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“U Scantu”: A Disorderly Tale by Elisa Giardina Papa

1. Elisa Giardina Papa, “U Scantu” A Disorderly Tale, 2022. Video and ceramic installation. Still frame from video. Courtesy of the Artist and Galerie Tanja Wagner
1. Elisa Giardina Papa, “U Scantu” A Disorderly Tale, 2022. Video and ceramic installation. Still frame from video. Courtesy of the Artist and Galerie Tanja Wagner


Elisa Giardina Papa: U Scantu: A Disorderly Tale (2022)
Friday 1 March – Sunday 19 May 2024.
Preview: Thursday 29 February, 5.30-7.30pm


Collective is pleased to announce the first exhibition of its 40th anniversary year: “U Scantu”: A Disorderly Tale (2022) by Sicilian artist Elisa Giardina Papa, supported by the Italian Institute of Culture in Edinburgh. The exhibition will mark the first solo presentation of work by Giardina Papa in the UK, and will run from 1 March – 19 May 2024.

First exhibited at the 2022 Venice Biennale, U Scantu brings together ceramic sculptures and a large-scale video installation to explore the Sicilian folk tradition of the donne di fora – ‘women from the outside and beside themselves’. Considered to be at once heretical and magical healers, the ‘donne di fora’ defied simple categorization, believed to embody a range of opposing qualities – feminine and masculine; human and animal; benevolent and vengeful.

Giardina Papa reimagines the donne di fora as teenage ‘tuners’ who ride through the seemingly abandoned utopian urban landscape of Gibellina Nuova in the west of Sicily, on their bikes customised with powerful sound systems. Drawing on songs and stories told by the artist’s grandmother, as well as 16th and 17th century archival material from the Inquisition, U Scantu intersperses scenes of the modern-day tuners with poetic text and visual motifs from a 19th century collection of Sicilian fairy tales.

Ducks feet and thick ceramic braids growing out of the walls and speakers reference the magical powers of ‘le donne di fora’. While their healing rituals were known to alleviate ‘u scantu’ – the Sicilian word for fear’ – their patients would often awaken with monstrous feet or long disorderly braids. Running around the walls of the gallery, a text work quotes from the New York poet, Megan Fernandes, who together with composer and performer Duendita, have collaborated with the artist on the sound composition.

For Giardina Papa, “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.”

The work finds new resonance in the architecture of the City Dome gallery and Collective’s home on Calton Hill. Robert Louis Stevenson references Scotland’s shameful history of ‘witch’ burnings taking place on the north side of Calton Hill ‘in former days’. In more recent centuries, the hill has become a welcoming landscape for the magical and unruly, occasional haunt for joy riders, and host to Beltane, the contemporary reimagining of the ancient Celtic May Day fire festival which celebrates the return of summer.

Speaking about the exhibition, Collective’s Director Sorcha Carey said: “Collective has a long history of introducing the work of international practitioners to Scotland and the UK. As we look forward to celebrating our 40th anniversary later this year, we are delighted to bring Elisa’s ground-breaking practice and distinctive imaginary to Calton Hill and the City Observatory”.

Join us for the exhibition launch at Collective on Calton Hill on Thursday, 29th February from 5:30 – 7:30 pm. Refreshments will be served from the Kiosk outdoors, so please dress for the weather.

Click here for more information about Collective and the exhibition.


Elisa Giardina Papa
An artist whose work has recently been presented at the Venice Biennale, MoMA and the Whitney Museum, Giardina Papa’s research-based art practice explores knowledge and desires that have been lost or forgotten, disqualified, and rendered nonsensical. Through critical yet poetic framing, she works across large-scale video installation, experimental films, and internet-based art projects to draw attention to those parts of our lives which, nonetheless, remain radically unruly, untranslatable, and incomputable. Giardina Papa is also a founding member of the artist collective Radha May. Together with Indian artist Nupur Mathur and Ugandan artist Bathsheba Okwenje, they develop performances and art installations that reveal hidden histories and peripheral sites, exploring their relation to gender, sexuality, and colonialism. Giardina Papa is based between Sicily and New York.  She is represented by Galerie Tanja Wagner, Berlin.

Collective is a free contemporary art centre that brings creative new perspectives to the city of Edinburgh. Founded in 1984 as an artist-run initiative, Collective runs from Edinburgh’s iconic Calton Hill. Situated in a heritage observatory, Collective develops and presents world-class exhibitions, events, workshops and discussions from ground-breaking local and international artists.


Image: Elisa Giardina Papa, “U Scantu”: A Disorderly Tale, 2022. Video and ceramic installation. Variable dimensions,12 min. Still frame from video. Courtesy of the Artist and Galerie Tanja Wagner. ©Elisa Giardina Papa.


  • Organizzato da: Collective
  • In collaborazione con: Italian Institute of Culture in Edinburgh