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Artwork commemorates impact of Italy's racial laws

Published: 23 May 2023 at 13:19

Installation by Elena Cologni

Installation remembering Pisa’s Jewish community has been designed by ARU researcher

Dr Elena Cologni, an artist and Senior Research Fellow at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), has been commissioned to design an installation commemorating 85 years since the introduction of racial laws which had severe implications for Italy’s Jewish community.

Dictator Benito Mussolini’s National Fascist Party implemented measures which included the expulsion of Jewish people from employment in public office or higher education.

Commissioned by the University of Pisa, Dr Cologni’s work features 416 brass plaques which will be mounted on the external façade of the San Rossore Memorial Centre in Pisa.

Designing the artwork was informed by research conducted in the archives of Rome’s ‘Tullia Zevi’ Bibliographic Center, through which she unearthed correspondence sent to the Mussolini government indicating that in 1938 there were 416 members of the Jewish community in Pisa. 

The artwork, titled 416_SR1938, is at the core of The Places of Memory project. Established to remember professors and students expelled from the University of Pisa and members of the local Jewish community sent to Nazi concentration camps as a result of the racial laws, the initiative also includes performative interventions in the city and a conference. 

Supported by the Cambridge School of Art at Anglia Ruskin University and Arts Council England, Dr Cologni’s installation has been created as part of a collaboration between the Jewish Community of Pisa and the University of Pisa’s Interdepartmental Center for Jewish Studies. 

Explaining the role she hopes the installation can play in advancing the project’s aims, Dr Cologni said:

"Remembering is reconnecting with our past and this project inevitably reopens deep wounds, which are part of social memory. 

“The Places of Memory aims to position itself at the centre of a debate regarding how protecting and preserving this shared past can help communities to take responsibility for presenting it to future generations.”


Outlining the success of the commission, Riccardo Zucchi, Rector of the University of Pisa, said:

With Elena Cologni's installation, the message carried by the San Rossore Memorial Centre is strengthened and the commitment of our community is renewed in defence of the values of democracy, freedom and the right to dignity of every human being.” 


Once finished, Elena’s 416_SR1938 will be unveiled this summer.