Fondazione ICA Milano

Fondazione ICA Milano 




The journey of a Sicilian woman who is forced to leave her homeland to follow her
husband to the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Curated by Alberto Salvadori


18th January – 6th March, 2022

Fondazione ICA Milano presents, from 18th January to 6th March 2022, the project The Other: A Familiar Story, a workd by Maria D. Rapicavoli, commissioned by The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation of New York for the 8th Floor, in collaboration with Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster. The project is realized thanks to the support of the Italian Council (6th Edition, 2019), the international promotion program of Italian art of the General Direction for Contemporary Creativity of the Ministry of Culture.

Through a two-channel video installation, The Other: A Familiar Story traces the vicissitudes of a Sicilian
woman who, at the beginning of the twentieth century, is forced to leave her hometown and her children in Sicily to follow her husband in the United States. Based on a true story passed down orally by the women of the artist’s family, the work revolves around historical and personal memory and on the imaginary as the only escape mechanism from everyday life, and raises issues related to gender violence, abuse, alienation, dislocation, invisibility, and migration.

The story, which follows a timeless and bewildering rhythm, is interspersed with flashbacks and slow-motion images that refer to mental rather than physical geographies. The video was filmed where the woman lived for real and reveals an intimate setting that traces the psychological journey undertaken by the protagonist through the patriarchal social structure of the time.

The narrative follows the path of a deliberately unnamed character, forced by society to marry her rapist and then to follow him to the United States, in Lawrence MA, near Boston. She worked in one of the textile factories that at the time gave work to millions of Italians who emigrated to America and took part in the famous 1912 “Bread and Roses” strike in Lawrence MA, marking an important chapter in the civil rights’ conquest of workers and women.
Inspired by The Second Sex (1949), an essay by the French writer and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, that contributes to freeing the woman from the “minor” status that forced her to be the “Other” from the man, in The Other: A Familiar Story, the woman experiences a split between the part of herself that does has no right to have a voice and the part of herself forced into a reality that is largely alien to her. This duality becomes even more significant when the Other is a migrant, an individual who is dragged – despite herself – to a foreign country.

The two-channel installation refers to the concept of the Uncanny (the Un-heimlich,) which, according to Freud, describes the condition in which the opposite states of estrangement and familiarity coexist. It is a particular condition that generates a sort of emotional and physical dualism. Through the double video projection, the artist therefore tries to recreate this dualism capable of generating in the viewer at the same time a sense of strangeness and familiarity.

The artist explains: “both the mental and physical journeys are synchronized in a non-linear narrative and are connected by a voiceover that tells a story that is not exact, as it is based on oral memories and, as such, full of gaps. Memory, in fact, is a psychic function linked to the unconscious and desire. It is subjective: retains certain details and certain images, removes others. In doing so it generates a process in a non-chronological temporal space”.

Moving from a true story, Maria D. Rapicavoli’s work takes the viewer to a disorienting and complex journey, through the discovery of physical and psychic structures that any woman can experience, regardless of the space-time condition in which she lives. The timelessness of the story links even more the historical moment we are going through, by recalling the terrible years of the Great Influence of 1918-20, – that the protagonist experienced firsthand, and proposing an even more alienating domesticity.