Photographic and video documentation of a performative re–enactment and restitution of historical documents. (2013, on going)

The mare, the brigand her husband and the others is an ongoing project regarding the interpretation of history through re-enactments and historical documents. The aim of the project is the restitution of dignity to a historical photograph of Michelina di Cesare, a ‘brigantessa’ meaning out of law, from Caspoli (1841-1868) who fought for the restoration of the Kingdom of the Two Scillies (Borbon) during and after the Unification of Italy in 1861. I found the photograph in the Museum of Risorgimento (period leading to the unification of Italy) in Turin in 2013. The people of the village of Caspoli (Campania, South of Italy), the native village of Michelina di Cesare, every year, with the support of local authorities, re-enact the battle, life style and stories of the local brigands. At the same time, in the museum’s spaces her photograph does not show either the name or any other correct specification. I confirmed the identity of the brigand in the photograph together with the Museum’s staff and Caspoli’s community. The objective for the restitution of the right details to the photograph in the museum is for it to happen by bringing the people from Caspoli in Turin – and activate a dialogue amongst these two contradicting and not resolved (for a century and a half) approaches to the same history. An invitation has still not yet arrived.


 The brigands were the actors of a phenomenon called ‘brigantaggio’ which concerned the area of the territory called: Terra di Lavoro comprising the region of Lazio, Campania, Molise, Abruzzo, Puglia, Basilicata, Sicilia. The areas just mentioned have been the ones who suffered the most during the process of the Italian unification, and the colonisation of the south. The phenomenon of ‘Brigantaggio’ could be considered as a ‘civil war’ made by the poorest social class who have been ferociously repressed by the Piemontesi (the colonisers) and national unifiers. The Italian phenomenon of resistance towards this colonisation, called ‘brigantaggio’ (approximately between 1860 and 1870) was recorded with a style of photographic portraiture which portrayed the brigands in one of two poses: either, viewing the camera (and viewer) directly (implying an expression of confrontation or provocation) or as corpse, after having been captured and killed. This historical episode occurred during the earliest days of photography and it is notable that such a nascent medium was employed to express aspects of this minority group by themselves and their antagonists. Remaining photographic images are scattered throughout public and private archives throughout Italy.