The exhibition Il mondo magico (The magical world) is accompanied by a book exploring the ideas at the heart of the 2017 Italian Pavilion. The volume is divided into two main sections.
The first section introduces the theme of the exhibition from various angles. It includes an essay by Cecilia Alemani on the “magical world” as a system for interpreting reality that the invited artists, Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Roberto Cuoghi, and Adelita Husni-Bey, employ in very different ways; an essay by Fabio Dei, Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Pisa, about the research methods used by Ernesto de Martino—author of the book that inspired the exhibition’s theme and title—and the context out of which they developed; a comprehensive profile of de Martino, reprinted here with an introduction by its author, Giovanni Agosti, Professor of Modern Art History at the University of Milan, who retraces the motives that led him to study de Martino exactly thirty years ago, in 1987; and, last but not least, an essay by Marina Warner that draws on ancient imagery—the iconology of Puglia—to weave a series of visual links between different cultures and eras, bridging art and magic.
The second section is divided in two three parts, each featuring two texts on one of the three invited artists. The work of Andreotta Calò is interpreted by Giuliana Bruno, Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University, and by Brian Dillon, the UK editor of Cabinet magazine; the work of Cuoghi is described by Chris Wiley, a contributor to magazines such as The New Yorker, and illuminated by passages from an ancient text that inspired the artist’s project for the Italian Pavilion; and the work of Husni-Bey is examined in an essay by Barbara Casavecchia, a contributing editor at frieze, and through a conversation between the artist and Silvia Federici, an activist and Professor Emerita of Political Philosophy and International Studies at Hofstra University (Hempstead, NY). The texts are rounded out by a selection of images—archival pictures, works by the invited artists, and iconography that inspired their projects for the Italian Pavilion—that is never merely illustrative, reflecting the in-depth research that went into writing the individual essays.