contemporary art / history of art

Virginia Zanetti

Born in 1981 in Fiesole, Italy, Virginia Zanetti studied painting at the Accademia di belle arti (Academy of fine Arts) of Florence. After this first degree, she made her master in art didactics and gained the teaching license for instructing art and art history. Additionally, she made a diploma in advertising graphics at the Art Lycée in Florence and a Master in Art teaching methods at the Forcom University in Rome. Since her early career, she collaborates with national and international institutions for lessons, workshops, laboratories, residencies and exhibitions. Besides many solo shows, she participated in numerous group exhibitions in Italy, but also in several European countries and in India and Mexico. She is co-founder of the Estuario project space in Prato and of the Laboratory of the Future, a discussion platform for an exchange about themes of our actual time.

Virginia’s artistic and didactic activities are characterised by a strong focus on participation and long-term interventions. At the same time, her works are a deep reflection on society, relationship, culture and humanity. They are documented by photos and videos. Already one of her earliest projects (2010-2014), “Curating the Curator”, included contributions of various artists, curators and intellectuals. During the group exhibition “Souk” in Florence in 2011, she published her private telephone number with her contribution “ChiAMAMI (CallME). In doing so, she invited the audience to call her for an exchange about her work or secret laws of the existence.

Several of her projects became even more participative. For her installation “The Eyes of the World” (2013), the artist asked the inhabitants of Latronico to write their memories or personal or imaginary stories about the places where she installed 12 round mirrors in the landscape in and around the village. For her performance “The Landscape / The Body asks” (2015, Teatro Studio Krypton in Scandicci) Virginia involved the public even more. Here the audience became protagonist, lying down on the stage floor. It was an emotional and aesthetic experience, for both the artist and the participants.

Started in 2016 in India, “The Pillars of the Earth” is a still ongoing project. The locations are chosen by their particular importance for the people of the area. In India it was a Dolomite Mine in Paradsinga, close to Madhya Pradesh, in Cosenza, Italy a mafia managed sand factory and in Sabbiuno, also Italy the Parco dei Calanchi, with its partisan memorial. One of the photos shot here is our artwork of the month / May 2021. Before the proper action, the participants meet for a preparing workshop, for an exchange about the significance of the location. Afterwards, the performers all make a handstand at the predefined place. Afterwards, the recorded photos and videos are presented upside down, so that it looks as if the people are carrying the ground. It is an invitation to reverse the personal perspective. In doing so, one might explore individual and collective potentials to contribute to the society.

In 2018 and 2019, Virginia invited residents and migrants living in Palermo (Spazio Y-Bordercrossing, Manifesta 12) and Zurich (IIC – Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Zurich – Migration Museum – OnCurating Space) to an embroidery on an ultramarine blue fabric. Symbolising the sea and the ecosystem as origin of living beings, the blue cloth was decorated by golden stars. During the process, the participants could exchange experiences related to the sea as a projection of memories and desires. As the title “Abysses” indicates, there might be also negative associations, which might be overcome by the collective experience and the conclusive action: “raised towards the sky, the blue of the abyss becomes sky itself, supported by the same people who have imagined it. A sky full of new meanings in a delicate balance between space and time.” the artist stated in her portfolio.

During the lockdown due to the corona-crisis, Virginia rediscovered poems as a good possibility to transcend time and embroidery as a kind of meditation. First, she stitched her own thoughts in golden threads on her personal clothes, later she invited others to do the same. In summer 2020, she made the workshop “Be a Poem”, within the summer school of the Villa Romana in Florence. Here the participants embroidered their garments with thoughts about the isolation because of the pandemic. In a final performance, the worn poems were presented. The action was part of the ARKAD project in occasion of the Manifesta 13 in Marseille 2020. “Be a Poem” also became the title of her latest solo exhibition, which will take place in the Palazzo D’Accursio, Bologna, opening on 7th of May 2021.

Virginia lives and works in Prato, Italy.

Artwork of the Month / May 2021