Niccolò Masini: Effigies of the Unknown: Representation, power and the decolonial imaginary.


Thesis Advisor: Rachel O’ Reilly

August 2021


This thesis was written during the worldwide pandemic that fell upon us at the beginning of 2020. On a dusty trolley, traces of sand act as reminders of a complicated repatriation from the airport of Tunis. That was the last flight allowed from Carthage airport, the last flight before the harsh lockdown which locked-up Italy, and successfully, the world into a cage of blurry confinement. Regardless of the initially strict regulations, I was lucky enough to maintain a certain amount of mobility. This text was written between Genoa, Amsterdam, Berlin, the Aeolian islands of Stromboli and finally ‘Salina’ i.e., a cargo boat on which I crossed both the Mediterranean and the bizarre atmosphere of this particular historical moment. More and more, despite all the limitations, I forced myself to imagine this time as an opportunity to discover new methodologies. This new reality allowed me to question my relation to spatial locality and in turn catalyzed a re-learning process. I began to broadly consider how one may re-inhabit conventional imaginaries of place, transforming the awareness generated by the relationship between oneself and the inhabited environment? How can you possibly trigger a reimagining of spaces you indulgently preconceive as familiar, fixed, naturalized? As my effort began to answer these questions in the process of doing research for this thesis, I realized my entire life was a product of Cartesian Europeanism – I was, in fact, a child of the Enlightenment and its reasoning.

During my research, I started to wonder what happens between bodies when faced with the same consequences of a history: perhaps, a sort of secret intimacy. Somehow, I believe that the state of change makes sense to the extent that one is aware of what one is leaving behind. Sometimes, in the attempt of being different, we no longer take into consideration the possibility of being ourselves. As it has already been said, if we cannot mobilize our bodies any longer, let's give it all with our mind, intelligence and imagination. These cognitive experiences won't change the world, but their articulation might serve alternative purposes if adequately articulated.