Silvia Rosi

Neither Could Exist Alone

For our commissioning project Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other, Silvia Rosi reflects on the different structures we build to protect ourselves and how the absence of touch can affect our social behaviour.

Silvia Rosi works with photography, text and moving image to explore ideas of memory, migration and diaspora.

Autograph commissioned Rosi to create new work in response to the wider context of the Covid-19 pandemic for our project Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other. At the beginning of the global lockdown in March 2020, Rosi was in Togo where she witnessed the pandemic’s devastating impact on the women traders at the market in Lomé. Considering the risk Covid-19 posed to their livelihood, Rosi responded to the idea of Care | Contagion | Community with a new work titled Neither Could Exist Alone (2020) that interprets the ways in which this virus has affected social norms and changed our behavioural patterns. The series explores ideas of isolation and a tangible sense of fear that manifested through a continued lack of human interactions during the pandemic.

Autograph invited writer and educator Krasimira Butseva to produce a short essay responding to this new artist commission, published alongside a new in-conversation with Rosi by Autograph's curatorial project manager Bindi Vora.


Performing a Lockdown: The Self and the Camera
Read Krasimira Butseva's response to Neither Could Exist Alone

On Structural Isolation: In Conversation with Silvia Rosi
Autograph's curatorial project manager Bindi Vora speaks with the artist


Neither Could Exist Alone (2020)


Silvia Rosi, Self Portrait as my Mother in School Uniform from the series Encounter, 2019

Inspired by West African studio photography, Silvia Rosi's (born 1992, Scandiano) practice explores her personal history through self-portraiture, drawing on her Togolese heritage and family traditions, especially matrilineality, and women’s labour.

In 2019, Silvia Rosi was the recipient of the Jerwood/Photoworks Award in which she was commissioned to develop Encounter, a fictional representation of Rosi’s family album. Using an image of her young mother as a market trader in Lomé (Togo) as the point of departure, Rosi retraced her parents’ journey of migration from Togo to Italy, playfully restaging portraits based on oral history testimonies. The series’ focal point is the act of head carrying, a skill traditionally passed on from mother to daughter, learned and performed by Rosi in an attempt to regain to her cultural roots partially lost through the process of migration. Rosi was an artist-in-residence at Thread in Senegal in 2019. Her recent series was recently exhibited at Landskrona Festival, Sweden, Getxo Photo, Spain and Photo Oxford UK.

You can follow the artist on Instagram and see more work on her website.

About the project

Initiated during the first months of lockdown in 2020, Autograph has commissioned a constituency of ten UK-based creative practitioners in our immediate artistic community to create an open-ended visual arts project in response to the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Working with photography, film and lens-based media, Autograph’s curatorial team Mark Sealy, Renée Mussai and Bindi Vora have been in close dialogue with each artist to produce these new bodies of work. The artist commissions reflect Autograph’s long-standing work advocating for photography and film to address visual politics of rights, race and representation.

Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other will be presented as a group exhibition at Autograph's gallery in Shoreditch, London, from autumn 2021.


Read our senior curator Renée Mussai's introduction to the Care | Contagion | Community project

View the completed artist commissions

Visit the Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other exhibition at Autograph

Purchase a copy of the Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other book from Autograph's online shop


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Supported using public funding by Arts Council England

Image captions: 3-15) Works from Silvia Rosi's commission, Neither Could Exist Alone, 2020. Archival giclée prints, each 8 x 8 inches. © and courtesy the artist, commissioned by Autograph for Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other: 1) detail from Silvia Rosi's commission. 2) Neither Could Exist Alone, 2020. Video, 1' 23".

Other page images: 16) Silvia Rosi, Self Portrait as my Mother in School Uniform. From the series Encounter, 2019-20. Commissioned by Jerwood / Photoworks Award © and courtesy the artist.