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Sight Unseen

HD video, 2019, 18':47", installation, 2020

Omar al-Mukhtar (1885-1931) was the leader of the resistance against the Italian colonisation of Libya (1911-1943). He became the symbol of the Libyan people’s resilience, but in Italy, he remains unknown. Sight Unseen explores the concealment and appropriation around the memory and documentation of Mukhtar’s final days and spectacularised state killing through the analysis of visual and material culture that has been subject to either manipulation or obfuscation in Italy. At its core is the most complete - but legally unpublishable - series of images of Mukhtar's capture and execution, which historian Alessandro Volterra describes and shows to the camera. Conveying the concealment and marginalisation of these images (and legal ban), they are never fully revealed: barely discernible, they are faded to black, blurred, shown for just an instant. Interwoven to this material, are other references that attest to the carefully orchestrated politics of visibility and invisibility that shape the memory of colonial violence in Italy: Mukhtar’s contested glasses; the movie Lion of the Desert; extracts from Mukhtar's trial; and Monumento al Carabiniere, a 1933 memorial to the Italian armed forces in Turin. 


Please Note: The video was recorded in 2018. In 2021 the copyright issues were solved and Alessandro Volterra, together with Maurizio Zinni, was able to publish the book Il leone, il giudice e il capestro. Storia e immagini della repressione italiana in Cirenaica (1928-1932), which analyses this collection of photographs.

Developed while in residence at the British School at Rome.

Featuring Alessandro Volterra and music by Marco Baldini and Luca Giorgi. 

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