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03 January 2022

Migration as the Personal Reminiscence of a Shared Imagery

03 January 2022 - Written by PhMuseum

The series Dans Mon Souvenir, C’Était Blanc by Serena Vittorini combines retrieved recollections of the author's childhood, who moved from Italy to Belgium, with a collective layer of historical memory. The work evokes a clash between concepts, such as the miner and the lamb, which ultimately amalgamate to foster a story of personal and societal rebirth. 

Developed in collaboration with the industrial heritage site Bois du Cazier, the work is a multimedia narration exploring histories and memories between Belgium and Italy in a post-WWII context. The resulting installation comprises of

- A series of photographs

- An installation of historical archive images and objects from my childhood inside a child's desk (which contains collective and individual historical memory and allows the viewer to physically interact with the content of the memories)

- And a sound piece outlining the story of a fictional character, a miner son of Italian immigrants in Belgium after WWII.

The work can be read on two intertwining layers: collective memories of Italian migrants and flashbacks of my childhood. I’ve always been somehow fascinated and disturbed by the concept of memory, and the work was born from a personal struggle: I don’t have any memories from before my twenties. And this has and continues to have consequences on my identity.

In fact, the flashbacks of my childhood that I mention in the work, translated into images and narrated by the voice of an old man in the audio I produced, are memories recovered after my own personal therapy.

Following my move to Belgium and the request by the Cultuurcentrum Mechelen to create a new work, I decided to focus partly on this intimate personal struggle and partly on a historical period that has marked the history of Italians in Belgium.

The title, “Dans Mon Souvenir C’était Blanc”, references an interesting case that emerged from academic research by Anne Morelli, a Belgian historian of Italian origins who specialises in the history of religions and minorities. In the interviews she conducted with Italian miners, Morelli noticed certain recurring elements, such as the reminiscence of a snowy landscape upon arrival in Belgium. Her interpretation of these unbelievably consistent accounts is that snow, far from being an actual recollection, was part of the shared imagery of Italian migrants’ experience. “Dans Mon Souvenir C’était Blanc” reflects exactly on this combination of fact, fiction, and feelings that makes up collective and individual memories.

Words and Pictures by Serena Vittorini.

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Serena Vittorini (b. 1990) is a visual artist based in Belgium who works on the link between identity and memory, blurring the boundaries between the intimate and the public, reality and fiction. Her current research practice incorporates photography, installation, audio and video to allow for a multi-layered interpretation. Follow her on PhMuseum and Instagram.

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This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PhMuseum curators.

Selected by

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Reading time

4 minutes

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