What is “Arte in memoria”
A biannual contemporary art exhibition held in the ruins of the Synagogue in Ostia Antica, Rome, one of the oldest surviving examples of Diaspora Judaism. An integral part of this grandiose Roman city, it attests to the vitality of the nexus between identity and multiethnic and multicultural dialogue.
The first edition was inaugurated on October 16, 2002, the second on January 27, 2005, the third on January 27, 2006 and the fourth on January 28, 2007. The fifth edition of " Arte in Memoria " opened on January 25, 2009.
Internationally renowned artists are invited to create site-specific works focused on the theme of memory. At the end of each edition, some of the works remain in situ: a memory of the project, the embryo of a contemporary art museum inside an archaeological site.
The Synagogue is neither neutral nor unbiased like a gallery, a museum or a renovated industrial space; as a result of its historic and symbolic centrality, it cancels any indifference towards that which takes beside it, near it and even far from it. Thus, while the works absorb and record its particular qualities, the Synagogue, by welcoming a plurality of artistic languages, renews its vocation as a place of hospitality, study, dialogue and comparison.

The idea
" Arte in memoria " has its origins in the "Synagogue Stommeln" Art Project. Built in 1882 in the austere neo-romanic style, the Stommeln Synagogue, near Cologne, Germany managed to survive its community under the most extraordinary circumstances. Reopened to the public in 1983 after a lengthy and laborious restoration, since 1991 it is used as an exhibition space: each year, once a year, for a different artist.
The success of the project, which continues to this day, suggested its reproposal in an even more evocative and meaningful site such as that of the Synagogue in Ostia Antica.
The latter can be imagined as the counterpart to structure in Stommeln: while the building in Ostia, datable to some time in the 1st century A.D., coincides with the impetus of the Exile, the structure in Pulheim testifies to the end of the most active and vital period of the Diaspora in Central-Eastern Europe. From the Exile to the destruction of the Diaspora to the creation of the State of Israel: this is the period of time that is book ended by the two Synagogues. They are now united by contemporary art, whose development is significantly analogous to that of memory: discontinuous and fragmentary, easily mixing symbolically related though temporally distant events, speaking about the past to render it communicable and effective in the present. Visualising the "challenges that an analysis of the past determines in the present".

The inauguration
Unlike "Synagogue Stommeln", " Arteinmemoria " is inaugurated on a fixed and pre-established date. With the exception of the first edition, opened on October 16, 2002, the anniversary of the deportation of the Roman Jews, the successive editions begin on January 27, the Day of Memory established in 2000 by the European Parliament, a date that corresponds with the opening of the gates in Auschwitz.
To counter the risk of a hurried and episodic management that becomes a rhetorical and repetitive re-proposition of the Day of Memory, where memory, rather than being an instrument of daily investigation and prevention, is mythicized and rendered abstract with respect to its historical context, exposing itself in a self-referential manner, " Arte in memoria " involves a community of artists, called upon to repopulate a site so rich with history and memory with a vision rooted in history, and motivated by contemporaneity. As clearly explained by David Bidussa: "The Day of Memory is not the day of the dead. January 27 is the day of memory for the living and not a day for the commemoration of the dead...The Day of Memory deals with an important part of European cultural history that our continent has begun to face up to, though late and often with great difficulty...Memory is an act performed by the living and focused on tying together individuals in order to construct a public conscience. Memory has a pragmatic value, it is necesssary for taking action, for stating that at present we continue to hold on to something from the past".

The Premises of " Arte in memoria ":
- memory is not focused exclusively on the past, on recalling and commemorating past tragedies, but serves rather as a deterrent to their recurrence in different forms and contexts."
- memory is not fossilised in monuments and rituals, but adapts to the present, to the themes and dramatic issues faced by contemporary society, becoming a lesson in the rights of minorities and loyalty and civic courage in a democratic state. For this reason, the warning repeated each year during the Passover "In each generation a person must see himself as if he went out of Egypt", represents an excellent example of collective memory.
- memory must not be separated from the historical context in which events have taken place. Due to its unilateral, partial, wavering and incomplete nature, it is a precious ally of history: it vitalises and humanises scientific investigation, ensuring that it does not waste away in a cold and detached analysis of a chain of events. Even an authentic work of art is a splinter, a deviation along the linear path of history; its fragmentary nature contains the seed and the awareness of the totality that precedes it. It creates a vital, dynamic and problematic dialogue, without which both memory and art would be reduced to tautology, a sterile and anachronistic re-proposition of the past.
- " Arte in memoria " does not ask artists to provide a "thematic" work of art or a work "in memory of", but to create a short circuit between their personal language and the Synagogue, concentrated in history, memory, art, study and culture. The result can be seen in the over thirty works realised to date: recognisable as the "work of", they contain a semantic and interpretative surplus that is donated by the site that, thanks to these artists and their works, returns to life.