October 12, 2005 - Artlab San Servolo Artist Residency - La Cheba Dei Mati_The Madmen’s Cage
October 12, 2005

La Cheba Dei Mati_The Madmen’s Cage

14 October – 4 December 2005

Exhibition of the works of art realised during the residency

artLAB San Servolo Artist Residency
San Servolo Servizi
Isola di San Servolo 30100 Venezia
T 39.041.2765001
F 39.041.2765402


The site of artLAB, the first artist residency in Venice, is an enchanting island in the Venetian lagoon that once served as the provinces insane asylum and is now a centre for culture and advanced studies. A group of artists was invited to live and work on the island during the month of August in order to create works of art inspired by the theme of madness. The opening of La Cheba dei Mati (The Madmens Cage), the exhibition of the art projects created during the residency, curated by Irene Calderoni, will be taking place on 14 October 2005.

The contributing artists include Adalberto Abbate, Rebecca Agnes, Kristine Alksne, Alessandra Cassinelli, Giovanni De Lazzari, Lucy Harrison, Rory Macbeth and Andrea Penzo.

The initiative is being promoted by the Province of Venice and by San Servolo Servizi in collaboration with local cultural institutions, the Querini Stampalia Foundation, the Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation City of Venice and the Abate Zanetti School for Glass. The aim of the residency programme, which will be an annual event, is to provide a platform for the creation of contemporary art, offering artists and the city of Venice new opportunities not only for exhibitions but also for artistic and cultural production.

During the residency, the artists were confronted with the complexity of memories and images of the island, whose history is marked by the presence of the mentally ill and the different systems used by society in its relations with them. The choice of madness as a guiding theme of the residency, as a subject for the works of art but also for theoretical analyses, through conferences with guests and discussions within the group, is an expression of the desire to recover this memory, to make it speak, in the unpredictable ways that artistic sensibility and the multiform languages of contemporary art have to offer.

The artists impressions, culled from their experience of the place and the residency, gave rise to a variety of expressive media from photography to video, from drawing to installation. Some of the works took their inspiration from materials stored in the asylum archives, including photographs and old medical records of the patients, but also medical devices used for treatment and constriction, all of which document a difficult and not-too-distant past. Other artists turned their thoughts to the present and the outside, in search of signs and meanings of a malaise which has by now abandoned the island, and yet, while no longer shut up and institutionalised, still remains no less problematic and repressed by the collective consciousness.

While avoiding a harsh tone, at times touching on the humorous or surreal, the works have significantly steered clear of clichés on madness, exploring the theme with a mixture of seriousness and delicacy. The title of the show, La Cheba dei Mati, an expression in Venetian dialect for the madhouse, is meant to express, with a slightly ironic turn, both the islands past and the distinctive experience of the residency, involving critical contributions from scholars along with group discussions and exchanges. These unique aspects of the artist residency, perhaps its most interesting and intense ones, connect up with the more general aspirations for San Servolo today, whichthanks to the work of the Venice International University, located on the islandare being exploring with ever greater success (every year over 35 thousand students from around the world come to live on the island).

Artlab San Servolo Artist Residency
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