The Besieged Courtyard

Art, Performance, Milano


Art, Performance


Within the context of Milano Art Week and miart 2023, the front courtyard of Istituto Svizzero hosts The Besieged Courtyard (Il cortile assediato).

Michèle Graf and Selina Grüter, with Francesca Flora, Isabella Mongelli and Li Tavor
The Besieged Courtyard (Il cortile assediato)
Dramatic reading with a composition by Li Tavor
Duration: 45 min

Giovanna Zangrandi (June 13, 1910-January 21, 1988) was born as Alma Bevilacqua in Galliera (Emilia Romagna, Italy) and raised in a middle-class family. She graduated from the University of Bologna in chemistry and geology in 1933. After a period as a university assistant, she moved north to the Dolomites to take up a position as a teacher. In 1943, her teaching was interrupted by her participation in the anti-fascist resistance. As a courier, she delivered food, arms, and documents between partisan bands in the mountains. After the war, she remained in the Dolomites and began writing under her pen name, Giovanna Zangrandi.

She shied away from calling herself a writer, which to her suggested the pseudo-intellectualism and petty concerns of the literary elite. She worked in autobiography and fiction alike, balancing her interest in storytelling traditions against her commitment to writing from her experiences as resistance fighter and anti-fascist. By 1970 she was prevented from writing by Parkinson’s disease and spent her final years in the Dolomites.

In her short story Il cortile assediato, Zangrandi describes her childhood years growing up with socialist parents and the influence of fascist rhetoric she learned at school.

Michèle Graf and Selina Grüter translated Il cortile assediato (The besieged courtyard) from Italian into English, annotating the work to give context to certain expressions and idioms appearing in the text as well as to emphasize moments of untranslatability. Excerpts of both the Italian and English text will be performed in a dramatic reading on this occasion.

Before the reading, at H16:00, the public will also have the opportunity to visit the exhibition Reek of past pitfalls currently on view at Istituto Svizzero, accompanied by the artist Caterina De Nicola, who will be in conversation with the curator Gioia Dal Molin.


The event is part of STATE OF MIND/STATO D’ANIMO, a series of events at Istituto Svizzero in Milan.

Since autumn 2020 we retrace the state of the art, the world and the soul through a series of events, which include screenings, dialogues, listening and workshops. STATE OF MIND/STATO D’ANIMO is also nurtured by the experience of the pandemic and lockdowns, which has taught us, among other things, that reading opens up to new worlds, that people can be close to each other even through the Zoom platform or that taking care of oneself and others is redeeming. Moreover, if on the one hand this period has allowed us to focus, once again, on ourselves, on the other hand it has sensitised our eyes to new and re-evaluated aspects of life: our state of mind and the state of the world. We reflect on the issues that concern us and to which we want to devote ourselves; on the things we can do and what we want to learn; we ask ourselves in what world we live in and under what conditions we want to work. We are convinced that art and culture are fundamental in this context, as they ask questions and provide food for thought.

STATE OF MIND/STATO D’ANIMO’s events are linked to the exhibition programme of Istituto Svizzero, and also draw on other themes. The project involves artists and other players in the art world, from Switzerland, Italy and the rest of the world.

The event may be photographed and/or video recorded for archival, educational, and related promotional purposes. By attending this event, you are giving your consent to be photographed and/or video recorded.


Francesca Flora is a writer and performer deploying her voice and its machinic alterations to explore the affective and semiotic potentialities of poetic language, in relation to political dynamics embedded in the everyday.

Michèle Graf and Selina Grüter are an artist duo living in New York, working with language and translation. They studied media arts at Zurich University of the Arts and participated in the Whitney Independent Study Program. Recent exhibitions and performances include Fanta gallery, Milan; Kevin Space, Vienna; the Whitney Museum of American Art; Kunsthalle Fribourg; and the Emily Harvey Foundation New York.

Isabella Mongelli is an artist based in Genoa and Milan, working across performance and other media. She is interested in simple actions within complex thematic areas, deferring meaning in favor of irony and emotion. Her work has been presented at MAXXI L’Aquila; Xing Bologna; Department of Anthropology, Milan Bicocca University; Auto Italia South East London; Short Theatre Festival; PAV Parco Arte Vivente; Fondazione Pino Pascali.

Li Tavor is a sound and visual artist based in Zurich. Their practice negotiates relations and notions of time, space and body. They studied architecture at ETH Zurich and electroacoustic composition at Zurich University of the Arts. Recent exhibitions and performances include Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich; Swiss Art Awards; Istituto Svizzero, Milan; NGV, Melbourne; Kunsthalle Fribourg; Sharjah Architecture Triennale and the Swiss Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale.