Silvia Rosi


Exhibition review by Mariacarla Molè

Silvia Rosi’s exhibition at Collezione Maramotti in Reggio Emilia showcases 34 artworks across four rooms, unified by the theme of vanishing identity and fractured representation. The collection features photographs from families of African descent in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy that portray the vitality and resilience of the diaspora community. Through her art Rosi serves as a conduit to this history as she connects to the story contained in her family album, reports Mariacarla Molè.

Mariacarla Molè | Exhibition review | 20 June 2024

As a viewer of Silvia Rosi’s Disintegrata at Collezione Maramotti in Reggio Emilia, you become aware of the urge to piece together parts of a whole. The 34 artworks displayed in the four rooms appear to tell four distinct stories, yet they all share a common concept: the disappearance of a clear-cut representation of identity, which in turn becomes disintegrated, as implied by the title. Consequently, the exhibition presents photographic and video works that, despite being united by the word ‘disintegrata’, have a strong fragmented quality that is dispersed throughout the four rooms.

At first glance, the landscape photos in the initial room may leave you feeling disoriented, since the overall exhibition is billed as a project featuring archival photographs of the African diaspora in Italy, which the artist collected between 2023 and 2024. In fact, the first room is predominantly filled with black and white as well as coloured landscape photos, alongside videos, all from the series titled Disintegrata nel Paesaggio. These works mostly consist of images of Rosi’s figure crossing deserted green landscapes from the edge of time. The green colours are vibrant in the giclee prints, while the videos remain silent. In this scenario, the human figure seems unable to assert itself on the landscape; it can only pass through it. However, even when the human figure is caught posing, it appears to blend into the landscape: in one image, a figure with their back turned stands against a grassy landscape, and the texture of their coat merges with that of the grass. In another image, Rosi lies on the grass in the same coat, seemingly completely engulfed by it.

The desire to explore the landscape is new in Silvia Rosi’s practice and can be traced back to the theme of Fotografia Europea 2024, of which Disintegrata is a part: La natura ama nascondersi (Nature loves to hide), quoting Heraclitus, which assembles a series of solo and group exhibitions that thematise the sense of interdependence of every life form on Earth as part of a larger living organism. Some other elements resonate with those familiar with Rosi’s work, such as the tension of removing disturbing elements from the background, the coexistence of colour and black-and-white and her own presence, even if it is particularly elusive here, as if to underline the frustration towards self-portraiture and self-representation which becomes more and more slippery. Perhaps a clue to the direction her work is taking?

In the second room, it is easier to recognise Rosi’s work as it can be traced back to her analogue studio portraiture, which she then digitises, not to mention the clearly visible self-timer cable which is another characteristic element of her self-portraiture. The images constructed in the studio make use of single-colour drapes or essential decorations with geometric black-and-white patterns on the floor, such as checkered rhombuses and dots, and elegant outfits. In one image, Rosi shows off a wedding dress, in another a wig, and in another an elegant trouser suit. These are all meant to demonstrate adherence to specific historical periods – the first: the 1990s when her parents moved from Togo to Italy, and the second: studio portrait photography of 60s post-colonial West Africa. The environment of each image is bare, inhabited only by Rosi and individual objects such as a bike, a wedding dress, bedside tables loaded with framed family photos, an old hairdresser’s helmet and two old suitcases. All of these elements were extracted from Rosi’s family album to be reactivated with a stage-like quality. Reading the captions pays off as each self-portrait is a version of her ‘disintegrated’ presence. When translated, the titles read ‘Disintegrated with Family Photos’, ‘Italian Bride Disintegrated’ and ‘Disintegrated in Profile’, which represent splinters of possible worlds. Her figure, although omnipresent, seems to want to escape from the camera, often with her back turned or her face hidden behind objects like a flower, a shoulder, a helmet or a pack of Agfa photographic paper. The reference to Malick Sidibé’s photography is clear. However, unlike the photographer who used objects to reveal the pride of his portrayed subjects, Rosi uses them as a portal through which to connect to the story contained in her family archive. This allows her to pose in her parents’ clothes, so as to discover the history of her family, starting from the photographs in her album, through her body and the history of the diaspora, which was kept silent for a long time. She only experienced the aftermath of this history.

The interest in family albums is reignited in a collection of photographs from the 90s that Rosi, along with a team of researchers, gathered from families of African descent in the Emilia Romagna area, where she hails from. Palpable is the desire to create a disintegrated archive in a national territory that comes together via an openness to share and donate personal images. As someone who grew up in the early 90s, these poses and scenarios are very familiar: scenes of trips out of town, standing and posing in front of a landscape, in the centre of a square, or leaning against a car. Moments of celebration or simple daily life. The vitality is feverish, and they seem to say: “We are here and we are fine.” From the collection of work that Rosi amassed with the researchers, it emerged that these photos were often sent to relatives in Africa, accompanied by audio cassettes in which they recounted their stories. And this element seems to spill over into the video housed in the last room, where a three-part split screen shows a tape recorder on one side, with Rosi listening to the recorded voice through the headphones on the opposite side, while in the middle, the voice transcription of four different letters written between 1982 and 2000, read by the people who received them, telling stories of diaspora. You can sense their discomfort in speaking French, since it is not their first language. As a result, the communication might not be very fluent, but it is always sincere. They express gratitude, poverty, determination and worry. At this point, you feel conscious of being invited to assemble pieces, like an interpreter in photographs and a listener in videos, as Rosi seems to be doing to the world around her. ♦

All images courtesy the artist and Collezione Maramotti. © Silvia Rosi

Disintegrata runs at Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, until 28 July.

Mariacarla Molè is an art writer based in Turin.

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Lina Pallotta


Book review by Mariacarla Molè

An exhibition at Centro Pecci in Prato, Italy, and accompanying book published by Nero brings together nearly three decades of work from Lina Pallotta centred on the artist’s friendship with Italian trans activist Porpora Marcasciano. What emerges is a family album shaped by alliances, complicit looks and shared visions; a newfound space of fabulousness, writes Mariacarla Molè.

Mariacarla Molè | Book review | 18 Sept 2023

“Among the roses and the violets” is the title of a nursery rhyme that little girls used to sing whilst playing “Ring a Ring o’ Roses” in kindergarten. A sweet image that turns bitter in Porpora Marcasciano’s memory of a little child rebuked by nuns, mocked by other children for being a little boy in the circle of girls and thus forced to sing alone and dream in the privacy of the bedroom. And among the roses and the violets seems to have bloomed the lilies, such as in the first image of Porpora by Nero, a project that collects black-and-white analogue photographs that Lina Pallotta has taken of the Italian trans activist Porpora Marcasciano between 1990 and 2018, with text contributions by Porpora herself, Kae Tempest, Raffaella Perna and Allen Frame. The story’s flow slowly reveals her face, and, before it is fully disclosed, identifies a barely hidden profile, some home interiors and the apostles on top of the Church of San Giovanni Laterano in Rome, one of the cities in which the friendship between Porpora and Pallotta emerged. It has been nourished by revolutionary dreams, irreparable losses, class consciousness and euphoria.

Porpora lived in Rome for 17 years but founded, in 1979, the first gay collective Il narciso in Bologna, where she contributed to the birth of the movement Movimento Identità Trans (MIT), of which she is now president. In New York, where Pallotta went to study at the International Center of Photography (ICP) and lived for many years, she had many visits from Marcasciano, as well as in San Bartolomeo in Galdo (Porpora’s hometown), and in San Salvatore Telesino (Pallotta’s hometown), both in the same southern Italian province of Benevento in the Campania region. It is the geography of a history of activism, of a life, of a friendship told through images without following a chronological order. It’s a story with a slow and recessed beginning, that narrates a material presence, a tenacious presence, proving an existence, even in the flowers, reflected in other people, in the empty streets, in Rome’s 2011 Europride crowd, in the flooding Tiber River and in the wide landscapes of Benevento. We see Porpora blurred in the foreground, looking at the camera, looking elsewhere, melancholy and barely visible in the grainy dark. The darkness and grittiness of the photographs, exalted by the porosity of paper, are due to the missed use of the flash and of the long exposure, in order to capture the movement in the images.

In Pallotta’s photographs, there’s nothing it is not in reality, no composition, no additional light, no static objects. Indeed, Pallotta places an absolute identity between the image and the movement, with the intention of catching the eternal and incessant modulation of a reality that changes infinitely. Images are restless, considered as parts of the eternal march of time. The photographs thus are dirty, grainy and chaotic because reality is dirty, grainy and chaotic. And any form of overlapping images is not an effect of post-production but the result of errors, unforeseen events with the camera that have been accepted within an artistic practice, as they were parts of reality. That is the case with two photographs taken in Bologna in 2015. In the first, Porpora is in the centre of the frame, and nearby her right shoulder seems to have opened a window onto another view, with another light, orientation and subject. In the second, even more chaotic, it is possible to identify an overlapping vehicle, one issue of Babilonia on the ledge – one of the most important gay Italian periodicals – a window, Porpora sitting in front a little mirror that looks like a little inflatable pool, some branches or maybe just their shadows, some clouds or maybe just their reflection. What emerges is how Pallota’s cinematographic approach is able to move things from their statis and return them to their multifaceted reality precisely by virtue of the camera.

Pallota manages to show the artificiality of the static nature of the subject-object relationship and transform it into something closer and intimate. At this level, it is not even possible to speak of “portraits”, “intimate shots” or “engaged photographs” because it is as if everything were a world of universal variation, universal undulation, universal lapping: there is no genre, no themes, no chronology, no beginning, middle nor end, and, in turn, no chance at all of nostalgia. It is a story that does not have a privileged point of view, which seems to have come from behind the scenes; a story sometimes opaque which gradually opens up to welcome other people inside, such as loved ones, friends, activists – and above all Marcella Di Folco, the Italian gay rights activist, actor and politician. The public dimension then spreads in the book session dedicated to the material archive linked to the history of the LGBTQ+ Movement, in the same spirit in which Porpora collects oral sources and documentation for the reconstruction of a trans story. A book that has only a name on the cover, Porpora, cannot tell a story by the voice of a single narrator, not even that of a long-lasting friend such as Pallotta. In the last photograph, indeed, the only one taken by a common friend on a rooftop in New York in 1996, we see Lina and Porpora very close to each other. Lina is looking straight into the camera with her head on Porpora’s shoulder who, in turn, points a camera at the lens and seems to look us through the camera lens, making us part of the story.

This idea extends to the exhibition at Centro Pecci, Prato, Italy, Volevo vedermi negli occhi, the first solo exhibition in an Italian public institution of Pallotta, curated by Michele Bertolino and Elena Magini: the desire to see yourself reflected in others’ eyes, and again we are part of a story that can only be multiple beginnings, multiple points, multiple times. In the curved and organic space of Pecci, Porpora’s photographs progressively unveil the material presence of the photograph. The large format prints placed on the floor supporting one another, together with the small format ones hanging on the wall, create multiple paths and different readings. The exhibition is thus palindromic, the idea behind it being the loss of a privileged perspective, moving the only way forward. Owing to the fact that movement is the core of Pallotta’s photography, whilst in Porpora’s experience trans is meant as moving, in transit, releasing the tension between the two poles of the gender binarism. Freestanding photographs are witnesses of a life of militancy which has gone through attempts of removal and the research of a vocabulary, to reclaim their own existence, but also through what Porpora calls “fabulousness”. One image in particular seems to contain all this richness, the one taken in Rome in 2011 in which Porpora is behind the glass putting up a poster of Divergenti, an international festival of trans cinema, conceived by MIT in Bologna. Reflected in the glass vehicles and palaces, the flowing city, beyond the glass, Porpora’s face is looking down, focused on what hands do: to project her vision on the entire city. That is an image of one of many little moments travelling in the stubborn direction to create other worlds, other visions, and not only in terms of cinema.

It is almost impossible to give an univocal interpretation to Pallotta’s photographic narrative of Porpora, as much as it is difficult to give a definitive reading to the scenes taken by her. Some will read this path as a diary of a collective body. Others will see in it a single story of a single person. I prefer to read it as a family album, a family shaped by alliances, complicit looks and shared visions, a family meant as a newfound space of fabulousness. ♦

All images courtesy the artist, Nero and Centro Pecci, Prato, Italy © Lina Pallotta

Porpora is published by Nero. Volevo Vedermi negli occhi runs at Centro Pecci, Prato, Italy, until 15 October 2023.

Mariacarla Molè is an art writer based in Turin.


1-Lina Pallotta, Piazza San Giovanni, Roma, Europride, 2011.

2-Lina Pallotta, San Salvatore Telesino, 2000

3-Lina Pallotta, Bologna, 2015

4-Lina Pallotta, Porpora and Valerie, 1994

5-Lina Pallotta, Roma, 1990

6-Lina Pallotta, New York, 1993

7-Lina Pallotta, Roma, Tevere, 1996

8-Lina Pallotta, Terranova Bracciolini, 2008

9-Lina Pallotta, Porpora, Roberta and Lucrezia, 1990

10-Lina Pallotta, Roma, Cattedrale di San Pietro, 1996

11-Lina Pallotta, San Bartolomeo in Galdo, 2018