How do we store and process painful memories? What’s more, who really decides what memories to keep — whose versions of events are privileged, especially in the digital age? These are some of the questions asked by new media artist Eva Frapiccini over the course of her fifteen-year career.  

Peter Traynor  |  Ed Cristina Brooks  | 16 December 2020

Dreams’ Time Capsule Installation from the exhibition Contemporary Locus 11, Monastery of Carmine, Bergamo, Italy ©ph. Mario Albergati 

Frapiccini, whose works include interactive sculptures and digital projections in public places from Stockholm to Dubai, is intimately concerned with power, and the ways in which remembering can support or even create imbalances. She embraces different formats and disciplines, but mostly uses photography, video, and installation to create spaces in which to approach memory from different angles. In doing so, she calls out the so-called ‘spectatorship’ of the public in the digital era as we, too, are producers and curators of image and sound archives.

In trying to understand the mechanics of remembering, Frapiccini used her interactive installation Dreams’ Time Capsule (2011 – ongoing) to record and collect accounts of the dreams of over 2,000 people in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. An inflatable ‘time capsule’ was placed at art galleries, museums, universities and public spaces around the world and visitors were invited to enter and make audio recordings of their dreams. What emerged was the idea that dreams are not the same the world over but are experienced and perceived differently by different cultural groups. In the West, she found that dreams seemed to be described as a side-effect of everyday thoughts and actions – in the global South and East, dreams seemed to hold greater significance and power, sometimes related to the supernatural, sometimes to collective memory, experience and emotion.   

Eva Frapaccini street fighter
Eva Frapiccini, Street Fighters (2010), at the Fondazione Fotografia Modena © Courtesy of the artist.

Frapiccini also likes to make political statements  – Street Fighters (2010) was an interactive game cabinet on which participants were invited to play the classic arcade game. In doing so they were also obliged to experience what it might be like to be a worker in Italy, which has one of the worst records in Europe for work-place deaths and injuries. 

On the other hand, her video artwork Aleksander Prus Caneira. Quantum Physics and the Portals of the Unconscious (2011) was a mockumentary about art history that told lies, and left the viewer questioning whether what we see on screen can ever be true-to-life.

Frapiccini is also concerned with the relationship between episodes of geopolitical conflict and the way we memorialise these. She has explored terrorism including in italy, organised crime and state-perpetrated violence, the struggles of left-wing activists, the activities of the Mafia, the ethnic and religious conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Northern Ireland, and, recently, the rise of the Arab Spring. 

These works are especially bold and seem to sometimes place her in physical danger. They saw her recording protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square following the 2011 revolution, photographing an ‘erased’ monument to state violence in Bahrain, and delving into the murder of Italian state officials by the Sicilian Mafia. Works like these all prompt the same questions – who remembers, and who decides what is/what is not remembered? The implications of her art can be overwhelming. In particular,  she shows that we all have a tendency to suppress what is painful and conceal what is shameful – and that this can too often lead to history being written by the powerful, with our complicity. Thankfully, Frapiccini’s work itself stands as a rebuff to this. She suggests a critical role for artists and activists to make a space where competing versions of reality can be explored and contested. And in acknowledging, and eliciting, the processing of difficult and painful emotions, Frapiccini’s work highlights the importance of group memory, grieving and even reconciliation. After all, does anybody really benefit when painful feelings are suppressed, or grave crimes shrouded?

Frapiccini, Dreams’ Time Capsule (2012) at Cairo, Egypt © Courtesy of the artist.

About the artist

Eva Frapiccini’s works revolve largely around language and its invisible ways of expression. Directly informed by historic events, material significance, her subject matter deals with sociopolitical circumstances where power relations are unbalanced. Her projects have been shown in a series of international institutions such as the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, United Kingdom; the Arkitekturmuseet, Stockholm; MAXXI Museum of Contemporary Art, Rome, and festivals such as the XII International Exhibition of Architecture in Venice. Frapiccini’s works are included in a number of institutional collections in Italy, such as the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation, MAXXI collections, Museum Castello di Rivoli, as well as private collections.
In 2017, she won the first edition of the Italian Ministry Bursary “Italian Council”. In 2019, she concluded her practice-led Ph.D. at the School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies, University of Leeds, United Kingdom.

Artist Website

Key Achievements

In 2019, Frapiccini concluded her practice-led Ph.D. at the School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies, University of Leeds, United Kingdom. In 2017, she won the first edition of the Italian Ministry Bursary Italian CouncilHer projects have been shown in a series of international institutions such as the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, United Kingdom; the Arkitekturmuseet, Stockholm; MAXXI Museum of Contemporary Art, Rome, and festivals such as the XII International Exhibition of Architecture in Venice.  Frapiccini’s works are included in a number of institutional collections in Italy, such as the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation, MAXXI collections, Museum Castello di Rivoli, as well as private collections.

Past Shows and Fair booths

Solo Shows

2019  Eva Frapiccini | The Art of Memory, Project Space, Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies, University of Leeds, The United Kingdom / 05.09 – 18.09.2019 

2019  Inciampo 01 – Eva Frapiccini, curated by Paola Tognon, City Museum of Livorno, Livorno, Italy / 14.03 – 20.07.2019  

2018  Il Pensiero che non diventa Azione avvelena l’Anima / Words without Action poison the Soul, curated by Connecting Cultures and Isole Palermo, IIC, Cultural Italian Institute, Brussels, Belgium / 08.11.2018 – 24.11.2018 

2018  Il Pensiero che non diventa Azione avvelena l’Anima / Words without Action poison the Soul, curated by Connecting Cultures and Isole Palermo, Municipal Historical Archive, Palermo / 15.06 – 30.08.2018

2018  Scratched Surfaces, text by Anna Musini, IIC Cultural Italian Institute, London, The United Kingdom / 09.02. – 02.03.2018

Group Shows

2020  REAL_Italy, curated by E. Farina and M. Piccioni, MAXXI Museum, Rome, Italy |  19.02. – 26.07.2020

2020  Resistance and Sensibility. Collezione Donata Pizzi: Women Photographers in Italy, Fotografie Forum, Frankfurt | 01.02 – 26.04.2020  

2018  L’Altro Sguardo. Donne fotografe 1965 – 2018, curated by R. Perna, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Roma

2017  Deposito d’Arte Italiana Presente, curated by Ilaria Bonacossa and Vittoria Martini, Artissima Art Fair, Torino, Italy 

2016  L’Altro Sguardo. Fotografe Italiane 1965-2015, curated by Raffaella Perna, Triennale di Milano, Italy

Fair Booths

Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea

Fondazione Torino Musei GAM Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (Turin Museums Foundation)

Fondazione Fotografia Cassa di Risparmio di Modena

MAXXI, Rome 

Monza Civic Collections

Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation

UniCredit & Art Collection

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