From a very young age, Adelita Husni-Bey (Milan, 1985) has taken an interest in complex political and social issues, leading her to pursue studies in sociology, anarcho-collective educational theories and experimental teaching practices.Her works stem from collective processes, in the form of workshops and role plays which have involved various communities, including students, athletes, legal experts and political activists.For Husni-Bey, the artist’s role is to “create new situations and dynamics that go beyond performance to reveal, to the eyes of those involved, the deep-rooted connections with the economic and social forces that hold sway over the contemporary era”.The resulting artworks – on signing up for which the participants agree to divide the profits, while nevertheless remaining free to decide whether to appear in them or not – are only a small part of the pedagogical act performed during the workshops.
While originating as a painter, Adelita Husni-Bey uses different means of expression in her practice, but all her works – including the ones using drawing, video, photography, sculpture and installations – transmit her pictorial sensitivity. This is immediately evident in her oil-on-canvas painting, The Sleepers (2011), that depicts a group of businessmen who are fast asleep, but also in the painting included in the video installation Postcards from the Desert Island (2011) which will greet visitors at the entrance to Palazzina dei Giardini.The work is the fruit of a three-week seminar by the artist for the pupils of Paris state primary school École Vitruve, which adopts experimental educational models based on cooperation and non-competition.Taking a cue from William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies (1954), the children were invited to build a desert island in their classroom and manage it while dealing with issues concerning power struggles, immigration, the meaning of public space and civil disobedience.
Several of her works have involved groups of teenagers, including Agency (2014), consisting of a video installation and a photo series taken in the rooms of the MAXXI museum in Rome.Around 30 volunteer students from a high school in the capital took part in a reflection on power relations in contemporary Italy, in which they had to simulate five different categories of people – politicians, workers, activists, bankers and journalists, while free to choose their actions, attitudes, poses and clothing – who had to produce an hour-by-hour report on the progress of “society”. A very current theme in the artist’s work is her analysis of the social perception of pain and disability.Stories of young athletes injured while doing sports are told in the video After the Finish Line (2015), which uses a radical pedagogical approach and process to seek to depersonalize feelings of failure. In it, Adelita Husni-Bey investigates the meaning of the spirit of competition present in many fields of contemporary society and the snares that it conceals. Shower(2013) is instead an installation made in partnership with artist Park McArthur, involving a dialogue between different ways of experiencing reality from a condition of disability, which the visitor is invited to read while sitting on a shower stool designed for the physically challenged.In the same room, the theme of the relationship with the body’s suffering is also dealt with in the series of large drawings Encounters on Pain (Incontri sul dolore) (2015), resulting from one-on-one encounters in which the artist drew the social and political origin of the participants’ physical pain around their bodies. The exhibition is rounded off by other groups of drawings and works on paper echoing some of the main themes investigated in the installations.