Binnen Bantammerstraat 2, 1011 CK Amsterdam
October 23, 2020–March 7, 2021
This display of archival material from the Italian feminist collective Le Nemesiache, curated by Giulia Damiani with the support of Sara Giannini and Arnisa Zeqo, situates the group’s practice in Naples, where iconic landscapes—Vesuvius, the ruins of ancient Greek and Roman temples in Campagna, and the city’s bay—render mythology omnipresent.
Sequined costumes and flamboyant sunglasses from the 1989 theatre production Elagabulus, paraphernalia sourced from the collective’s founder Lina Mangiacapre, adorn the exhibition’s entrance. Though the group foresaw, in political works such as the Manifesto for the re-appropriation of our creativity, 1977, that their body of work would be ignored by Italian art history’s patriarchal frame, Mangiacapre’s personhood is ever-present here, suggesting that Le Nemesiache—named for the retributive goddess Nemesis—followed the structure of ancient goddess-cults, which recognized abd celebrated the leaders of their close-knit female communities. Self-fashioned after the mythic Amazons, the group of artists adopted ancient Greek pseudonyms under the leadership of Mangiacapre, working together to create multi-disciplinary projects which ranged from literature, theatre, and painting to feature films.
Ornate costume designs on paper give way to embodied objects, and then to the screen, where the collective’s feature film Dido Is Not Dead (1987) is broadcast. This philosophical endeavor sees members act out the life of the mythic queen, from her founding of Carthage to her eventual suicide upon her love Aeneas’s departure. Its aesthetics place the group firmly into Italian cinematic history, with its strong tradition of historical re-enactments, as in the queer cinema of Pasolini, a personal friend of Mangiacapre. Mythic time pervades “From the Volcano to the Sea” through the collective’s method, what they termed the psico favola (psycho-fable)—a consciousness-raising reinterpretation of mythic scenarios—following the rhythmic of flows of cyan Mediterranean waves lapping onto trembling volcanic soil.