Virginia Russolo
Campanacci del solstizio (Sos sonazos de primu istíu)
curated by
Emanuela Manca
Sedilo (OR), Sardegna

The project created by Virginia Russolo was inspired by a little-known carnival tradition in Sedilo that has nonetheless survived in its entirety, “Sa cursa de su puddu” (The rooster race). This annual event, which originated as an apotropaic ritual, involved the village people galloping on horseback, grasping and decapitating chickens that were hanging head-down from a rope stretched between two houses. Today the rite is performed using animals that are no longer alive, and even though it has lost its ritual value, it retains its visual immediacy and its symbolic violence. The sacrificial element is deeply rooted in the Sardinian carnival tradition: the word itself, “Carrasecare,” means to tear flesh and refers exclusively to live flesh, linking these rituals to the cult of Dionysus, the god who was dismembered before achieving rebirth. The sound of cowbells, which in many cultures is associated with protective power, is omnipresent during these rituals and, for the artist, becomes the ideal combination of sight and sound, expressing the tension between death and rebirth.
In the project titled Campanacci del solstizio (Cowbells at the solstice), Virginia Russolo specifically addresses the inhabitants’ collective memory: bell-shaped metal sculptures with bone clappers are suspended from a cable hanging above one of the village streets. Made through the reinterpretation of traditional techniques, the cowbells transcend conventional boundaries and explore a new language rooted in collective cultural history. By combining organic materials such as beeswax, animal fats, flowers, bones and skin, Russolo deconstructs and reassembles the image of folklore, breathing new life into it. The classifications of human, animal and spiritual are blended; biological and artificial elements merge to assume both structural and metaphorical roles. The project amplify the light of day, even though the cowbells are activated by the bones of animals which have completed their life cycle, and thus evoke themes of death and rebirth. Through this work, the artist extracts ancestral stories and folklore, to shape new mythologies oriented towards the future.

01. Virginia Russolo, Campanacci del solstizio (Sos sonazos de primu istíu), 2024. Beeswax, animal fats, iron, brass, leather, flowers, Hypericum oil, bones from horses struck by lightning, 100 x 500 cm circa.
Via Efisio Marini, 17, Sedilo

The Carnival reminds one that new life can only arise from the completion of a previous life cycle. Referencing an apotropaic sacrificial ritual that takes place in Sedilo, I have made use of animal fats, bones and the tradition of cowbell making to amplify the tensions that regulate agro-pastoral life.

Virginia Russolo (Oderzo, Italy, 1995) lives and works in Crete, Greece, having grown up in Italy, the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. She graduated from the Ruskin School of Art at the University of Oxford in 2017. Her research explores how communication with the sacred is mediated through materials such as beeswax, silk, propolis, animal fats, and horns, which frequently appear in her paintings and sculptures. She investigates what anthropologist Tim Ingold terms a ‘correspondence’ with materials, treating them as forms of intelligence. Her work is influenced by elements of mysticism, mythology, and a subtle sense of archaeological nostalgia. Russolo was selected for the artist residency at Fondazione Spinola Banna in collaboration with GAM, Turin (IT, 2019) and Rupert’s Alternative Education Programme, Vilnius (LT, 2021). In 2023, she was a Visiting Art Scholar at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. She has participated in exhibitions at: Shahin Zarinbal, Berlin (DE, 2024); CLC Gallery, Beijing (CN, 2023); The Address Gallery, Brescia (IT, 2022); Mediterranea 19 Young Artist Biennal, San Marino (IT, 2021); Rupert, Vilnius (LT, 2021); Podium Gallery, Oslo (NO, 2021); Procida Capital of Culture, Procida (IT, 2022); 7th Thessaloniki Biennal, Thessaloniki (EL, 2020); T293 Gallery, Rome (IT, 2018); Pitt Rivers Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, Oxford (UK, 2017); and Modern Art Oxford (UK, 2016).

My research investigates how communication with the sacred is mediated through materials. Beeswax, silk, propolis, animal fats and horns are recurring materials in my paintings and sculptures. I seek a ‘correspondence’ with materials, treating them as forms of intelligence to partner with over a long period of time. Mysticism, myth and an archeological longing underpin all my work.

Sedilo (OR)

At the heart of the island, on the Abbasanta plateau, overlooking the picturesque scenery of Lake Omodeo, lies the thousand-year-old village of Sedilo. An agricultural and pastoral centre of the Guilcer area, at the heart of hilly terrain clad with oaks, holm oaks, cork oaks and Mediterranean maquis, it offers itineraries that can be enjoyed on foot, by bicycle or on horseback.
Near Lake Omodeo, the archaeological park of Iloi houses a three-lobed nuraghe, a village and two tombs of Giants dating back to the Bronze Age. However, the territory had been inhabited from even earlier, as shown by the necropolis of Ispiluncas, comprising no less than 33 domus de Janas (literally “witches’ houses”), ten of which can be visited.
Sacred and profane are combined in the archaic rite of s'Ardia, a spectacular horse race at Santu Antine, which commemorates the battle of Ponte Milvio (312 A.D.): according to legend, Constantine won after a cross appeared to him with the inscription “in hoc signo vinces”. At dusk on the 6th and dawn on the 7th July, crowds fill the valley, a natural amphitheatre for the event. At breakneck speed, a hundred or so horse-riders descend the kilometre from the village (from su Frontigheddu) to the sanctuary of Saint Constantine. The latter is of Medieval origin, and was later rebuilt in Gothic-Catalan style in the 1600s.
In addition to the church of Saint Constantine, there is the parish church of St John the Baptist, the church dedicated to St Anthony Abbot with Spanish architecture, and the Church of San Basilio, for which a donkey race is held on 1 September.

Thanks to: Mayor Salvatore Pes, Councilor Eleonora Carboni, Maurizio Bosa, Bottega Artigiana Campanacci Floris, Ignazio Floris, Marco Floris, Salvatore Floris, Luca Carboni, Famiglia Floris, Matteo Fenu, Lorenzo Giusti, Giuseppe Meloni, Umberto Soddu, Mauro Peppino Zedda, il Comitato San Giovanni, Associazione Iloi, the children of Sedilo and their teachers.