Adelita Husni Bey
A Collection in Turmoil – Practices of “Autocoscienza”

On the 19th and 20th of September the  artist Adelita Husni Bey held a workshop at the Museo delle Civiltà which marked the second installment of a journey launched in 2022 as part of the Hidden Histories program curated by LOCALES.

For the first  workshop in 2022, the group visited the former colonial collection stored at Museo delle Civiltà, and discussed the ways the museum is actively attempting to transform the way it narrates, explores and displays its ethnographic collections. In this second edition, participants used the guidelines that were produced in the previous year as a starting point to ask: what would it look like for a museum to practice, through its staff and visitors, forms of “autocoscienza”?

Born in separatist feminist circles in the 1960s, but then employed more widely as “consciousness-raising”, autocoscienza takes the “body”, the “self” and its experiences as its starting point. If autocoscienza is a practice intended for deep self exploration in groups, as an exploration of the effects of patriarchal rule, ecological collapse and the effects of social institutions on the self and by extension collectivities, could it be applied to the body of the museum? Could the participants form or access, in some ways, the museum’s “subconscious”?

Through writing exercises, theater and deep questioning of the role of institutions such as Museo delle Civiltà, and returning to the work of Carla Lonzi and Rivolta Femminile — re-read through a transfeminist lens — the workshop addressed some core methodological questions that emerged the previous year and continued to propose and develop ways of working, feeling and dealing with objects removed from their original sites to be displayed in Europe. The aim was to question whether and how the museum’s “repressed memory” could be accessed through this practice.