As part of Autograph's commissioning project Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other, Aida Silvestri is creating new work focused on frontline workers of colour. Here's an introduction to Silvestri's practice and what she is working on.
Aida Silvestri, Untitled, from the series I Live Here
Aida Silvestri (b. Eritrea) is a UK-based artist who creates mixed media artworks that challenge the status quo of stigma, prejudice and social injustice / inequality by highlighting issues of migration, race, class, identity and health. Her practice explores unique approaches to documentary photography by combining text, image and manipulation of the photographic surface.
Silvestri’s celebrated series Even This Will Pass (2013 – 2014) depicts the perilous journeys of Eritrean refugees in their exoduses to find better stability, personal freedom and safety in the United Kingdom. By raising awareness of human trafficking in a visually arresting, emotive tribute to her participants, she highlights the plights of those refugees whose voices too often remain unheard while protecting their identities. In 2016, Silvestri used her series Unsterile Clinic to draw attention to the widespread practice of Female Genital Mutilation. Both series were published, exhibited and part-commissioned by Autograph.
For this new artist commission, Silvestri will respond to the idea of Care | Contagion | Community by delving into the rhetoric adopted by the government during the pandemic – such as “we are all in this together”, “we are at war”, or “fighting against an invisible enemy”. For Silvestri, these phrases recall her formative years living in Eritrea under the Ethiopian communist regime, and they register both as propaganda and myth inciting, what she describes as a “a false sense of togetherness, and a means of controlling the population into complaisance”. Focusing on frontline workers of colour, Silvestri will explore the impact of Covid-19 on members of BAME communities.
We'll update this page as the commission progresses, join our mailing list for updates. In the meantime, read an introduction to the Care | Contagion | Community project by Autograph's Senior Curator Renée Mussai.
Aida Silvestri, Anghesom from the series Even This Will Pass, 2013
Aida Silvestri, TYPE I B from the series Unsterile Clinic, 2016
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Autograph has commissioned ten artists to create new work responding to the wider context of the Covid-19 crisis. Initiated during the first month of lockdown, Autograph’s curatorial team Mark Sealy, Renée Mussai and Bindi Vora have been in close dialogue with a constituency of creative practitioners in our immediate artistic community. For the first phase, we have invited UK-based artists working with photography, film and lens-based media to create a new small-scale, open-ended visual arts project. The second phase will encompass ten new writing commissions, where each writer – paired with one of the artists – will be tasked to produce a short essay contextualising these newly commissioned works.
Aida Silvestri’s work has been exhibited in London at Autograph, London; The Photographers’ Gallery, London; Saatchi Gallery, London, Roman Road Gallery, as well as internationally at TEAT Champ Fleuri, La Réunion Island; Arendt House, Luxembourg; Musée National d’Histoire-aux-Poissons, Luxembourg; Gah Museum, Taiwan; Athens Photo Festival Benaki Museum Athens, Greece; Cours de L’Archevéché, Arles; Centquarter Paris, France.
In 2013, she was voted one of the British Journal of Photography's Best of Show Winners at the Free Range exhibition, London; in 2017 she was awarded the audience award for Circulation(s) Festival and shortlisted for the Arendt European Month of photography awards. Most recently, Even This Will Pass was shown as part of African Cosmologies: Photography, Time and the Other at the 2020 FotoFest Biennale, Houston, USA.
Images, from top: 1) Aida Silvestri, Untitled from the series I Live Here. 2 and 3) Aida Silvestri, Anghesom from the series Even This Will Pass, 2013. 4) Aida Silvestri, TYPE I B from the series Unsterile Clinic. Commissioned by Autograph 2016. All images courtesy of and © Aida Silvestri.