Residency Unlimited


Talks | Feb 9 2024 1:00pm

Meet Over Lunch: Leave the Community Alone—The Ethics of Curating Contemporary Art in Villages

Installation by Carlo De Meo, Seminaria Sogninterra Environmental Art Biennial 2011

Friday February 9, 2024 | 1:00 - 2:00pm

Location: Residency Unlimited
360 Court Street (main green church doors), Brooklyn NY 11231 (map)

Leave the Community Alone is a research project centered around the politics and the ethics of “community art” in rural contexts. By way of a journey to remote and depopulated villages in Italy, Russia, Iceland and the United States, the fieldwork is comprised of four case studies of art residencies and festivals, each activating a critical exchange between villagers and artists and triggering problematic power dynamics of representation.

Drawing on scholars like Hal Foster, Claire Bishop, Grant Kester and Miwon Kwon, this research questions the positionality of curators and artists in relation to the communities they work for and with. What does it achieve to identify a “community” when its image is created by another? How do curators and artists, in the role of outsiders, activate dialog with the villagers? How do they manage conflicts and antagonism?

Answers are sought from the curators themselves. A closer listening of their words reveals good intentions along with, often, colonial and hegemonic attitudes, where local people are treated as malleable subjects and the village as a mere backdrop. This approach is critiqued for promoting a hierarchical and centralized way of making art, usually silencing conflicts in favor of an idealized harmonious community. Leave The Community Alone aims to unveil the rhetoric of community in contemporary art, and to challenge romantic notions of community, while encouraging critical thinking and emphasizing the complexity of rural areas as contested cultural spaces.

The research is presented publicly as a 30-minute talk, incorporating anecdotes, images, and voices from the field. The primary audience for the talk includes curators, scholars, and artists, who are invited to a convivial moment at the end of the talk, fostering further discussion and reflection on the research findings.

Click below to see images from the program

Leave the Community Alone—The Ethics of Curating Contemporary Art in Villages


Isabella Indolfi is an independent curator based in New York City, with a decade of international experience in public art, implementing community-oriented and site-specific practices. Originally from Italy, she is working between Europe, where she is co-directing Seminaria Sogninterra Biennial Festival of Environmental Art, and the USA, where she recently received her MA at the Center for Human Rights and the Arts at Bard College in New York. With a research focus on the ethics and politics of community art, her latest projects are focused around themes of social and environmental justice. Past institutional partners include the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy, The Hermitage State Museum Youth Educational Centre in Saint Petersburg (Russia), the MACRO Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome (Italy), and the Cafesijan Museum in Yerevan (Armenia). Committed to supporting multidisciplinary knowledge production at the intersection of art and technology, Isabella has also co-curated international media art festivals such as Cyfest, and the Media Art Festival at the MAXXI Museum in Rome, and has been invited to speak at the Goldsmiths University of London and at the Manchester Metropolitan University School of Art.