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With Lucrezia Cippitelli, Benjamina Efua Dadzie, Alessandra Ferrini, Jermay Michael Gabriel

In an attempt to rethink their role and engage with decolonial discourse, museums and cultural institutions are increasingly devising collaborations with artists, scholars, grassroots organisations and activists. Yet, many of these projects have recreated extractivist and colonial tropes that are exploitative and performative, thus raising more questions around power dynamics and institutional responsibility. This session, focuses specifically on Italian ethnographic museums to critically reflect on institutional agendas, bias, and ‘decolonial intentions’. Held in Italian, it will be divided in two parts.

The first part includes a listening session of extracts from Timnet Gedar’s Revival and Reckoning: A Colonial Museum in Postcolonial Italy, and a presentation by Alessandra Ferrini on artwashing and institutional responsibility.

In the second part they will be joined by Lucrezia Cippitelli, Benjamina Efua Dadzie, and Jermay Michael Gabriel in an open conversation. As artists, curators, scholars and activists they will share different experiences in order to consider how to forge radical approaches and interventions within cultural institutions. Unpacking the ethical and political implications of this work they will take into consideration their different positionalities and practices.

Lucrezia Cippitelli is professor of Aesthetics at Brera Academy of Fine Arts (Milan),  and the artistic director of Ateliers Picha, the educational program of Picha – Biennial of Lubumbashi (Lubumbashi, Congo RDC).

Benjamina Efua Dadzie is a writer and researcher. She is the Collections Assistant in Anthropology at the University of Cambridge’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and the Digital Editor for the award-winning museum publication 100 Histories of 100 Worlds in 1 Object.

Alessandra Ferrini is an artist, researcher and educator based in London. She is a PhD candidate at the University of the Arts London, Research Fellow at Archive Milan and the British School at Rome.

Jermay Michael Gabriel is a multidisciplinary artist. Together with sound designer Giovanni Isgrò he is part of Plethor X, an art and music duo based in Milan. The collaborative project touches on a plurality of artistic practices.

Today museums are notoriously representative of colonial and national spaces. The main objective of Ambaradan Think Tank is to analyze the different significance and dimensions of museums and produce ideas on how to change museums’ mechanisms for the museums of the future.

In this presentation, we will briefly talk about the history of modern museums from their emergence to their place as mega cultural constructions.

Ambaradan think tank In Italy, we still hear the word Ambaradan used for “casino”, or chaos; but the word’s etymology comes from “Amba Aradam,” a mountain, the site of a massacre, and a war of resistance against the Italian Empire in Ethiopia in 1936. Ambaradan as used in an everyday context and is cut off from its roots, displaced roots that come from the hills of Ethiopia, that is mainly forgotten today. Ambaradan is a think tank of two architecture historians and artists, Amal Muntaser and Esra Nesipoğulları. ambaradanthinktank.org

Amal Muntaser, 1992 Denmark, architect/researcher. Sudanese native, raised in Sudan. Currently resident in Italy. After she achieved her graduation in Khartoum, she participated in a leadership program in the USA and another in Kenya. Over four years of living, studying, and working in Italy, she developed several academic interests, particularly in cultural heritage and anthropology. She is in the process of Ph.D. applications and is working as a collaborator in Aditus Culture in their event management section.

Esra Nesipoğulları, 1991 Turkey, architect/multidisciplinary artist, born and raised in Turkey. Currently resident in Italy. She accomplished two residencies in Toulouse and Marseille during the period of her B.Arch. In 2013, she had been granted to travel to Cuba for research about the use of semi-public spaces in the socialist context.  Later on, working for over two years in several architectural design studios, in London, Istanbul, and continually in Mantua, she started her professional practice in the art and curatorial field in 2019. Her works often respond to personal stories in cultural and political contexts.  Apart from Ambaradan Think Tank, she is also a member of Art Dream Collective.

Case Notes: the storyline of Museo Coloniale 

Poly Marchantia

This text follows a detectivesque work, an investigation involving the traces of Italy’s colonial past. The investigation begins, as we meet with different witnesses, to discover the mechanisms behind the myth of ‘Italian colonialism as different, more tolerant, and more human than other colonialisms’. The storyline of this investigation brings together different voices and contradictory versions that confirm our suspicions: that we still fail to critically confront this violent past, and are thus unable to uproot the dynamics of colonial power.

Poly Marchantia is an art collective composed of three artists who take on one seemingly female name inspired by Marchantia Polymorpha – a moss/liverwort that tends to grow after the land has been disturbed. Since 2019, they have been working together around the notions of ecosystem, the method of conversation, and gesture-seeds, in the form of a decentered, polyphonic, and multiple-subjects subject. Simultaneously based in Milan, Turin, and Bogotá.

The Sculpture (35mm photograph transfer to digital, HD Video, 28 min, 2020) an experimental documentary consisting of performance and photographs, focusses on the recently established collection of African art in the National Museum of China in Beijing. Through carefully inspecting these foreign objets d’art, the film attempts to explore the essential meaning of museums, and also the geopolitical relations as constructed by the Asian, African and European continents. Through the transformation and appropriation of Maurice Jarnoux’s iconic photograph of André Malraux in 1954 standing next to his prototypical art book “Imaginary Museum”, this new filmic stage reveals aspects of the collection which are otherwise hidden by the dark obscurity of museums.

Musquiqui Chihying is a filmmaker and visual artist based in Taipei and Berlin. He explores the cultural and social identities constructed through the flow and circulation of audiovisual elements in physical and virtual spacetime. Specialising in the use of multimedia such as film and sound, he investigates the human condition and environmental system in the age of global capitalisation and engages in the inquiry of and research on issues of subjectivity in contemporary social culture in the Global South. His works have been shown in several international institutions and film festivals, such as Centre Pompidou in Paris, 2020 International Film Festival Rotterdam, 68th Berlinale, 2016 Taipei Biennial, 10th Shanghai Biennale etc. He is shortlisted for the 2019 Berlin Art Prize and the winner of the Loop Barcelona Video Art Production Award 2019 from Han Nefkens Foundation in collaboration with the Fundació Joan Miró. He is a member of the Taiwanese art group Fuxinghen Studio, and the founder of the Research Lab of Image and Sound.

I don’t know if it is possible to abolish art history altogether. It’s almost like you are erasing part of yourself. Look at me, I come from Zambia. I’ve got two things, a British colonial heritage, but then I also have my indigeneity, I am neither proud nor ashamed of having a colonial heritage. It’s history that my ancestors have lived and experienced. I carry the trauma of the brutality, the plundering and pillaging colonial history caused. And still, I am a product of that system that seems to have carried on even after the decoloni­zation from settler colonization. So, I would like to have an open dialogue where everyone can take responsibility for their part, and all the unpleasantness associated with the histories that make us who we are, to rewrite the misread or missing contexts. If we are to rethink art history, we will find several references coming from outside Western knowledge. We all have the responsibility to question the historical legacy that we have collectively inherited. “ What can art do? … and other investigations, Anwana Haloba interviewed by Jessica Lauren Elizabeth Taylor, Billedkunst, 2021 https://www.norskebilledkunstnere.no/billedkunst/aktuelt/what-can-art-do-and-other-investigations-with-anawana-haloba/.

Anawana Haloba (Livingstone, Zambia, 1978) lives and works in Oslo and Livingstone. Haloba’s work has been shown in institution such as Centre Pompidou, France; Oslo Kunstforening, Norway: GAMeC, Italy; SKMU Sørlandets Kunstmuseum, Kristiansand, Norway; National Museum of African Arts Smithsonian Institute, US; the Rauma Biennale, Finland; ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art, Germany; Museum Berardo Collection, Portugal; la Biennale di Venezia, 2009; Sydney Biennale 2008; Manifesta 7; the Sharjah Biennial 8th, 11th and 14th editions, as well as the biennales in Sao Paulo, 2016; Shanghai, 2016; Lyon, 2017; and the Bucharest Biennale, 2021. She co-founded Livingstone Office for Contemporary Arts (LoCA) in 2014 as an artist-initiated non-profit library and research centre, collective/collaborative platform for reflections and an experimental think-tank, exploring histories (colonial histories, social and political histories and their legacies) and how they relate to language and contemporary art.

Practices of rupture.
Toward a reparative justice

Sunday, 21 November, 2021, 3pm to dinner

Practices of rupture, metaphors of destruction, even acts of symbolic vandalism, have come to be associated with radical artistic practices banging at the doors of museums for their demands for a reparative justice to be given credence. A painting titled Trauma 2 by Jermay Michael Gabriel on display in Milan, is a double-representation of trauma. During an action by Khadim Loume and Jermay Michael Gabriel, the painting of a lady’s face is razor-cut at the neck and the supporting frame has been bared. It may seem that in order to begin to repair, the continuum of hegemonic epistemologies (with which museums have carried on working with historic collections) first need to be torn apart, their structures revealed.

From that disordering rupture, may, perhaps, come repair. A methodology for repair has been theorised by Anawana Haloba within an exhibition-artwork, titled, How to re(pair) my grandmother’s basket. An experimental opera (2021), open at Archive Milan till 28 November 2021. In this work, the artist proposes along with the poet and scholar Harry Garuba that decolonialism (or repair) can only happen if the needs and interests of the epistemologically disenfranchised can be put at the forefront of knowledge production. The idea of repair and healing, exceeds restitution, to seek how we narrate objects. The shorthand for Haloba’s method is to ‘(re)pair’, to pair together again, to bring a comparative, double-view to any knowledge. To pair any fact of history, with that from another episteme. If the museum needs to be repaired, it must be paired with other historic examples of the museum as it functions in other geographies, at other times. To repair opera, Haloba proposes we read it as a plural form, present in cultures around the world. In pairing knowledge, we non-violently, and movingly, break the epistemological foothold. (ZC)

Archive fellow, artist Alessandra Ferrini, curates the first section of the study day with artistic interventions and discussion with invited speakers Lucrezia Cippitelli, Benjamina Efua Dadzie, and Jermay Michael Gabriel. Their session is followed by interventions by local, recently formed artist collectives Ambaradan think tank and Poly Marchantia. The study day closes with a screening of a video by Chihying Musquiqui and an intervention by Anawana Haloba.

This study day and dinner is collectively proposed by the Archive Milano ensemble with Archive fellow, Alessandra Ferrini. Archive Milano ensemble is Leila Bencharnia, Zasha Colah, Lilia Di Bella, Matilde Doni, Chiara Figone, Miriam Gatt, Soyeon Lee, Gaia Martino, Rebeca Yun Hee Pak, Iman Salem, Francesca Verga.

All the interventions of the study day will be broadcast live as audio podcasts, in collaboration with the sound engineer Danilo Randazzo.