastrutture S.p.A), has provided for the structural restoration of the Grande Crociera (the latter promoted by the Emilia-Romagna Region through the European Regional Development Fund and ministerial funds of the Piano Periferie with the contribution of Fondazione Cariparma), the reorganization of the Civic Library, in the Corte del Sapere; the relocation of the Historical Institute of Resistance and Partisan Associations in the Chiostro della Memoria Sociale Civile e Popolare ; a new space intended as a cafeteria and various rooms for exhibitions and meetings. Various city cultural associations will find space in the Court. On the occasion of Parma Italian Capital of Culture 2020+21, Hospitale Vecchio thus becomes an opportunity for community well-being through culture.

“Hospitale represented, in the dossier of Parma 2020,” says Michele Guerra, Councillor for Culture of the City of Parma, “the pilot project thought up with Studio Azzurro from which sprang the sense of most of the projects that led us to be Italian Capital of Culture. Starting again from here, today, after the paradigm shift we have witnessed as a result of the social-health emergency, takes on an even more symbolic meaning for us: Parma starts again from where the thought of a culture that beats time was born, and starts again from a place like the Ospedale Vecchio that tells us a story of hospitality and care that is even more powerful and relevant than we could have imagined.”

“Hospitale, like a musical overture, anticipates the announcement of the new destination of Parma’s historic Ospedale Vecchio,” stresses Leonardo Sangiorgi of Studio Azzurro. “Hospitale is a challenge to space and time, undertaken by fusing together the ancient and theatrical tool of voice narration and modern digital technologies that bring unexpected stories to life through large talking figures.”

Pictured is part of the installation by Studio Azzurro.

Parma's old hospital becomes a huge installation by Studio Azzurro
Parma's old hospital becomes a huge installation by Studio Azzurro

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