Autograph, London

If We Care Enough To Look

Aida Silvestri in Conversation with Renée Mussai

Fri 26 Nov 2021, 6 - 7.30pm
Suggested donation £5

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Autograph Rivington Place London EC2A 3BA, UK



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In this informal gallery talk, artist Aida Silvestri will discuss the arc of her visual activism with curator, friend and long-term collaborator Renée Mussai, senior curator at Autograph.

Surrounded by and in the context of Autograph’s current exhibition Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other, featuring Silvestri’s commission Contagion: Colour on the Front Line (2020-21), the two will look at critical politics of engagement, community care and the development of a research-led conceptual practice where art and advocacy meet.

Silvestri’s commission – a compelling critique that emphasises inherent structural inequalities exposed by the pandemic – probes the devastating impact of Covid-19 on ethnic minority communities. The artist highlights the disproportionate levels of exposure to the virus faced by frontline workers of colour by creating a thought-provoking riposte to populist rhetorics of inclusion – exposing striking parallels between our imperial past and contemporary present.

Drawing on past projects such as Even This Will Pass (2014) and Unsterile Clinic (2015), the conversation will further explore how Silvestri’s socially engaged artistic practice often foregrounds those whose voices are routinely silenced – raising awareness of human trafficking by highlighting the plight of refugees or advocating for survivors of gender-based violence. A key focus will be the importance of employing different visual methodologies and pictorial strategies – characterised by Silvestri’s distinctive approach to representation, often combining text, image and experimental techniques to manipulate the photographic surface in order to present viewers with alternative photographic languages to document collective and individual trauma, as well as to protect her participants’ identities.

Please note, photography will not be permitted at this event.


Aida Silvestri

Aida Silvestri is a visual activist whose multi-faceted practice amplifies marginalised voices and migrant communities – raising awareness of human rights issues and representational politics in the arts and beyond.

Her new commission, Contagion: Colour on the Frontline, is currently on display at Autograph, as part of our exhibition Care | Contagion | Community - Self & Other. Silvestri’s other celebrated projects Even This Will Pass (2013 – 2014) and Unsterile Clinic (2015) respectively address people trafficking by highlighting the perilous journeys undertaken by economic and political refugees, and advocate for survivors of gender-based violence by drawing attention to the widespread practice of female genital mutilation. Both series were published, exhibited and part-commissioned by Autograph. Silvestri’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. She is currently the remote artist-in-residence at Light Work, Syracuse; and in 2017 she received the Circulation(s) Festival audience award and was shortlisted for the Arendt European Month of Photography awards. You can see more of Silvestri's work on her website.

Renée Mussai

Renée Mussai is a London-based curator and scholar with a special interest in African and diasporic lens-based visual arts practices. She is Senior Curator and Head of Curatorial & Collection at Autograph, where she has worked for almost two decades, advocating for a diverse constituency of contemporary artists and co-commissioning a range of artistic programmes.

She lectures regularly on photography, visual culture, and curatorial activism and her art writing has been published in several monographs and anthologies including by TATE, Aperture, and NkA. Mussai is also Research Associate at the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre, University of Johannesburg; Associate Lecturer at University of the Arts London, and regular guest curator and former Fellow at the Hutchins Centre for African & African American Research at Harvard University.

YOUR VISIT and covid-19 safety


Everyone is welcome at Autograph. We care about our visitors, staff, artists and community, and are keeping measures in place to help ensure a safe visit for everyone. Have a look at our Visit Us page, it has full information about Covid-19 safety and accessibility at Autograph.



Help us keep everyone safe. If you are able to, please wear a face covering during your visit.

doors open

Our gallery space will be open before the event starts at 6pm. Please feel free to arrive early, to see our current exhibition.


Accessible VEnue

Autograph welcomes people with all types of disabilities. Our venue is step free.


Air PUrifier

An air purifier will be in the room which filters more than 99.97% of particles.

social distancing

A very limited number of tickets are available to this event to maintain distancing.


accessible Toilets

Each floor has an accessible toilet. All toilets are single-occupancy and unisex.

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Visit the exhibition: Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other

Ten artist commissions responding to the wider contexts of the Covid-19 crisis. Exhibition on now at Autograph's gallery in London.

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Banner image: Aida Silvestri, Cacao, 2020. Cacao and pigment ink on cotton fabric; 50 x 65 cm. © and courtesy the artist. Commissioned by Autograph for Care I Contagion I Community – Self & Other.

Images on page: 1) Courtesy of Aida Silvestri. 2) Renée Mussai, with Zaki by Zanele Muholi, 2021. Courtesy Renée Mussai. 3) Rivington Place, home of Autograph. Photograph by Zoë Maxwell.

Discover more images: 1) Aida Silvestri, A Great Leveller [detail], 2020. Cacao, coffee, tea, sugar and tobacco and pigment ink on cotton fabric; 79 x 102 cm © and courtesy the artist. Commissioned by Autograph for Care I Contagion I Community – Self & Other. 2) Book cover image:  Silvia Rossi, Neither Could Exist Alone 2020 © and courtesy the artist, commissioned by Autograph for Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other. 3) Aida Silvestri, The Motherland Calls, [detail] from Contagion: Colour on the Front Line, 2020. Cacao, coffee, tea, sugar, tobacco and pigment ink on cotton fabric; 79 x 102 cm. © and courtesy the artist. Commissioned by Autograph for Care I Contagion I Community – Self & Other.