Stella Maris





Stella Maris is an interdisciplinary and continuously-expanding archive that aims to investigate and represent identity and memory in the transalpine area.

This website is an atlas of stories, documents and other forms that are the outcome of research carried out within the Stella Maris network.

this can also be seen as a container of anecdotes portraying the dissolving memories of a multifaceted community located at the border of Northern and Southern Europe, and strongly influenced by their different cultures. Through its archive, Stella Maris investigates areas of anthropological interest in which the limits of national and institutional identities thin out, to the point of abstraction.

One of the threads of this changing and heterogeneous journey is the “italianity” of Italians in Switzerland, intended as the emergence, consolidation, integration and dissolution of a sense of community and belonging within a context of emigration. Today memories remain from this understanding of italianness but the cultural link between Switzerland and Italy seems to be in jeopardy.

Stella Maris proposes to gather and stimulate voices, flows of images, ghosts of the past, fragments, anxieties, fears and rebellions that restlessly hover on these imminent, yet to be written, ends.

The star

Stella Maris is the brightest star, the first to appear and the last to leave the sky when day breaks. In the Mediterranean tradition, since antiquity, it is a reference point for sailors at sea. The star precedes any other sophisticated measuring tool and inspires an ancestral imaginary where symbolic attributions range from a patriotic feeling to the metaphor of the beloved woman.

Stella Maris is also one of the names attributed to the Virgin Mary, but the adoption of this symbol precedes the birth of Christ. Aeneas, according to Virgil, finds it way towards the Italian peninsula guided by Stella Veneris. In the Old Testament the points of the star are six but since the 1500 the star is more commonly represented with five points. A possible parallel can be established with the Vitruvian man and the junction of the orbits of Earth and Venus. The sacred and the profane mingle and are blurred, the star inscribes the proportion of a circle that stands for the universal and triangles with esoteric meaning.

The star is the emblem of the Rome under Julius Caesar and Dante mentions stars many times in the Divine Comedy, the symbol is adopted by aristocratic families, regimes, religion, politics, armies, artists and by industrial logos, Italian cultural centres abroad and the Red Brigades. The goal is after all always the same: that of reinterpreting an Italian identity that is buried and primordial, the vague root of an irreducible national pride, in some ways more occult than institutional.

Stella Maris is mainly a convergence between apparatus and reality, a symbol and the organisation of the real. The vector of an identity embodied in language by assuming its complexity and becoming the only possible expression of a union, equally improbable as it is utopian, between Northern and Southern Europe. Finally, Stella Maris as the conjunction or the coercive tool of a State of perpetual plurality, or as the seal of complexity and of multiplicity.

About The Atlas

The entire project of Stella Maris feeds on anecdotes and obscure stories headed towards oblivion or that are not accessible because linked to a specialistic field.

Stories that perhaps are the expression of a minority or a liminal identity. The historic period of reference crosses the heated period of the Italian immigration to Switzerland, from immediately after the war until the 1980s, but it includes also stories more distant in time and space.

Stella Maris wants to measure itself with the awareness of the disappearance: of regional dialects, of the poor migrant going to Switzerland to work in an often miserable environment; to the weakening of a historic conscience, starting from the roots that bind Italy with Canton Ticino, like the bank system, that of trade unions or state education.

Stella Maris doesn’t want to impose territorial limits, insomuch as enquire on the Italianess of the transalpine area means to proceed in many directions all at once, obtaining a choral and multifaceted representation. The concept of the Atlas is indebted to the theory of German art historian Aby Warburg and puts forth the coexistence of multiple layers of meaning, which facilitate a reading that is not linear nor hierarchical yet associative and horizontal.