Dreaming with the ancestors

The exhibition “Dreaming with the ancestors” emerged from a research project investigating the mesoamerican objects in the permanent collection of the MUDEC - Museo delle Culture, in Milan.
Aimed at a rearrangement of the objects and an update in cataloguing, the project sparkled new observations about the way in which – with all their facets and layers – those objects allow us to establish connections between broader artistic themes, and can make people think and reconsider the ideas of identity, aesthetics, and the strategic use of memory and the past. Informed by such considerations, the museum can truly become a dynamic institution that can draw new meaning from its own heritage.
The exhibition, curated by Davide Domenici and Carolina Orsini, is displayed in the two large, curved glass structures looking onto the main hall of the museum (known as The Cloud), in a seamless dialogue with the other exhibition/event: “FRIDA KAHLO. Beyond the myth”.
“Dreaming with the ancestors” is an elaborate tale told with archaeological and ethnographic Mexican objects from the MUDEC permanent collection, historical photos, and images of Frida Kahlo’s work. It shows how both the indigenous world and the pre-Columbian past were paramount in Kahlo’s own artistic practice. Aztec sculptures, fictile figurines of Teotihuacan, ceramics from Western Mexico, were all part of a lexicon in terms of identity and aesthetics, a shared heritage of shapes and meanings used by Frida Kahlo to express a Mexican identity that – as argued in the “Beyond the Myth” exhibition – was in fact one of the main themes in her paintings and, more broadly, throughout that art performance that was her entire life.
The exhibition spans in sections revolving around specific aspects, from the role that the indigenous world and the archaeological rediscovery of its pre-Columbian past had in the building of a new post-revolutionary Mexico, to Kahlo and Rivera’s collecting of archaeological objects and their own rediscovery of pre-Columbian aesthetics, to Frida’s own Mexican identity and how it was expressed not only through her use of pre-Columbian motifs in her paintings, but also through her wearing traditional clothes and ancient jade jewellery – as proved in historical pictures – in what can be defined as the “construction” of the artist’s body.

Davide Domenici, anthropologist at the University of Bologna Department of History and Cultures, specialized in archaeology and history of indigenous America. Director of the Rio La Venta Archaeological Project (Chiapas, Messico) and the Cahokia Project (Illinois, USA). He is currently studying Italian collectors of Mexican objects during the early modern age and analysing dyeing materials used in Mexican pictorial manuscripts, both pre-Hispanic and colonial.

Carolina Orsini, senior conservator at Museo delle Culture (Mudec), specialized in Archaeology at Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa and earned her PhD at University of Bologna (2005) defending a thesis on Andean archaeology. She curated the permanent exhibition of the Mudec collections (2015), their rearrangement and catalogue. She also worked on many exhibitions in various museums both in Milan City and outside. She has been doing field research in Peru and Argentina since 1998, supported by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in cooperation with many local research institutes.

Free entry

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