Art-Anthropology Interventions in the Italian Post-Colony
In this essay Arnd Schneider provides a critical analysis of a collaborative research project with artists Leone Contini in the colonial collections of the Italian National Ethnographic Museum L. Pigorini in Rome, that was part of the EU Horizon 2020 TRACES project.
This essay discusses a recent “art/anthropology intervention” where Arnd Schneider, together with artist Leone Contini, investigated collections of the former Italian Institute of Africa and the Orient / African Colonial Museum (as part of TRACES/EU Horizon 2020).
These collections are now in storage in the National Museum of Ethnography L. Pigorini (Museo delle Civiltà), and other institutions in Rome – still largely inaccessible to the public, and equivalent to a ‘Scattered Colonial Body’.
A central focus of the research (and featured in an exhibition in 2017) were the facial plaster masks, executed during expeditions by Italian anthropologists to Libya, in the 1920s and 1930s, often with an agenda of scientific racism. In a series of performances, and installation devices these masks are critically examined, constructed and reconstructed in the exhibition, and like other elements of research and exhibition open up the discussion of this kind of contested, indeed neglected heritage and museum institutions in today’s post-colonial context in Italy and beyond.