This proposal was conceived for Museo Cavoti in Italy and submitted during Apexart 2018-19’s International Open Call. The proposal ranked 20 among 530 proposals. 

lycosa femminista tarantula  

Venue: Museo Cavoti, Galatina, Italy

“This we do for pleasure, so that we may shortly be at the mercy of venomous snakes and poisonous ants. How foolish can human creatures be” Miss McCraw, Picnic at Hanging Rock, 1975

During the 16th and 17th centuries in Galatina, a city in the South of Italy, women manifested an unimaginable state of restless frenzy. Shown through erratic dancing and unclear mutterings the women seen to be completely untameable. This phenomenon was witness by the local citizens and greeted with both amusement and fear. All blamed the lycosa tarantula’s bite for the outbreaks. In contrast to other social phenomenon from the same time, such as the dance plague which had taken grip in other parts of Europe, this manifestation, known as Tarantism, was predominantly experienced by females.

Female behaviour has been largely misperceived and misdefined due to social constructions and expectations of the female role. Hysterical, feisty, abrasive, emotional, hormonal, whinging are all pejorative terms largely applied to women, illustrating the necessity to critique social constructions of the expected behaviour from the sexes. 

In modern feminist writings, authors such as Rebecca Solnit and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie have explored the recent manifestations of feminism across countries with the increase relevance of protest through social media, for example with the diffusion of the term “mansplaining” and the #MeToo movement, denouncing abuse through empowerment and delation.

“If our voices are essential aspects of our humanity, to be rendered voiceless is to be dehumanised or excluded from one’s humanity. And the history of silence is central to women’s history” Rebecca Solnit, 2016

In Italy’s 2018’s elections the leftwing Italian Parliament candidate Laura Boldrini has received death and rape threats after advocating for politics grounded on women and immigration rights. Italy also is among the five highest gender gaps in European Union.

The exhibition lycosa femmenista tarantula exists in the stark contrast between women silence  and the break from social norms observed in Galatina’s Tarantism.

The show is divided in two parts. The first being contemporary artworks in dialogue with historical registers of Tarantism, thus giving the audience tools to explore the themes in an immersive and inventive way. The second part is configured by the complete re-hanging of the museum’s historical collection bringing to the forefront the stories of Galatina’s women. 

The exhibition invites visitors to question notions from the past that still persist across Western cultures, especially in Italy. While we as a society have made remarkable strides in dismantling these outdated notions of gender, they remain with us still, and manifest themselves in realities of repression and silence for women. From studies on instigated conflict and historic reassessment, the show hopes to represent a dialogue of reconciliation between Galatina’s past and present, in the context of a larger global dialogue of feminism.