Ghetto Redux is a large-scale, multi-disciplinary project, commissioned by Shifting Vision in partnership with the Medici Archive Project.
Ghetto Redux will feature new works by Ron Arad, Sir Isaac Julien, Vincent Namatjira, Lihi Turjeman, and Erwin Wurm, created in response to records of the Jewish Ghetto in Florence discovered in the historic Medici Archive. The intention is for a global, non-denominational project, exploring themes relating to the history, experience and universal concept of the term ‘ghetto’, as well as aspects of the Florentine ghetto and its inhabitants revealed by the archive.
Shifting Vision is collaborating with Mousse Magazine and Publishing to produce a series of publications about Ghetto Redux and the Florentine Ghetto, featuring essays and interviews by participating artists and historians. The first publication, including an illustrated introduction to the project with a map of the Florentine Ghetto, will be published in the January 2024 edition of Mousse Magazine.
Ron Arad (b. 1951, Tel Aviv) is a hugely influential designer, artist, and architect. He is curious about form, structure, technology, and materials. The nature of his work is versatile and spans industrial design, hand-crafted studio pieces, sculpture, architecture, and mixed media installations. Arad was elected as a Royal Academician in 2013. The first major retrospective of his work titled No Discipline debuted in 2008 at the Pompidou Centre followed by the MoMA in 2009. Arad has designed a number of public art pieces, most recently the UK Holocaust Memorial & Learning Centre in London. Arad is persistent in his experimentation with materials and has radically re-conceptualized the notion of form and structure, placing him at the forefront of contemporary creativity.
Arad imbues historical references with a playful curiosity, and turns subjects on their heads. His work often engages with music, and Arad is interested in exploring the sonic records of the Medici archive.
Sir Isaac Julien (b. 1960, London) is one of the most acclaimed British film and installation artists. Julien approaches historical topics with grace and brings them into contemporary conversations. His work is a visual feast of perfectly balanced images which interplay across the multiple screens in fully immersive experiences.
Julien’s work is held in collections such as the Tate, the MoMA, Centre Pompidou, the Guggenheim, Fondation Louis Vuitton, and the LUMA Foundation among many others. He is a Distinguished Professor of the Arts at the University of California Santa Cruz, and in April 2023, Tate Britain presented the UK’s first ever survey exhibition of his work Isaac Julien: What Freedom Is To Me. Shifting Vision has worked with Sir Isaac since 2021 on various documentary film projects.
Vincent Namatjira (b. 1983, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia) is a leading Western Aranda artist and is considered one of Australia’s most important painters. A subtly subversive portraitist, his work is humorous and conceptually rich in its examination of the connections between leadership, power, and influence.
Namatjira’s portraits use wit and caricature to explore the complex colonial narratives implicit in Australia’s relationship with the British Empire from a contemporary Aboriginal perspective. His colourful figurative paintings often feature self portraits alongside significant figures,such as US presidents, the Queen, canonical western artists, and Australian prime ministers set atop broad, powerful Australian landscapes. His compositions and subjects reveal an interest in political and historical contemporary discourse. Namatjira’s work has gained significant recognition in Australia and overseas. In 2020, he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in honour of his contribution to Indigenous visual arts. Most recently, Namatjira received a Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship in recognition of outstanding talent and exceptional professional courage.
Namatjira’s work explores heavy historical events and stories through a hopeful and irreverent lens. He will work on a series of 6 large scale paintings for Ghetto Redux which respond to ideas of power structures under Medici rule and the complicated relationship between the Medici and the Jews.
Lihi Turjeman (b. 1985, Tel Aviv) lives and works in Torino. Her large-scale painting installations are characterised by monochromatic tones while her installations are site specific, typically drawing inspiration from local histories and geographies. She is interested in symbols and language, and their propensity to both constrain and enable creation.Her works contain an extreme duality, moving freely between an epic approach and a microscopic concentration on details that are drawn by “mapping” and scratching the surface of the canvas. The materials she chooses can sometimes inform the content of her works, and her practice includes a dynamic approach that can be categorised as action painting. Through smearing, rubbing, peeling, staining, and glueing, she hardens the fabric, while emphasising its folds and textures. Turjeman She raises political issues without being didactic or moralistic, instead prioritising honesty and immediacy. She explores and questions the concepts of borders; her described borders vary from concrete (i.e. maps) to metaphorical. The canvas functions as a wall, a territory, or a map that is yet to be drawn.
Turjeman’s recent works are focused on the bird’s eye view perspective with the paintings being displayed on the floor, viewed from above. This is her most recent exploration of reimagining the spatial and conceptual relationship between her work herself, and the viewers.
Turjeman’s physical and active approach to the understanding and representation of territory, mapping, and space will explore new understandings of the physical space of the Florentine ghetto.
Erwin Wurm (b. 1954, Austria) has radically expanded artistic concepts of sculpture, space and form. His sculptures play with abstraction and representation, presenting familiar objects in a surprising and inventive way that prompts viewers to consider them in a new light. He explores mundane, everyday decisions as well as existential questions in his works, focusing on the objects that help us cope with daily life and through which we ultimately define ourselves. These include the material objects that surround us – the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the food we eat and the homes we live in making him ideal for this project.
Wurm lives and works in Vienna and Limberg, Austria. The artist has twice participated in the Venice Biennale: with his installation Narrow House at the Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti in 2011 and when he represented Austria in 2017.
Works such as Narrow House directly speak to archival research, visualising and maximising details and ideas discovered through archives.
The Florentine Ghetto was built by the Medici family in the 16th century, with the Medici maintaining control over the rent, trade and governance of its inhabitants until the 18th century. The ghetto was demolished in the 19th century following Italian unification. The Jewish History Programme at the Medici Archive Project was established in 2013 to research, archive, and publish documentation about early modern Jews and Jewish culture in the Medici archives. Much of this material has been the foundation of the exhibition at the Palazzo Pitti on the Jewish Ghetto in Florence. The name of every resident, the blueprint of every apartment, the professional activities that went on inside and outside of its walls, the mapping of Jewish mercantile networks and the art, music, and science produced by its inhabitants over two centuries are all recorded in the archive.
The exhibition, The Jews and The Medici featuring documents and artefacts from the Medici Archive, will be staged at the Palazzo Pitti, Florence 23rd October – 28th January 2024.