Illuminated memory

Museo per la Memoria di Ustica
Museo per la Memoria di Ustica, Bologna. Christian Boltanski, “A proposito di Ustica”. Installation view. Photo: Sandro Capati, 2007

Memory must never be far from us, on the contrary, it must shine with a gentle, discreet light and illuminate us, so as not to extinguish our memories. Christian Boltanski’s permanent installation at the Museo per la Memoria di Ustica (Ustica Memorial Museum) in Bologna allows us to reconstruct the complex story of the DC-9 struck down on 27 June 1980, after leaving the Bologna airport headed for Palermo. Lives stolen from time, on a summer day, suspended in the void and in the silence of the authorities.

Museo per la Memoria di Ustica, Bologna.

The museum was created thanks to the efforts of the Associazione dei Parenti delle Vittime della Strage di Ustica (Association of the Relatives of the Victims of the Ustica Massacre) represented by its president Daria Bonfietti. Since its opening, Boltanski’s installation has never ceased to perturb viewers with its grace, beauty and delicate ferocity. The victims are remembered through lights hanging from the ceiling that come alive, switching on and off like so many breaths. Black mirrors file past the remains of the reconstructed aircraft; behind them, speakers emit whispered phrases and thoughts. Nine large black containers contain a series of disparate objects that belonged to the victims, visible in an orderly manner only in the Lista degli oggetti personali appartenuti ai passeggeri del volo IH 870 (List of personal objects owned by the passengers of Flight IH 870) compiled and paginated by Boltanski: a publication that helps spectators reconstruct a complex and stratified truth. A story that the artist has been able to illuminate through a moment of poetic vision, on tip-toe.

Museo per la Memoria di Ustica
Christian Boltanski, “A proposito di Ustica”. Installation view, Museo per la Memoria di Ustica, Bologna. Photo: Sandro Capati, 2007

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