Chiara Fumai

Works * CV * PDF portfolio * Texts and press

Exhibitions and events:
The Book of Evil Spirits
ARCO 2016
Nascent States

Chiara Fumai lives and ‘unworks’ in Milan. Her performative practice belongs to the tradition of female psychics, who are 'spoken by' different controversial entities, which the artist freely (mis)interprets and combines into new stories, while questioning their symbolic meaning and representation.. Dealing with radical feminism, media culture, language and repression, Fumai's starting point is lecture-performance, later transformed into installations, videos, collages, sound, embroidery and fictional documentation.

Recent one-woman-shows include Der Hexenhammer, Museion, Bolzano, 2015; With Love from $inister at A Palazzo Gallery, Brescia, 2013; I Did Not Say or Mean 'Warning', Fondazione Querini Stampalia, 2013.

Recent group exhibitions and performances have been presented at David Roberts Art Foundation, London, 2015; CA2M Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo, Madrid, 2015; Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2014; De Appel Arts Center, Amsterdam, 2014; Nottingham Contemporary, 2014; Fiorucci Art Trust, London, 2014; MUSAC Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, 2013; dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, 2012; Studio Voltaire, London, 2014; Nomas Foundation MACRO Testaccio, Rome, 2011.

Fumai was the winner of the ninth edition of the Furla Art Award, 2013.

‘The Book of Evil Spirits’ brings together a number of characters whose narratives Fumai has embodied in her performative practice to date. In creating this catalogue, Fumai enlisted the help of Eusapia Palladino, a 19th century psychic and medium. Fumai has borrowed from an array of historical characters, often women in history who from marginal positions gained recognition for voicing their dissent, amongst them Ulrike Meinhof, Annie Jones, Carla Lonzi. Fumai allows herself to become ‘possessed’ by them, and under the guise of re-enactment, hijacks their narratives for her own purpose. In The Book, Palladino convenes the spirits of Fumai’s motley crew of evil spirits – activists, terrorists, freak-show performers, philosophers, all at one point alter-egos of Fumai herself – who collectively represent the fears of a bourgeois society. The artist’s camp parody is itself obscured by knowing anachronism and occasional bursts of uncontrollable stage violence.

 
 

Chiara Fumai, The Book of Evil Spirits, 2015
video, HD video, 26′24″
video still
FUM025

 
 

Chiara Fumai, The Book of Evil Spirits, Vitrine II, 2016
installation, fabric, embroidery on paper, found objects, 150x60x75cm
FUM056

 
 

Chiara Fumai, W.A.R.N.I.N.G., 2016
mixed media, c-type print, ink on paper, 7*30x40cm, 7*33x43x4cm
installation view
FUM052

 
 

Chiara Fumai, Photographs of Criminals and Prostitutes II, 2016
collage, paper on acrylic, 100x70cm
FUM054

 
 

Chiara Fumai, Spell n. 22, 2015
collage, mixed media on Invisible Committee’s ‘The Coming Insurrection’
FUM022

In ‘Return of the Invisible Woman’, Fumai pays homage to Vito Acconci, a key figure in early performance art of around 1970. In his performances he sought out boundaries – in particular the threshold of pain – often doing so in a direct and intrusive confrontation with the spectator. In these embroidered collages Fumai creates a dialogue between Acconci and the authors Sacher Masoch and Pauline Reage. Text fragments from Acconci’s last performance, Ballroom (December 1973, Florence) and from the erotic novel Histoire d'O by Pauline Reage, with its central themes of sexual domination and submission, are affixed to pages from Masoch’s novel Venus im Pelz (1870), which deals with a dominatrix in a sado-masochistic relation.

 
 

Chiara Fumai, The Return of the Invisible Woman, 2014
collage, paper, embroidery, wall painting, 10*47.5x39cm, 10*53.5x62cm
FUM011

Der Hexenhammer, presented at Museion, comprises two elements: a live performance and a work displayed in the exhibition space - a wall drawing that shows how the artist relates to text, words, images and history to create new stories. Fumai's project takes the form of a guided tour of a Rossella Biscotti exhibition hosted in the museum during the same period. The work ties in with the elements that distinguish Chiara Fumai's artistic practice, referencing art history, surrealism in particular and metaphysics, and raising issues related to sexual identity and anarcha-feminism. Her modus operandi stands out for its ongoing focus on elements that appear to be in opposition: unpredictable, and therefore open to subversion and radical changes of perspective.

 
 

Chiara Fumai, Der Hexenhammer, 2015
collage, performance transcript, collage, embroidery, automatic writing, wall painting
installation view, Museion, photo Luca Meneghel
FUM020

Transformed into a museum guide of the Querini Stampalia Foundation, the artist introduces all the female portraits in the historical collection (from XVI to XIX century), narrating the background of the history of art through the women portrayed and by the anonymity of their biographies. The narration of the guide is interrupted by messages transmitted through LIS (International Sign Language) containing anonymous terrorist threats left on the answering machine of a feminist group affiliated with the Armed Struggle.

 
 

Chiara Fumai, The Invisible Woman, performance transcript of I Did Not Say or Mean ‘Warning’, 2014
collage, collage and ink on paper, 5*24.7x34.5cm
FUM017

Transformed into a museum guide of the Querini Stampalia Foundation, the artist introduces all the female portraits in the historical collection (from XVI to XIX century), narrating the background of the history of art through the women portrayed and by the anonymity of their biographies. The narration of the guide is interrupted by messages transmitted through LIS (International Sign Language) containing anonymous terrorist threats left on the answering machine of a feminist group affiliated with the Armed Struggle.

 
 

Chiara Fumai, I Did Not Say or Mean ‘Warning’, 2013
performance, performance, video, installation, wall painting
FUM004

‘La donna delinquente’ is a misogynistic-positivist book by Cesare Lombroso published in 1893, when the criminologist was following the séances of the illiterate medium Eusapia Palladino, in Italy and in Europe. Chiara Fumai invites us to attend the ghosts conference of Lombroso and other positivist scientists, among them Charles Robert Richet, Hugo Munsterberg, Filippo Bottazzi, as well as the well-known journalist Luigi barzini. The voice travel through time to quibble about Eusapia Palladino, spirits and images, preconceptions, credulity and the ongoing rivalry between man and woman.

 
 

Chiara Fumai, The Criminal Woman / La donna delinquente, 2011-2013
video, video, installation, 10’47”
FUM005

A series of counterfeit documentation in which the protagonists of other performances by Chiara Fumai re-interpret ‘Chiara Fumai reads Valerie Solanas’.

 
 

Chiara Fumai, Dogaressa Elisabetta Querini, Zalumma Agra, Dope Head, Annie Jones, Harry Houdini and Eusapia Palladino read Valerie Solanas, 2013
photography, c-type prints, 6*80x120cm
detail: Zalumma Agra reads Valerie Solanas
FUM003

 
 

Chiara Fumai, The Criminal Woman II Act (performance transcript), 2014
collage, ink and embroidery on paper, 9*25x35cm
FUM019

A ghostly materialization of the performance created for dOCUMENTA13, 'Shut Up, Actually Talk' features the freak show performer Zalumma Agra pronouncing ‘I Say I’ (Io dico Io), an extremely beautiful and complex philosophical manifesto about Radical Feminism which was written by Carla Lonzi and Rivolta Femminile (Female Revolt, Italian feminist group) in 1977.

 
 

Chiara Fumai, Shut Up, Actually Talk, 2012-13
installation, video installation, 10’31”
FUM018

An integral cast of the artist's body made with dried glue lying on a sheet made by cutting and re-sewing a dress by Valentino, used in the video-performance Chiara Fumai Reads Valerie Solanas. This work is a tribute to the experimental self-portraits realised by the artist Vera Morra, who died prematurely in the 1990s and it has been composed especially for the collective exhibition Arimortis held in the Museo del Novecento in Milan.

 
 

Chiara Fumai, One Strangling Golden Hair (tribute to Vera Morra), 2011-2013
installation, installation (fabric, glue, vitrine), 170x64cm
FUM010

In Chiara Fumai Reads Valerie Solanas, the writer Valerie Solanas (1936-1988) takes over the artist's body and voice to recite together excerpts from her SCUM Manifesto (Society for Cutting Up Men). Written in 1967, the manifesto intended to demonstrate men's inferiority, and consequently became a criticism of women who behave submissively towards men. Fumai creates a diagram containing a video performance reminiscent of a declaration of war or an announcement to enter politics. Tragic, but at the same time comical, the work examines the function of language and its subversive capabilities.

 
 

Chiara Fumai, Chiara Fumai reads Valerie Solanas, 2012-2013
installation, video performance and wall painting, 10’34”
video still
FUM002/2

In the middle of a Greek field, the artist, dressed in traditional clothes, fakes a performance by stealing the words of 1930s singer Roza Eskenazi. The angelic song is “Eimai Prezakias” (I’m a Junkie) speaks of beauty and happiness of a drug-addicted life. In 1936, the Greek government banned the audio track used in this video, and yet, it is also now considered part of the National Artistic Patrimony.

 
 

Chiara Fumai, I’m a Junkie, 2007-2013
video, video performance, 2’48”
video still
FUM001