I participated in the creation of a video art piece with an Italian photographer, Marco Ambrosi, and his colleagues, Laura Toffaleti and Caterina Parona, who form the art collective “Officina delle Nuvole.” We were part of a group show called “Resignifications,” curated by Awam Amkpa, head of African Studies at NYU. It will be shown all summer in Florence at the Museo Bardini, as well as at a private art gallery in the city, then will move on to New York in the fall.

The opening of the show coincided with a three-day conference, also organized by NYU. The First Lady of New York City, Chirlane McCray, gave the keynote address on the opening night.

The theme of of both the show and the conference is the representation of Africans in art, using a collection of Blackamoor statues housed at Villa La Pietra —where New York University runs their Florence program— as a point of inspiration. Blackamoors are very ornate, decorative objects depicting Africans in roles of servitude, sort of 18-century “lawn jockeys.” Most of the works in the show are by African-American artists and photographers, including Gordon Parks, who worked for Life Magazine, and more infamously, was the director of the movie “Shaft.”

It may not have reached the headline news in the States, but Italy is really dealing with a huge humanitarian crisis. Thousands of migrants are coming from North Africa and Syria seeking political asylum, many traveling on overcrowded and rickety boats. More than 70,000 people have arrived this year. Since January, almost 2000 have drowned or died from sickness and dehydration. The video piece, called “In-Flux”, uses the Blackamoors as protagonists in a dreamy four scene parable that comments on Europe’s past and present role in the affairs of Africa (our use of its resources and people amongst other things) and our responsibility for its welfare.

—Lawren Spera

Here’s a little more info about the show: https://www.artbiagiotti.com/en/opening-resignifications-venerdi-29-maggio-2015-ore-18-30/

And a write-up in The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/may/31/exhibit-italian-villa-art-objectification-black-body-resignifications-blackamoors-nyu