Elisa Giardina Papa

Discover her works at Gropius Bau and Galerie Tanja Wagner

Elisa Giardina Papa, Labor of Sleep, Have you been able to change your habits??, 2017, Still from the video. Commissioned by the Whitney Museum of American Art. Courtesy: the arist

Ethers Bloom, Gropius Bau
10 Aug, 2023 — 14 Jan, 2024

Ether’s Bloom is a new programme initiated by Gropius Bau that focuses on artificial intelligence (AI). From June 2023, the programme kicks off a sequence of new projects including a Writer in Residence, artistic explorations, a podcast, lectures and conversations. The development of an app with a special focus on education and accessibility forms the programme’s second part.

Its title, Ether’s Bloom, is inspired by new Writer in Residence K Allado-McDowell. Exploring the utopian and poetic possibilities of artificial intelligence, Ether’s Bloom enables speculation and new research at the Gropius Bau on our relationships to each other, to other living beings and to technology. The programme broadens the existing thematic programmes of the Gropius Bau and its present focuses on non-human intelligences, notions of care and situated knowledge.

From 10 August 2023, the Gropius Bau will begin a sequence of presentations of artistic works that engage with AI. Works by Elisa Giardina Papa, Mimi Ọnụọha, Patricia Domínguez, and a newly commissioned augmented reality (AR) work by kennedy+swan will be presented successively at the Gropius Bau.

Elisa Giardina Papa’s work traces how extractive forms of AI capitalism have strained our capacities for imagining, desiring and labouring. Through political yet poetic framing, she calls attention to those aspects of our lives which, nonetheless, remain radically unruly, untranslatable and incomputable. Her video trilogy Cleaning Emotional Data (2020), Labor of Sleep (2017) and Technologies of Care (2016) explores how labour and care are reframed by digital economies and artificial intelligence.


Elisa Giardina Papa, Cleaning Emotional Data, 2020. Algotaylorism, Installation view at Kunsthalle Mulhouse, Frace, 2020. Commissioned by Aksioma, Institute for Contemporary Art in Ljubljana and La Kunsthalle Mulhouse. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Tanja Wagner, Berlin

Flock, Tanya Wagner
9 Sep — 4 Nov, 2023

Additionally Galerie Tanja Wagner presents Elisa Giardina Papa’s first solo exhibition Flock – She Preferred the Lineage of Goats and Ducks until November 4, 2023. The exhibition by the multidisciplinary artist features all new ceramic artworks in addition to a video sculpture and works on paper.

Thick, long ceramic braids grow out of the exhibition walls and video screens, while whimsical, wearable duck feet lay upon the ground, waiting for a visitor to step into them. The artworks are inspired by Sicilian myth and tradition, particularly that of the enigmatic “donne di fora.” Heretical and magical healers defiant of simple categorizations, they were known for embodying opposing qualities like the feminine and masculine, human and animal, benevolent and vengeful. In Mediterranean oral culture, their healing rituals alleviate “u scantu” – the Sicilian word for fear – following their visits, however, the patients could awaken with monstrous feet or long disorderly braids.

Elisa Giardina Papa, Moldy Lemons #4. They were always outside, their blasphemy was contagious., 2023, installation view, Galerie Tanja Wagner, Berlin.

The exhibition also introduces a series of ceramic lemons, playfully nodding to a further Sicilian tradition. Deviating from traditional ceramic fruit centerpieces, EGP’s lemons appear to be moldy, they gesture toward a changing present, rather than a static past. Likewise, EGP tells us, “the myth of the donne di fora should not be dismissed as a dusty folkloric object, but rather conjured as a generative multispecies and queer imaginary, a new possibility of becoming.”

EGP’s affinity with the “donne di fora” began as a child, listening to songs and stories told by her grandmother. Her interest deepened after extensive research into the 16th and 17th centuries archive of the Spanish Inquisition in Sicily. There she unraveled the stories of the women persecuted as heretical “donne di fora”. Flock – She Preferred the Lineage of Goats and Ducks leaps between the historical and the imagined to unbind the vibrancy of those lives from the judgment that struck them down.

Similar themes have previously been explored in EGP’s works, such as her video installation, “U Scantu”: A Disorderly Tale (2022), which was initially exhibited at the 59th Venice Biennale. The installation had original contributions musically, by composer Duendita, and lyrically, by New York based poet Megan Fernandes. Their collaboration continues in Berlin – the video is to be screened with a special performance by Duendita during Berlin Art Week at the Gallery Weekend Festival on September 17 at 3 pm, while Fernandes’ lines appear in the titles of works in Flock.

EGP has also thematized the disproportionately female-driven field of care work. Cleaning Emotional Data (2020), Labor of Sleep (2017), and Technologies of Care (2016) each explore how labor and care are reframed by digital economies and artificial intelligence. This trilogy of installations will be on view at the Gropius Bau until January 14, 2024 as part of their exhibition #Ether’s Bloom: A Programme on Artificial Intelligence, marking the first time that the entire series is exhibited altogether.

Elisa Giardina Papa, Flock – She Preferred the Lineage of Goats and Ducks, 2023 installation view, Galerie Tanja Wagner, Berlin.

Elisa Giardina Papa’s research-based art practice seeks forms of knowledge and desire that have been lost or forgotten, disqualified, and rendered nonsensical by hegemonic demands for order and legibility. Sifting through discarded AI training datasets, censored cinema repositories, or fabricated heretical accusations, EGP traces how recurrent forms of extractive capitalism and imperialism have strained our capacities for living and laboring. Through critical yet poetic framing, she works across large-scale mixed media installation and experimental films to draw attention to those parts of our lives which, nonetheless, remain radically unruly, untranslatable, and incomputable. 

Recent exhibitions included (selection): the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia (The Milk of Dreams), Gropius Bau (Ethers’s Bloom), Berlin, Temple Bar Gallery + Studios (Reflex Blue), Dublin, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA’s Modern Mondays), the Whitney Museum (Sunrise/Sunset Commission), Seoul Mediacity Biennale 2018, 6th Buenos Aires Bienal de la Imagen en Movimiento, XVI Quadriennale di Roma, BFI London Film Festival, Flaherty NYC, M+ Hong Kong, ICA Milano among others.