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Perché lo faccio perché. La vita poetica di Giulia Niccolai

Padiglione de l’Esprit Nouveau | Piazza della Costituzione 11, Bologna
7 May - 5 June 2022

Main Project of ART CITY Bologna 2022

This exhibition curated by Allison Grimaldi Donahue and Caterina Molteni tells the story of the poet, translator, and artist Giulia Niccolai (1934-2021). It retraces the salient stages of her professional life through documents, photographs, texts, recordings, and works from the Maurizio Spatola Archives, the Foundation Echaurren-Salaris, the Italian Women’s Library of Bologna, and private archives.

Already a photographer during the 1950s, Giulia Niccolai emerged as a concrete, visual and sound poet between the late 1960s and early 1980s. She actively experimented in renewing the poetic language of that period, participating with Gruppo 63, the magazine “TAM TAM” - its co-director with Adriano Spatola - the Geiger publishing house, and the Dolce Stil Suono. In addition, Niccolai took part in various exhibitions and events, including “Materialization of Language” in 1978, curated by Mirella Bentivoglio, for the XXXVIII Venice Biennale.

In those years, her poetic, visual, and sound research was distinguished by a particular use of non-sense, triggered by her experiments in morphological concretism that ironically opened language to new semantic links and verb-visual solutions.

Lexical concretism was often associated with using simple objects assembled as collages together with short verbal formulas. Language games thus became tools for rehabilitating objects and activities considered feminine—sewing spools, embroidery, typewriters, buttons, straight pins—transforming them into real ‘poems’.

Translator and intermediary for numerous foreign poets and copy editor in poetry periodicals, Niccolai stood out for her participatory position. Still, she often remained on the sidelines of the official story, a pivotal figure yet insufficiently recognized in art and poetry circles.

On display, the archive itself has become a subject of analysis, transmuting from a “keeper of traces of the past” to a memory creation device driven by various voices: written and visual (documents, texts, photographs) and oral evidence collected during field research, up to possible triggers in the artistic field. 

A performance by Giulia Crispiani, a writing workshop and a reading conceived by Allison Grimaldi Donahue, films by Bes Bajraktarević, Sergio Racanati and Manuela Gandini are featured as tools to reflect on Niccolai’s intellectual and artistic legacy.

Events during the exhibition:

7, 14, 28 May 3 - 4.30 pm
Workshop Let's Do - "Because Because Because"
Writing workshop with Allison Grimaldi Donahue
Limited places, registration required: 

May 13th 6.30 pm
Collective reading Giulia Niccolai and her poetry
With Marzia D'Amico, Mara Cini, Allison Grimaldi Donahue, Caterina Molteni, Monica Palma, Franca Rovigatti, Bianca Tarozzi
Free admission subject to availability

May 14
6 pm Performed reading by Allison Grimaldi Donahue Il gesto / The gesture
7 pm Performance by Giulia Crispiani se io fossi in te se tu fossi in me
Free admission subject to availability

5 June 4.30 pm
Reading by Gian Paolo Roffi
Free admission subject to availability

Exhibition opening hours: May 7, 8, 3 pm - 7pm | 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 May 10 am - 8pm
From 16 May to 5 June Saturday and Sunday 3 pm - 7pm
Admission: free without reservation, until the maximum capacity is reached (limited access)