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Date(s) - 31 Marzo 2021
17:00 - 18:00

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© foto:, Occupation of the Teatro Valle, Rome.


On 14 June 2011 Teatro Valle (Rome) was occupied by a group of artists, entertainment workers, activists and citizens aiming to trigger a cultural revolution. Teatro Valle became an ideal space in which to imagine new forms of social commitment and participatory democracy. In their lecture, Prof. Chiara De Cesari and Dr. Aria Spinelli will present ongoing research concerning specifically the Italian case study of how art can reimagine institutions in the context of ongoing state transformation (postcolonial, postsocialist, neoliberal), and how it can affect the political imagination, institutional change, and citizenship.

While recent interventions in art and political theory foreground the role of contemporary art in rethinking politics from below, there is a dearth of empirical studies of how this happens in the everyday practices of artists and political movements. To fill this gap, the IMAGINART project offers an anthropological study of the role of artistic practices in reimagining transforming polities. Examining the connection between the so-called social turn in art and dissolving or mutating social infrastructures, the project focuses on three art worlds that have figured prominently in recent protest movements against state repression, corruption, or neoliberal restructuring in Italy, Lebanon/the West Bank, and Hungary. The central research objective is to understand how art can reimagine institutions in the context of ongoing state transformation (postcolonial, postsocialist, neoliberal), and how it can affect the political imagination, institutional change, and citizenship. Chiara De Cesari and Aria Spinelli will present  ongoing research concerning specifically the Italian case study.

Chiara De Cesari is Associate Professor in European Studies and Cultural Studies at the University of Amsterdam. Her wide-ranging research explores how forms of memory, heritage, art, and cultural politics are shifting under conditions of contemporary globalization and state transformation. One strand of work explores how artists and activists are reclaiming and reinventing cultural institutions. Chiara is leading a major NWO-funded project on this theme, named “Imagining Institutions Otherwise.” Another concerns the transnational politics of memory and cultural heritage, above all in the West Bank. Her monograph, Heritage and the Cultural Struggle for Palestine (Stanford UP, 2019), argues that Palestinian civil society has enrolled museums and urban regeneration initiatives to assert its distinct cultural heritage amid the enduring Israeli occupation. Still another focuses on colonial legacies in contemporary Europe. Chiara is currently co-writing another monograph, provisionally titled Curating the Colonial, which explores how museums are reframing colonial histories in response to postcolonial critiques. Across these interests, Chiara has published many articles in journals such as American Anthropologist, Current Anthropology, and Memory Studies, and co-edited two key volumes in memory studies (European Memory in Populism, Routledge, 2019; Transnational Memory, de Gruyter, 2014) and a special issue of the International Journal of Heritage Studies on urban heritage and gentrification (2018). Committed to international and interdisciplinary collaboration, she has been involved in several major international research projects. Currently, she is part of the HERA’s “en/counter/points” project, the Trans-Atlantic Platform for Social Innovation’s “Worlding Public Cultures” network, and the “Pressing Matter: Ownership, Value and the Question of Colonial Heritage in Museums” NWO NWA project.

Aria Spinelli is an independent curator and a PostDoc Researcher at the University of Amsterdam. Her PhD analysed relations of curatorial practice to social imagination and performativity. Her main area of research is the investigation of the relationship between art, activism and political theory. She holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in art history, visual arts and curatorial studies. Founding member of the artistic and curatorial collective Radical Intention, from 2018 top 2020 she was associate researcher and member of the curatorial team of the project The Independent at the MAXXI – Museum of the XXI century for art (Rome) . Between 2015 and 2020 she collaborated as external curator at the Pistoletto Foundation (Biella) and BOZAR, Center for Fine Arts (Brussels). She has published many
articles and she is the editor of the publication ‘Shaping Desired Futures’ (NERO, 2018). Between 2009 and 2012 she was curator at the Isola Art Center (Milan).