Alessandra Ferrini. Unsettling Genealogies

  • When:   February 17, 2024 - April 28, 2024

PhotographyArt Exhibitions in Firenze

Alessandra Ferrini. Unsettling Genealogies

Museo Novecento is pleased to present from Feb. 17 to April 28, 2024, an exhibition by Florence-born and London-based artist Alessandra Ferrini entitled "Unsettling Genealogies," curated by Daphne Vitali.

"A profound reflection on Italian cultural history," said Deputy Mayor and Councillor for Culture Alessia Bettini and Culture Commission President Fabio Giorgetti, " that explores the roots of some artistic institutions, taking the viewer on a journey: a path in which family stories, considerations of social class, collective memory and the construction of national identity are intertwined. Museo Novecento once again plays a leading role in laying bare the concept of narrative and narratives in art and history."

"Museo Novecento proves once again that it wants to give space and visibility to artists of the new generations, capable of building complex projects and research, free from ideological conditioning and cultural stereotypes. - said Sergio Risaliti, director of Museo Novecento - The exhibition Unsettling Genealogies by Alessandra Ferrini presents a totally new project that reflects on the twentieth century and its repercussions in the present. The museum gives space to a courageous confrontation with the events related to colonialism that have weighed on the history of peoples and on the relationships between nations and individuals, and that also featured Italy during the years of Fascism. Alessandra Ferrini, who has been dealing with these issues for years, helps us recognize new, up-to-date and timely models of reading and interpretation."

The rooms at the first floor of the Museo Novecento host Unsettling Genealogies, a multilayered and complex project that critically investigates the history of Italian cultural institutions. This new body of work focuses on the colonial and Fascist origins of institutions and their founders by bringing together historical, political, and personal reflections in an attempt to underline the affective dimensions of history.

For the past ten years, Alessandra Ferrini has dedicated her artistic research and practice to questioning the legacies of Italian colonialism and fascism, focusing on the relations between Italy, North Africa and the Mediterranean region. Her research- based work is rooted in postcolonial discourse, memory studies, historiographical and archival practices. Experimenting with documentary art forms and lens-based media, Ferrini deals with the production of historical narratives and concealed histories related to her native country. Spanning from filmmaking to installation and performance-lectures, her work also takes the form of discursive formats, editorial and pedagogic activities. Her practice revolves around the essayistic mode, as the artist conceives her projects first as essay films, which she then develops into different forms.... read the rest of the article»

In Unsettling Genealogies, the artist interweaves a series of family stories with a reflection on social class, colonial history, European imperialism and Fascist heritage. The work takes as its starting point a photograph depicting Count Giuseppe Volpi di Misurata, an Italian entrepreneur and politician, at the opening of the Third Venice International Film Festival held in 1935. In this edition of the festival the Volpi Cup was introduced, awarded to the best actress and actor, which was named after Volpi di Misurata, then president of the Venice Biennale and a leading figure of the Fascist National Party, who had also served as finance minister for Mussolini. The Volpi Cup is still awarded today, despite bearing the name of an Italian Fascist politician.

This archival image triggered a series of reflections on both the establishment of the Venice International Film Festival, founded by Volpi di Misurata, Antonio Maraini and Luciano De Feo in 1932, as well as on Maraini’s and Volpi’s involvement and intervention in the Venice Art Biennale during the Fascist regime. Antonio Maraini, a sculptor and politician, was the director of the Venice Art Biennale between 1928 and 1942. Unsettling Genealogies considers the cultural politics of Italian Fascism, suggesting a reflection on the lasting effects of the fascist regime’s investment in the arts. In doing so, it attempts to highlight the relationship between aesthetics, ideology, and propaganda.

In addition, just over a month after the third Venice International Film Festival, in October 1935, Mussolini began the occupation of Ethiopia - the Second Italo- Ethiopian War. Ferrini’s reflection, therefore, also focuses on the bond and the connections between the largest colonial military campaign in Italian history and the Italian artistic scene and film industry, which was deeply entangled with fascism. Delving into the archival material that the artist makes visible in her work, Volpi’s colonial activity in Libya (as the former Governor of Tripolitania between 1921 and 1925), as well as his role in enhancing Venice’s image as a global capital of culture, industry, and commerce, will be revealed.

In parallel to these sociopolitical speculations, the work engages with a series of personal reflections made by the artist and related to her family history. Three members of Ferrini’s family, her great-great-aunt, grandmother, and grandfather worked for Maraini’s estate in Florence during the 1930s and 1940s, as service personnel. Through personal and historical archives, the artist uncovers minor personal histories alongside forgotten or repressed historical narratives by staging a tension between the public and the domestic spheres.

For Unsettling Genealogies, the artist creates an installation inspired by the stage depicted in the photograph of the opening of the third Venice International Film Festival held in 1935. One room is dedicated to the history of cultural institutions during fascism, while the other is transformed into a domestic area, which includes portraits of her grandmother and her great-great-aunt created by Antonio Maraini himself, merging the personal with the collective. Moreover, the exhibition includes a video that the artist filmed inside the installation in which she reads out letters addressed to her relatives. Interspersed with these personal narratives, she presents an array of archival material focusing on institutional histories.

The exhibition becomes a platform that invites the viewer to rethink official narratives and reflect on how to deal with the difficult fascist heritage as well as with conflicting personal and national contested heritages. Moreover, it showcases how historical and personal archival material relates, on the one hand, to collective memory and the construction of Italian national identity and, on the other hand, to the codes and workings of Italian class society.

During the exhibition, and until March 10, a screening of Alessandra Ferrini 's 2019-20 video Sight Unseen, which brings to light the concealment and appropriation of the story of Omar al-Mukhtar, a leader of the organized resistance against the Italian occupation of Libya (1911-1943), will be available in the museum's cinema room. Al-Mukhtar (1885-1931) became a symbol of the resilience of the Libyan people, but he always remained in the shadows in Italy. The centerpiece of the work is the most comprehensive series of images of al-Mukhtar's capture and execution, narrated by historian Alessandro Volterra.

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Title: Alessandra Ferrini. Unsettling Genealogies

Opening: February 17, 2024

Ending: April 28, 2024

Organization: Museo Novecento Firenze

Curator: Daphne Vitali

Place: Firenze, Museo Novecento Firenze

Address: Piazza Santa Maria Novella, 10 - Firenze

More info on this website:

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