Though born and bred in Toronto, Giuliana Racco has made Europe her home since 2002. She completed her graduate degree in Visual Arts at the IUAV University in Venice, where she was awarded a studio, and later worked as an assistant professor in the visual arts workshops held by Lewis Baltz; she also served as a translator and research assistant for the Migropolis: Venice / Atlas of a Global Situation (Hatje Cantz, 2008) book and exhibition project.  Racco, whose research focuses on immigration and other forms of individual and collective movement across territories, and who often works with the printed word, explores archives, language acquisition, refugees, and the connections between them.

Giuliana Racco stayed at the JCVA for three weeks in May 2012. Racco was aided by the JCVA in the preparation of detailed plans for a visit that would address her interest in migration, language, and more. But events in Israel contributed no less, as she arrived during heated public debates regarding the future of labor migrants and refugees in the country.  She focused on studying the volatile situation in South Tel Aviv, especially in Neve Sha'anan and the (multicultural) Garden Library for Refugees and Migrant Workers at the Levinsky Park.

Racco also visited the Digital Art Lab in Holon and met with its director Eyal Dannon.  She was particularly impressed with artist Dafna Shalom's project Identity and Identification, a local studio she erected for the residents' use and for the scanning and collection of historic photographs. Racco, who is collecting visual and textual evidence of demographic changes in various territories for a project called Parallel, also selected historical images from other local libraries and plans to include Israel in her project.

During her stay in Jerusalem, she visited the ultra-Orthodox Me'a She'arim neighborhood as well as Jerusalem's Old City, and also participated in a seminar on the "Globalscape of camps and the politics of neutrality,” in the Al Feneiq Center at the Deheishe refugee camp. She met with Yuval Yaski, one of the curators of the Israeli Pavilion in the Venice Architecture Biennale of 2010 for a fruitful discussion on architecture and migration in the Kibbutz.

Racco's visit was an intensive whirl of study and meetings that provided a wealth of new materials for her work.


In Attesa di, Fotonovela, 2009 

(In collaboration with Matteo Guidi 
Curated by Caterina Benvegnù in the context of Art Waiting Room, Fondazione March, Padua)

Working from the familiar Italian format of the fotonovela - a romantic novel presented via still photographs with dialogue bubbles - Racco and Guidi created a subversive, site-specific work for the lobby of a furniture factory in Padua.  But instead of the escapist romantic fantasies characteristic of the fotonovela, which first grew popular in the 1940's, the two created a documentary that consists of short interviews Racco conducted with the firm's employees.

Racco accompanied the workers daily over the course of a week. She followed them through their work day from their morning bus ride and the moment they check in, punching their time card, through their working hours and lunch break, and up to the final signing out and the family's evening plans.

The work, which was commissioned for the firm's lobby and might have been expected to offer a pleasant diversion for waiting visitors, is stubbornly provocative and critical. Racco challenges the notion of art as an aesthetic appendage, and instead inserts the subversive artwork into the familiar practice of aimless leafing through waiting-room magazines. Plumb in the center of the arena meant to mediate between the factory and its clients -- the lobby -- the artist places and exposes the workers and their labor.  Under her orchestration, the passive visitor who is commonly "passing time," is engaged by a narrative that turns him into an active spectator of the laborers' work, and specifically of the role of time in employees' lives.  While the visitor idly leafs through the pages, s/he encounters time as it is experienced by those working just beyond the walls.  The role of time is twofold, as the questions Racco addresses to the administrative and production workers all revolve around time: how long have they been working for the company, what are the repetitive patterns in their daily lives, what is the difference between their leisure and work hours, etc.

As a result, the production process wears a human and personal face. The workers' personal and social economies are juxtaposed with the reigning logic of efficiency.  The convenient apparatus of ignorance that normally shields the visitor (and potential buyer) is dismantled, and the laborers' life stories are prioritized over the end product. These life stories, however, do not provide the dramatic sensationalism of a telenovela, but rather the minor, prosaic, day-to-day dramas that activate the role of the visitor in the theater of the firm.