press release

Chiara Fumai
Poems I Will Never Release, 2007–2017
November 4, 2020–January 31, 2021

For the first time ever, the work of Chiara Fumai (b. 1978, Rome–d. 2017, Bari) is the featured subject of a major retrospective. The exhibition will be curated by Francesco Urbano Ragazzi and Milovan Farronato with Andrea Bellini at Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, and coproduced by Centro per l’arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato, in partnership with La Casa Encendida, Madrid, La loge, Brussels, and The Church of Chiara Fumai. Poems I Will Never Release, 2007–2017 covers a decade of the late artist’s practice. It offers an almost complete selection of artworks, some of which are on display for the very first time, making available its decisive investigation of a creative personality who markedly developed the languages of performance art and feminist aesthetics for the 21st-first century.

Ever refusing to be victimized, minoritized, or diminished as a female artist, Fumai adopted the vocabulary of threat, offence, revolt, vandalism, violence, and boredom to produce uncomfortable situations, collages, environments, and actions in order to foster her ideals of anarchist feminism. Playing an ironical game of “true fiction” and using the techniques of remixing and channeling, Chiara Fumai’s performative pieces evoke female figures who, with their courage and anger, left their mark on human history just before being excluded or forgotten. These include the “bearded lady” Annie Jones; the circassian girl Zalumma Agra; the German terrorist Ulrike Meinhof; the illiterate Italian spiritualist and medium Eusapia Palladino; the philosopher and socialist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg; the feminist writer Carla Lonzi; the Greek rebetiko singer Roza Eskenazi; an anonymous evangelical preacher and many other personalities. This remarkable and peculiar gallery of portraits included a few male characters as well, like the illusionist Harry Houdini. Not to be forgotten is Nico Fumai, the first of Chiara Fumai’s fictional personas and unique in her cast for having a biographical origin. With Nico, Fumai not only imagined a new profession—that of a singer—for her father but also used her interest in 1980s Italo Disco as a strategy for interpreting a specific historical era as well as bringing together a number of different fields of research.

Three years after the artist’s untimely death, a group of institutions has gathered around her estate in order to deepen her legacy and transmit her extraordinary work to a broader public. The exhibition will travel for the next two years—to Centro Pecci, Prato (March 2021), La Loge, Brussel (September 2021), and La Casa Encendida, Madrid (2022). In doing so, it will attempt to capture what Chiara Fumai loved to call her “unwork,” a ten-year performative production that goes well beyond the performances for which she was best known.

A first monograph of Chiara Fumai’s work will accompany the retrospective. The volume, published by Nero Editions, will include essays by Irene Aristizabal, Andrea Bellini, Federico Campagna, Milovan Farronato, Gabriel Lester and Raimundas Malašauskas, Chus Martinez, Mara Montanaro, Cristiana Perrella and Marcello Bellan, Francesco Urbano Ragazzi, and Giovanna Zapperi. The publication is supported by the Italian Council program (7th Edition, 2019) for promoting Italian contemporary art in the world by the Directorate/General for Contemporary Creativity of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism.