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1982-2002: A Chronology for Italian Queer Movements

An exhibit of archival material and reproductions, photographs, and a

April 18, 2024
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Exhibition Opening

1982-2002: A Chronology for Italian Queer Movements

An exhibit of archival material and reproductions, photographs, and a bibliography

Curated by
Michele Bertolino and Giulia Sbaffi

On view
April 18 – May 31, 2024
Mon-Fri 10-6

Panel Discussion featuring
Giulia Sbaffi, curator
Michele Bertolino, curator
Samuel Zawacki, Johns Hopkins University
David Forgacs, NYU
Alessandra Mulé, Ph.D. Candidate, NYU


In 1982 the Italian Parliament introduced regulations on changing name and sex attribution in identity documents. The approval of Law 164/1982 represented an important political watershed. It was the outcome of a compromise between the fierce conservative morality of the system and the pressures coming from transgender movements. That same year, in Pordenone a group of street prostitutes organized a strike against the US personnel of the Navy Base in Aviano accused of committing violence against the women working in the area. A year later the two movements converged to raise awareness on the spreading of HIV/AIDS with its deadly impact on new generations of political activists. As the left was losing members and supporters from fear of retaliation and state criminalization, new political subjectivities emerged on the stage of 1980s social antagonism challenging social norms and social authorities through the politicization of gender, sex, desire, and kinship.

1982- 2002: a chronology for Italian queer movements seeks to explore these themes while shaping a possible chronology for the historical analysis of queer Italian history. It questions linearity as the dominant narrative, proposing a circular recursivity highlighting how struggles never end at their first result.
The exhibition is designed as an open archive: more than two hundred reproductions of archival documents engulf Casa Italiana, as rings run around the walls. A set of key dates is identified to re-read the 1980s and its long legacy over queer movements: 1982, 1991 with the International Conference on Aids in Florence, 1995 as the year that saw a national mobilization against homo-lesbo-transphobic and anti-sex laws, 2000 with the endorsement of UN’s protocol to prevent migrant trafficking, and finally the internationalist contingent of Queer for Peace organized at the Social Forum in Florence in 2002. Countering the dominant readings of the 1980s as a decade of withdrawal (riflusso), the exhibition offers a glimpse into the political protagonism of queer movements in Italy between 1982 and 2002. A bibliography, exhibited in the entrance hall, offers some guidelines on how to read the history and the theoretical framework for the events presented.
Some archival cupboards, dispersed in the space, present original materials, spanning from zines, photos, and documents. Five photos by Lina Pallotta retrace the longstanding friendship, portraying Porpora Marcasciano–a key figure of Italian queer movements–in political gatherings and public demonstrations ranging from over thirty years of struggles. Pallotta captures fleeting moments that occur in the corners of life. In these instances, resistant experiences are documented eluding the explicit iconography of political movements, rather are located in those liminal and porous spaces where politics is inscribed both in the flesh and in gestures. They testimony love and kinship as forces that drive the collectivity. The filing cabinet displayed in the hallway contains documents from queer archives in Turin, Bologna, Rome, and New York linking the persistence of the memory of the past to the queer rustling of the present: we have always been here.

1982- 2002: a chronology for Italian queer movements poses questions, rather than suggesting definitive answers: how do we preserve collective memories, without embellishing struggles? How do we read archives, relating ourselves to a never-ending past that informs today’s actions? How do we write collective stories, and how many can be told?

This project is also part of “Visualizing HIV/AIDS in Italy” by Michele Bertolino, supported by Italian Council / General Directorate for Contemporary Art