Sight Unseen

2019

Video

Omar al-Mukhtar (1885 – 1931) was the leader of the organised resistance against the Italian colonisation of Libya (1911 – 1943). He became the symbol of Libyan people’s resilience and has been greatly celebrated and exploited both by the Gaddafi’s regime and the armed groups currently fighting over the control of the Libyan territory. In Italy, his name remains unknown – yet, it briefly appeared in the media during Gaddafi’s first visit to Italy in 2009. Sight Unseen explores the concealment and appropriation around the memory and documentation of Mukhtar’s final days and spectacularised state killing, through the analysis of visual and material culture that has been subject to either manipulation or obfuscation in Italy. These materials include the most complete – but legally unpublishable – series of images of Mukhtar’s capture and execution; Mukhtar’s contested glasses and purse, the Hollywood production The Lion of the Desert and Monumento al Carabinire, a memorial to Italian armed forces in Turin. In this way, Sight Unseen attempts to portray the carefully orchestrated politics of visibility and invisibility that shape the memory of colonial trauma in Italy.

The work tests the viewer’s patience and expectation, by never fully revealing the images that are being described. The voiceover, however, is able to evoke the images and allows to create a mental image in the viewer. By doing so, it attempts to overcome the censorship over such images that, because of a copyright limbo, cannot be published. As a result of this ban, they cannot act as proof to this historical event that dictated the end of two decades of Libyan resistance to the Italian occupation, nor can they make visible the sheer and calculated violence at the core of this operation. The spectacularisarion of Mukhtar’s execution also provides evidence of the role played by visuality in asserting colonial violence.

Sight Unseen, video, 2019, 18’5”, trailer

Alessandra Ferrini

Alessandra Ferrini is a London-based artist, researcher and educator. Her practice is rooted in lens-based media, anti-colonial and memory studies, historiographical and archival practices. Her research investigates Italian foreign and racial politics, notions of resistance, self-reflexive and positioned cultural activism. In particular, her work is concerned with questioning the legacies of Italian colonialism and fascism, with a specific interest in the past and present relations between Italy and the African continent. Her work has featured in international exhibitions, screenings and conferences, including A-i- R Wro (Wroclaw European Capital of Culture, Poland in 2016), 16th Rome Quadriennale (Rome, 2016-17), Document Film Festival (CCA Glasgow, Scotland in 2017), Royal Anthropological Film Festival (Bristol, United Kingdon in 2017), Manifesta 12 Film Programme (Palermo, Italy in 2018), 6th Taiwan International Video Art Exhibition (2018 – 19) and Sharjah Film Platform (United Arab Emirates in 2019).

 

Sight Unseen

Sight Unseen, video, 2019, 18’5”, trailer