1 Elisa Giardina Papa U Scantu A Disorderly Tale 2022 Video and ceramic installation Still frame from video Courtesy of the Artist and Galerie Tanja Wagner

Elisa Giardina Papa: “U Scantu”: A Disorderly Tale (2022)

Collective is pleased to announce the first exhibition of its 40th anniversary year: “U Scantu”: A Disorderly Tale (2022) by Sicilian artist Elisa Giardina Papa. The exhibition will mark the first solo presentation of work by Giardina Papa in the UK, and will run from 1 March – 19 May 2024.

First exhibited at the 2022 Venice Biennale, U Scantu brings together ceramic sculptures and a large-scale video installation to explore the Sicilian myth of the ‘donne di fora' - ‘women from the outside and beside themselves’. Considered to be at once heretical and magical healers, the ‘donne di fora’ defied simple categorization, believed to embody a range of opposing qualities – feminine and masculine; human and animal; benevolent and vengeful.

Giardina Papa reimagines the ‘donne di fora’ as teenage ‘tuners’, young women who ride through the seemingly abandoned utopian urban landscape of Gibellina Nuova in the west of Sicily, on their bikes customised with powerful sound systems. Drawing on songs and stories told by the artist’s grandmother, as well as 16th and 17th century archival material from the Spanish Inquisition, U Scantu intersperses scenes of the modern-day tuners with poetic text and visual motifs from a 19th century collection of Sicilian fairy tales.

Ducks feet and thick ceramic braids growing out of the walls and speakers reference the magical powers of the ‘donne di fora’. While their healing rituals were known to alleviate ‘u scantu’ – the Sicilian word for fear – their patients could awaken with monstrous feet or long disorderly braids. Running around the walls of the gallery, a text work quotes from the New York poet, Megan Fernandes, who together with composer and performer duendita, have collaborated with the artist on the lyrical and sound composition.

For Giardina Papa, “the myth of the ‘donne di fora’ should not be dismissed as a dusty folkloric object, but rather conjured as a generative multispecies and queer imaginary, an ancient yet new possibility of becoming.”

The work finds new resonance in the architecture of the City Dome gallery and Collective’s home on Calton Hill. Robert Louis Stevenson references ‘witch’ burnings taking place on the north side of Calton Hill ‘in former days’. In more recent centuries, the hill has become a welcoming landscape for the magical and unruly, occasional haunt for joy riders, and host to Beltane, the contemporary reimagining of the ancient Celtic May Day fire festival which celebrates the return of summer.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of special events, culminating in our special Play Weekend on 11-12 May. The weekend, led by Collective’s Play Lead Artist: Frieda Ford, will offer children and families the opportunity to make and become ‘hybrid creatures’ through loose parts and creative play activities.

Speaking about the exhibition, Collective’s Director Sorcha Carey said:“Collective has a long history of introducing the work of international practitioners to Scotland and the UK. As we look forward to celebrating our 40th anniversary later this year, we are delighted to bring Elisa’s ground-breaking practice and distinctive imaginary to Calton Hill and the City Observatory”.

Collective would like to thank the Italian Institute of Culture in Edinburgh who are supporting the presentation of “U Scantu”: A Disorderly Tale, and our media partners for our 40th anniversary year, The Skinny.