SanArtLAB: art and culture beyond healthcare

Palermo, 24 November 2017 / 31 January 2018

A long life. Longevity: new source of energy

"A long life. Longevity: new source of energy" is the title of the photographic exhibition promoted by Farmafactoring Foundation and presented in Palermo in early 2018 inside the Church of Maria Santissima Annunziata (known as La Pinta), a church recently reopened to the public after a long restoration period.

The photographic exhibition presented the images taken by Costantino Ruspoli to accompany the annual report on the "silver age" created by the same Foundation. In fact, the "third age" was the first chapter of the three-year project, to which Censis and Cergas-Bocconi also contributed, to highlight the evolution of the state of health and the relationship that Italians have with their body in the three stages of life. All within the particular perspective of the healthcare system's ability to take care of the needs expressed, evaluating possible future scenarios that can be used to evaluate healthcare and social policies.

The photographic journey effectively highlighted how the current social context includes, in many aspects, the active presence of the "elderly" in the most varied fields, from the arts to volunteering, from the caring for grandchildren to the wise use of time. The significant lengthening of the average lifespan in recent decades has in fact been accompanied by a longer period in which good health and a wide range of possibilities are maintained. The term "longevity" is thus used: a period in which it is possible to continue being subjective with individual and collective activities, interests and projects.

The photographs reveal that "the third age" is, as the Report states, "multidimensional and multifaceted", presenting aspects that cannot be catalogued into patterns as rigid as they are abstract.

Italy ranks at the top in the world, together with Japan, for the average lifespan thanks to the improvement of the quality of life, the expansion and improvement of healthcare, the diffusion of prevention policies and the control of risk factors. The research by Farmafactoring Foundation underlines that, "Over the past 50 years, life expectancy at birth has increased by about 10 years (one year earned every five lived), for both men and women".

It is therefore appropriate to see old age not only as a cost, but as a resource. In his essay, Cato Maior De senectute, written more than 2,000 years ago, Cicero observed, even then, that the elderly should not be excluded from active life because "Society needs their wisdom, their prestige and their ideas, qualities that old age does not impoverish, but rather enriches".

The Palermo exhibition has been particularly successful among the public. It was also one stop along the Arab Norman path: the itinerary that brings its followers to the most ancient and precious monuments of the city of Palermo, dating back to the XII century and recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It includes magnificent religious and civil buildings built with the collaboration of Norman, Arab and Byzantine workers, including San Giovanni degli Eremiti and the Royal Palace with its extraordinary Palatine Chapel.

The photographs were taken by Costantino Ruspoli, while the exhibition and the book presented on the occasion were curated by journalist, writer and photographer Alessandro Scotti, who explained how the project fits into the "Consolidated tradition of the history of photography at the service of social investigation: a tradition that has its roots in the great American photographic campaigns of the first half of the 20th century. Ruspoli's is a moderately detached gaze, as a census should be performed, however not without complicity with the subjects who lend themselves to the intended and explicit role play in the portrait's backdrop. This is how a certain classicism of setting, together with the refined use of black and white, contribute to the precision necessary for the creation of a typological gallery of people, habits, environments. All this to draw an original portrait of the third age, which can legitimately be defined as active longevity in Ruspoli's images thanks to the variety and vitality of the subjects recorded".

The exhibition was supported by the Archdiocese of Palermo through the Cultural Heritage Office and by the Sicilian Region through the Department of Cultural Heritage and Sicilian Identity and the Superintendency of Cultural and Environmental Heritage of Palermo. Thanks to the commitment of the Farmafactoring Foundation, it was therefore possible to bring a magical place in a hidden Palermo to light.

The church, known by the Palermitans with the name "La Pinta", dates back to the Byzantine era and is embellished with stuccoes by Giuseppe Serpotta, frescoes and period floors. The simplicity of its interior reveals the violation to which it has been subjected over the years, with thefts and looting still evident in the altars located along the walls.

On the occasion of the exhibition, the Farmafactoring Foundation also promoted the relocation of a panel depicting the Annunciation from the first half of the 16th century, which had until then been preserved in the archives of the Diocesan Museum of Palermo. After 18 years the ancient icon thus returned to its home in La Pinta Church, its place of origin, where it has been the object of devotion for 370 years.