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Dr Francesca Cavallo

Honorary Research Fellow

About

Francesca Laura Cavallo is a curator, art critic and an honorary researcher at the Centre for Indigenous and Settler Colonial Studies at the University of Kent. Her work combines research and practice to explore how the arts can be mobilised to transform public perceptions and attitudes towards risk, ecology, health and sustainability. Francesca has curated exhibitions, festivals and public programmes at Turner Contemporary, Margate; Manifesta 11, Zurichl; Cabinet NY; the ICA, London; 98weeks, Beirut and the Andersen Museum in Rome, among others. She has also worked in community development and art-related projects in the UK, US, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, Lebanon and Uruguay. 

She completed her Doctorate in 2020 at the University of Kent, where she has been teaching various modules in Art History, Curating and Aesthetics. Before coming to Kent, she was a research associate at Goldsmith’s working on the project Organising Disaster, funded by European Research Council. She has also taught at the London College of Communication and Royal College of Art. 

Francesca holds an MRes in Cultural Studies from the London Consortium (Birkbeck, TATE, ICA, Science Museum and AA) and an MA in Curating Contemporary Art at La Sapienza University in Rome. Her Bachelor Degree (Laurea) was in Preservation of Cultural Heritage at the University of Lecce (IT), where she wrote about the iconography of the Ship of Fools across Hieronymus Bosch, Sebastian Brant and the writings of Michel Foucault  

Research interests

Francesca’s research and curatorial practice focus on the intersection between multidisciplinary arts and the social realm, with particular attention to risk across different cultures and disciplines. 

Her postdoctoral research project, Acting before the emergency: artists, environmental disasters and climate change in Brazil, focussed on how Brazilian contemporary artists are cultivating positions of criticality, awareness and hope for climate justice in a country that is exponentially more divided by different economic interests and perceptions of risk. 

Engaging with sociology, aesthetics and visual culture, her doctoral research on the Aesthetics of Risk focusses on the cultures and histories of risk management to show how risks today are not just socially constructed but also aesthetically manifested and experienced. By concentrating on warnings, guidance, data visualisations and pre-enactments across risk management and art, her thesis proposed a taxonomy and visual analysis of the methods of persuasion, visualisation and diagnosis that western democracies mainly adopt to manage risk.

At the same time, Francesca is interested in investigating how art can disrupt mainstream decision-making models based on quantitative calculations of risk. Through exhibitions, programming and artistic collaboration, her work explores how art can provide a safe space for risk-taking and cultivate resilience in an endangered world. 

Francesca curated the exhibition Risk at Turner Contemporary (10 October 2015 - 17 January 2016). Featuring more than 70 works from the mid-20th century to the present day, it was the first attempt to explicitly address the topic of risk in a major UK public gallery, and over 91,000 people visited it. From chance procedures to political risk; from dangerous experiences to the culture of risk, the exhibition featured works by major international artists including Marina Abramović, Francis Alÿs, Chim↑Pom, Chris Burden, Sophie Calle, Jeremy Deller, Marcel Duchamp, Harun Farocki, Yoko Ono, Gerhard Richter and Ai Weiwei among others. At Turner Contemporary, Francesca also convened the Art Matters symposium in collaboration with the University of Kent. This collaboration was the seed from which her doctoral research has germinated.

Previously Francesca had been engaged in the long term research project Rehearsing Disasters, where she developed and explored the notion of Pre-enactment through various publications, programmes and artistic collaborations. From fire drills and mock-disaster-response exercises to the risk assessment processes accompanying so many events, structures and even ‘high-risk’ people, a pre-enactment is the anticipation of future disasters through performance, an embodied practice for both exercising and exorcising risk.

Teaching

Francesca has been teaching various modules in Contemporary Art History, Curating and Aesthetics.  

Professional

Following her first degree, Francesca lived for a year in Mexico for an international program funded by the European Commission. She worked at the Museo Zoque Regional, in the rural area near Tuxtla Gutierrez (Chiapas), researching and displaying the ethnographic collection dedicated to the Zoques, an indigenous group living in Chiapas, México. 

Back in Europe, Francesca has worked at MACRO, Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome, at Serralves Museum in Porto, Portugal, and Cuba's Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennial. Her curatorial projects included the exhibition Abnormal at the Andersen Museum in Rome, the Art festival CF2 in Puglia (Italy) and Sicily in Black and White, Letizia Battaglia's first solo exhibition in Uruguay. 

In 2007 in London, Francesca co-founded the art collective Cosmicmegabrain. Between 2007 and 2012 the collective produced several projects, including shows in Beirut (98weeks Research project), Lisbon (Manpower Festival), Rome (MACRO Testaccio) and London (Shoreditch Studios). She has lead workshops for [ s p a c e ], the University of the Arts London, and the Royal College of Art. Francesca's socially engaged practice has included running art workshops in homeless hostels in London, as well as coordinating the programmes Building Local Activism with the Young Foundation and Active Citizens with the British Council. 

Francesca has contributed to various publications and art magazines, including Camera Austria International, CURA and This is Tomorrow. 

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