The Broken Archive brings together artistic projects that investigate the history of and present-day life in the Mediterranean region.

The archive is “broken” because the region’s cultural wealth is barely perceived anymore. The Mediterranean region has become a buffer zone between the comfort zone of the North and the conflict zone of the South. 

The archive is also “broken” because the website is designed not as a canonical archive, but as an open, variable, dense network.

A variety of artistic projects is organized into twelve cluster terms. These projects are presented with images, texts, PDFs, and films or trailers on the corresponding artists’ pages. Keywords and a search function offer additional orientation and a range of references. 

The Broken Archive seeks to create rhizomatic references across the transcontinental Mediterranean region. Artistic works and texts emerge like archipelagos in search of community, resonance, connection.

The Broken Archive is a project curated by the Villa Romana team. As a starting point, it brings together the numerous projects that have been carried out here in recent years. The intention is to develop it in a dynamic and interactive manner and offer a common platform to many other artists and projects to come.

Please contact us at: brokenarchive@villaromana.org

Angelika Stepken, Agnes Stillger (until 2021), Davood Madadpoor

The Broken Archive: Lectures, discussions

In a series of four video conferences, artists and activists talk about the violence of hegemonic narratives, concepts of alternative image politics and fictional narratives, and the importance of archives in the Mediterranean region.

Visual Politics of (Im-)Mobility (2020)

With Costanza Caraffa, Mohamed Keita, Armin Linke, Massimo Ricciardo, #everydaygolshahr (Reza Haidari), moderated by Elena Agudio

What role do images play in the production of meaning and the identity politics of nation states? In Italy, widely circulated tourism images are juxtaposed with photographs constantly reproduced in the media showing the arrival of refugees on Italian coasts. Their contents seem incompatible. In what contexts are these images shown, what is not visible and why were they made and reproduced?

Subjects from the Renaissance are fundamental to Italy’s national visual politics – and thanks to the medium of photography, these images are omnipresent. The tourism industry ensures that these same visual narratives of tourist highlights appear on the souvenir photos of the millions of vacationers in Italy. Tourists’ mobility, taken for granted as it is, contrasts the images in the media of refugees arriving on Italy’s coasts after months of life-threatening treks to then hold out in refugee camps with no certainties for the future. The migration debate has been politicized and polarized in the media discussions largely through these images, especially via social media.

In their conversation, the contributors will examine these visual politics and their instrumentalization: How are images linked with national narratives, memory politics, economic interests and populist exploitation? What strategies could circumvent these mechanisms? How can alternative visual narratives be developed?

The art historian Costanza Caraffa analyzes national visual politics and the mobilization of visual narratives. The artist Massimo Ricciardo presents silent testimonies to displacement from his collection Objects of Escape – Inventories of Migration and Reza Haidari from the #everydaygolshahr network tells of the unseen daily routine in a refugee camp in Iran.

Black Italy (2020)

With Ingrid Greenfield, Angelica Pesarini, Maria Stella Rognoni, Eike Schmidt, Justin Randolph Thompson, moderated by Angelika Stepken

Establishing and updating history is both a form of erasure and loss. For centuries, Italy has been a country of immigration; one fifth of foreign citizens in Italy today are of African origin. Yet the cultures of African Diasporic communities have been disregarded in the canon. How – and by whom – can history be retold?

Traces of the African Diaspora remain largely invisible – since the colonial conquests until today. If at all, they can be found in neglected archives from the colonial era. Their presence in museum collections remains silent. Thus, a canon is (re-)produced that permanently excludes countless actors and legacies of the past. How are archives, collections and museums involved in these processes?

Since 2016, the African-American artist Justin Randolph Thompson has built a network for Black cultural production with his Black History Month Florence initiative, which celebrates the diversity of Italy’s African diasporic cultures. With the project On Being Present: Recovering Blackness in the Uffizi Galleries, his research has now also involved the “canon” itself: The virtual exhibition project with the Uffizi analyzes the previously voiceless representation of Black Lives in the museum’s collection of paintings, thus opening up new access to a different historiography.

With other experts, he discusses the visualization of Blackness in the self-image of the Renaissance city of Florence and one of the most important European art collections. How can past and present open up new perspectives beyond colonial hegemony?

Archival Absence (2021)

With Bassel Al Saadi, Fehras Publishing Practices, Ghassan Halwani, United for Intercultural Action (Balint Josa), moderated by Marwa Arsanios

What remembrance practices do societies develop that possess no (state) archives or have no access to them? How is testimony preserved and remembered there? Does the public have a right to archives? What role do initiatives by artists, researchers and activists play?

As public institutions, archives can contribute to the development of collective memory and to the discourse on cultural and national identities. Such archival sites are often lacking in the countries of the southern Mediterranean and the Middle East: European colonial policy did not allow independent historiography in the regions, with far-reaching consequences up to the present day. Today, archives there are created and maintained mainly by private initiatives. But such collections are vulnerable and often subject to loss and destruction in the course of political conflicts.

The artist collective Fehras Publishing Projects offers insights into its collection practice and artistic engagement with archival materials. Ghassan Halwani uses his film Erased, ____ Ascent of the Invisible (2018) to tell how the memory of those missing from the Lebanese civil war is kept alive.The artist Bassel Al Saadi reports on an archive project meant to reflect the history of art and the loss of cultural heritage in Syria for the first time. Balint Josa from United for Intercultural Action Action speaks about the work on a list that has documented deaths of people in connection with European border policy since 1993.