New art from the ruins of Pompeii: archaeological site launches digital fellowships

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Pompeii is moving into the 21st century as this autumn, two key projects linked to the long-term contemporary art programme Pompeii Commitment: Archaeological Matters launch.

The twin projects will see a new printed volume published by Silvana Editoriale including contributions from over 60 artists who have “created and shared reflections” on the ancient site, which was engulfed by volcanic ash spewing from Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. Contributors include Adrian Villar Rojas, Lara Favaretto, Michael Rakowitz and the London-based art duo Cooking Sections whose “proposals and responses span different media and formats”, say the organisers in a statement.

Meanwhile, a new annual online programme exploring the significance of Pompeii today launches with an inaugural commission by the Albanian artist Anri Sala. His digital piece will be published in two parts onlineSide A (1 September) and Side A Too (6 October). Other artists and designers awarded “digital fellowships” include Formafantasma, Allison Katz, Miao Ying, Legacy Russell, Rose Salane, and Sissel Tolaas.

“The Digital Fellowships enable international participants to carry out an expanded— both remote and in situ—research over a period of several months, focusing on Pompeii or aspects related to its symbology and meaning at large,” the organisers add.

Over the course of the Digital Fellowship period, participants can access archaeological resources and other research materials. Crucially “they are offered the possibility to be in dialogue with Pompeii’s team of professionals and researchers, such as archaeologists, anthropologists, archaeozoologists, archaeobotanists, geologists, chemists, architects, conservators,”

Sala’s Digital Fellowship project focuses on the remains of two victims of Vesuvius’ eruption, found in 2017 during the excavations in Civita Giuliana, a suburban villa northwest of the ancient site. He links this discovery with the recovery of a double flute—known as aulos in ancient Greek—during earlier excavations at the Archaeological Park of Pompeii. The artist has composed a piece of music exploring “the void left by the [victims’] bodies”, say the organisers. Pompeii Commitment: Archaeological Matters is supported by two Italian philanthropic organisations: Nicoletta Fiorucci Foundation and Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo.

Various contemporary art initiatives connected to Pompeii have launched in recent years including former director-general Massimo Osanna’s bid to build a contemporary art collection in 2018. Osanna, now the general director of Italy’s national museums, conceived Pompeii Commitment in 2020.

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