Jacopo Crivelli Visconti: the human condition

To mark Artissima in Turin, we interviewed art critic and curator Jacopo Crivelli Visconti. Visconti is a curatorial advisor for the fair, as well as curator of "the human condition", a project of films and videos by artists formulated and produced in dialogue with Gallerie d’Italia – Torino, the host location.

Visconti was born in Naples, Italy and is now based in São Paulo, Brazil. His book Novas Derivas (New Drifts) was published in Portuguese by WMF Martins Fontes and in Spanish by Ediciones Metales Pesados. He ha curated many exhibitions and institutional projects, including: Com o coração saindo pela boca, Brazilian Pavilion at the 59ª Biennale di Venezia, Italy (2022) and Faz escuro mas eu canto, 34ª Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil (2020-2021).
by Lara Morrell
Lara Morrell
Jacopo Crivelli Visconti

LM You are curatorial advisor for Artissima and have curated a project of films and videos under the title of “the human condition“. Why this choice of title and selection of works, how do they create a dialogue with each other, and interact with the stately building of Palazzo Turinetti di Pertengo?

JCV The title is based on the idea of the human condition, with the accent on the condition – the fact that being human is not something given, but a condition. This is a worldview that I take from indigenous people from Latin America or from the Amazon Basin who think that animals – what we call animals – and humans are basically on the same line. Some are prey, some are predators, some are humans, some are animals – so one condition always, necessarily, relates to the other, there is no absolute condition. Most of the films or the videos deal with, either loosely or very directly, this need to go back to look at the world the way indigenous people used to and get back in touch with that vision. These ideas and ways of understanding the world are close to me because I having been living in Brazil for the last twenty years.


We have eight different artists presenting, with eight videos and one sound piece. The inclusion of a sound piece by Uriel Orlow, may seem unexpected in the context of a video exhibition, the piece has names of plants being sang or read out loud and these names are the original names that were used in South Africa – when Orlow visited the theological botanical garden there, he found out that all the names were either in Latin or in English, so he has recovered the original names of all those plants. In a way it brings all the works together, with the underlying idea of recovering, preserving and understanding the importance of ancient knowledge today.  It’s a very conscious choice that there is a degree of invasion from one work into the other, an exhibition –  the way I understand it – is always about relation. Here you lose this septic isolation from one work to the other, and you gain twofold by letting the works contaminate each other. 

Adrián Balseca The Skin of Labour, 2016 16mm black & white 9’00” Edition of 5 + 1 AP Courtesy of the artist and Madragoa, Lisbon

LM You curated the Brazilian Pavilion in Venice last year and were shortlisted for the Italian Pavilion at Biennale Arte 2024, what are you thoughts about the final choice for the Italian Pavilion – and Adriano Pedrosa’s ‘Foreigners Everywhere?

JCV Regarding the Italian pavilion, I’m very happy, I’ve known Massimo Bartolini for a long time and I really like his work, so I just hope it’s going to be great. For Venice, I think it’s great that they have finally chosen a curator from South America and what Adriano has been doing is very timely and important, so I’m looking forward to it and i’m very optimistic!

Shimabuku Sculptures for Octopuses: Exploring for Their Favorite Colors - Aquarium in Kobe, 2019 Digital slide show: 22 images (2' 31" / color / NO sound / 16:9) Courtesy the artist

LM ‘Though it’s dark, still I sing’ was the title of the 34th Bienal de São Paulo, as curator could you tell me about the origin of this specific title and the curatorial framework behind the Biennial as a whole?

JCV The title is a line from a poem by Amazonian poet Thiago de Mello, published in 1965, at the dawn of the military dictatorship in Brazil. He wasn’t directly referring to the political situation, but to the idea of being able to carry on despite everything. I curated the São Paulo Bienal at a time when there was right wing government, so there were a lot of parallels and also desire from part of that government to look back at dictatorship as if it was not something that we should try to avoid for the future. That verse specifically was very meaningful for recent Brazilian history and for the time we were living at the time when we did the 34th Bienal.

We didn’t have one theme, it was more of a methodology that we tried to put in place when approaching the idea of a large scale exhibition such as a biennial. The methodology sought to naturally bring the audience to realise that an artwork, and even an exhibition as a whole, is not something that has one specific meaning, but instead something that changes in time, depending on whatever surrounds it. Two figures of reference were Viveiros de Castro, a Brazilian anthropologist, who’s work focuses on the human condition versus a permanent way of being and Édouard Glissant, a philosopher and poet who talked a lot about the poetics of relation.

So the Bienal was underpinned by this idea of always being in relation to the other – to other people, to other artworks and not about reducing it to one thing.

LM Aside, of course, from Artissima and “the human condition” at Gallerie d’Italia, what else would you recommend our readers to see whilst in Turin during art week?

JCV All the exhibitions that I’ve been lucky enough to see over the years at the Pinacoteca Agnelli are always great, so I’m really looking forward to seeing Thomas Bayrle there. I’m also looking forward to Sarah Sze at OGR – I think she’s an amazing artist. And if I’m able, I would like to get on a train and see James Lee Byers in Milan!

Joan Jonas Stream or River Flight or Pattern (detail), 2016-17 Courtesy the Artist and Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milano-Albisola Superiore
Keep up to date with My Art Guides
Sign up to our newsletter and stay in the know with all worldwide contemporary art events