An acclaimed Italian artist who passed away last year, Chiara Fumai is remembered for her fiercely feminist lectures involving magic, ghosts, and the occult. Through these powerful lecture-performances, she explored themes of radical feminism and esotericism, language, and representation via the infamous archetype of the “female psychic.” Channeling various forgotten entities, the artist would combine their voices and stories into new and loaded narratives, frequently deconstructing ideologies that have impeded women’s empowerment.
Fumai's work will soon be on view at the International Studio & Curatorial Program in New York, in the artist's first solo exhibition on the continent. Titled Less Light, it will bring together two of Fumai’s pioneering works, The Book of Evil Spirits (2015) and Dogaressa Elisabetta Querini, Zalumma Agra, Annie Jones, Dope Head, Harry Houdini, Eusapia Palladino read Valerie Solanas (2012-13), as well as a reenactment of the performance The S.C.U.M. Elite (2014) at the opening reception.
An expansive installation reminiscent of a psychic parlor, Chiara Fumai's The Book of Evil Spirits includes a suite of fifteen automatic drawings and photographs, performance props and a video in which she channeled Eusapia Palladino, a nineteenth-century Italian clairvoyant whose séances were attended by the likes of Nicholas II of Russia and Nobel laureates Marie and Pierre Curie.
In the performance, Fumai would channel the spirits of a powerful group of women who have often appeared throughout her work, such as Zalumma Agra, Ulrike Meinhof, and Annie Jones among them, who are united by the shared desire to revolt against the conditions of oppression.
In the work Dogaressa Elisabetta Querini, Zalumma Agra, Annie Jones, Dope Head, Harry Houdini, Eusapia Palladino read Valerie Solanas, Fumai embodied the six people named in the work’s title in photographs, whether reading or holding the S.C.U.M. Manifesto.
Published in 1967 by Valerie Solanas, who is today best known for shooting Andy Warhol with a gun, the manifesto ironically calls for the establishment of the Society for Cutting Up Men (S.C.U.M.) as a means to overturn the patriarchy. The phrase from the manifesto, "A Male Artist is a Contradiction in Terms," appears on the wall behind the artist in each image.
The exhibition Less Light will be on view at the International Studio & Curatorial Program in New York from February 12th until May 17th, 2019. It is curated by Kari Conte, Director of Programs and Exhibitions, ISCP and Francesco Urbano Ragazzi, directors of the Chiara Fumai archive.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a 30-page publication with commissioned texts by Stefano Colicelli Cagol and Kari Conte, an interview published in English for the first time between the artist and Francesco Urbano Ragazzi, with a new introduction by the interviewers.
On February 14th at 6:30 p.m., the feminist activist, writer, and teacher, Silvia Federici will discuss her research on witch-hunting in Europe and the Americas, with reference to both historical events and the development of a capitalist society. The evening will begin with a brief viewing of the exhibition. On March 12th at 6:30 p.m., the artist and frequent collaborator of Chiara Fumai, Micki Pellerano will present a lecture at ISCP on the use of occult symbolism and ritual practice in Fumai’s work.
Chiara Fumai had also been lined up to represent Italy at the 2019 Venice Biennale, alongside artists Enrico David and Liliana Moro.
Featured images: Chiara Fumai - The Book of Evil Spirits, production still, 2015. Photo by PRed; The Book of Evil Spirits, production still, 2015. Photo by PRed; Less Light My Dear, installation view, 2016; Portrait of Chiara Fumai taken on the occasion of The Show which is Also Falsely Called Breaks, MAXXI, Rome 2014. Photo by PRed. All images courtesy of The Church of Chiara Fumai.