Temporary art exhibit at Villa Medici sparks conversation on colonialism

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27/09/2022
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This concrete path you see is no longer here. Until a few days ago, it covered one of the staircases in the Villa Medici in Rome as a temporary art exhibit. It now lives on in the memory of those who have walked along it.

The work is called 'Another Road' and its mission is to break down the stereotypes of those who have walked the path. The artist believes it is very difficult to talk about the colonial past in Europe. He wants to encourage people to discuss what was once taboo. 

IVÁN ARGOTE
Colombian sculptor
I used this space to put a word on each step and to create a sentence that you read as you walk along that path.

We can still ask and talk about these things; we can still shake hands; we can still move and change things.

Iván Argote is Colombian. He has collaborated with 15 other artists in the exhibition entitled, Étincelles / Scintille, which means “sparks.”

For a year, the artists studied in Rome with the support of the French Ministry of Culture. To work on the exhibition, being French was not a requirement, but speaking the language was. At the end of the program, they placed the work in the distinguished palace that houses the French Academy in Rome. Many of the artists want to spark discussions about colonialism and slavery with their work. 

SAVERIO VERINI
Curator of the exhibition
Questions are asked about France's past in particular, but also of Europe in general. For example, Nidhal Chamekh's work starts with the bust of (Jean-Baptiste) Colbert, a French politician of the mid-17th century linked to the code noir or the black code.

The code noir was a series of laws and directions for the treatment of African slaves in the French colonies. In this work by artist Nidhal Chamekh, which was also part of the exhibition, a black liquid stains the bust of Colbert, who contributed greatly to segregation in France.

Iván Argote appreciates his colleagues' work. He believes that Europe still has a long way to go, but he also thinks that some heads of state—the Pope in particular—are doing their part.

IVÁN ARGOTE
Colombian sculptor
One topic that is very common for the Pope to speak about is the relationship with migrants. I think it is very good that this papacy has been up front about it. Also, as a European institution, the Vatican has put the issue of migrants on the table.

Argote is concerned about the rise of different attitudes surrounding these difficult topics in Europe. He considers it essential to be able to talk calmly about history, without seeing criticism as a personal attack.  

IVÁN ARGOTE
Colombian sculptor
Lately, in many places in Europe, a lot of political games are being played with the notion of identity. 'Who are we? We are under attack; our people are changing, we are being invaded.' Sometimes, these discourses are portrayed in a difficult way, where you can't discuss anything and nothing can be questioned.

He had hope that his work would serve to open 'another path' to dialogue. Now that it has been taken down, it is up to others to build a new one.

RM

TR: AT

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