Francesca is a curator, art historian, and interdisciplinary researcher whose work focuses on the intersection between art and the activation, management and perception of risk.
Francesca is researching Sirens and Warnings as a part of the AHRC project Preemptive Listening (with Aura Satz). This project continues her long-term curatorial and academic work on Pre-emption, Preparedness, Pre-enactment, including her PhD ‘Sensing it Coming: the Aesthetics of Risk’ (Kent University 2020)’. Francesca is also the founder of Brazil Footprint 00, a platform and annual festival for ecologically minded, de-colonial and intersectional art practices across Brazil and the UK. She has curated exhibitions, festivals and public programmes at the Science and Industry Museum; the Barbican Centre, Turner Contemporary, Manifesta 11; Cabinet (NY); the ICA; 98 weeks in Beirut, and Andersen Museum in Rome.
As well as at the RCA, Francesca taught various modules in Art History, Curating and Aesthetics at the University of Kent, the London College of Communication, and the University of Iceland.
School, Centre or Area
Francesca's work combines research and practice to explore how the arts can be mobilised to transform public perceptions and attitudes when it comes to risk, ecology, health and sustainability. Her work defends the importance of art in changing risk perceptions by working with interdisciplinary teams to understand how risk-taking in art can disrupt or inform our risk and disaster management cultures. Her PhD argues that there is an aesthetic dimension to risk that pervades all risk communications beyond artistic discourses through Warnings, Instructions, Pre-enactments, Data Visualisation and Alert Systems. She is interested in the question of whether art can provide a safe space to cultivate positive risk-taking and social resilience. She has dedicated the past ten years to creating platforms where artists, publics and researchers can interrogate the structures, protocols and techniques that manage emergencies and long-term human-made disasters (such as climate change). This has led her interest in co-creation practices with affected communities and in how artists of Indigenous origin (in particular but not only from Brazil) portray human-made disasters within their work and how their 'past apocalypses' can reshape the risky infrastructure for the future.
After studying Art History in Italy, Francesca lived for a year in Mexico for an international program funded by the European Commission. She worked at the Museo Zoque Regional, in the rural area near Tuxtla Gutierrez (Chiapas), researching and displaying the ethnographic collection dedicated to the Zoques, an Indigenous culture living in ancient Chiapas, México.
Francesca later worked at MACRO, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome, Serralves Museum in Porto, Portugal, and Cuba's Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennial. Her curatorial projects included an exhibition at the Andersen Museum in Rome, an Art festival in Puglia (Italy) and Sicily in Black and White, Letizia Battaglia's first solo exhibition in Uruguay.
In 2007 in London, Francesca co-founded the art collective Cosmicmegabrain. Between 2007 and 2012, the collective produced shows in Beirut (98weeks Research project), Lisbon (Manpower Festival), Rome (MACRO Testaccio) and London (Shoreditch Studios). In 2015-16 Francesca co-curated the exhibition Risk at Turner Contemporary, which over 81,000 people visited. Her further research on risk has since informed her contribution to high-profile festivals and programmes in the UK and internationally, including Manifesta 11, the ICA and Cabinet, NY. In 2021, Francesca funded Brazil Footprint 00, an online festival in partnership with the Barbican. The festival's second edition took place on July 6 2022, as a part of the Amazonia Late event at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester. She is working towards the Brazil Footprint's third edition in collaboration with the Centre for Indigenous and Settler Colonial Studies at the University of Kent.
Post-Doctoral Research, Global Challenges Research Framework.
This funding sponsored my Postdoc Acting before the Emergency: Artists, Natural Disasters and Climate Change in Brazil.
Kent University in partnership with Federal Rural University, Rio de Janeiro (2020 – 2021).
Vice Chancellor Research Scholarship, University of Kent (2016 – 2020)
This scholarship entirely funded my PhD
Scholarship, Bollenti Spiriti Grant issued by Puglia Regional Authority with EU funding (2005 – 2006)
This scholarship funded my MA in Curating at La Sapienza University in Rome
Current and recent projects
2022 – 2024
Royal College of Arts
Project team: Aura Satz (PI), Irene Ravel ( Postdoc), Francesca Laura Cavallo (Postdoc)
What do warnings for climate change, the pandemic, rising fascism sound like? Does an alarm have to be alarming? How can we address alarm fatigue, both as lived reality and as a metaphor for our current state? 'Preemptive Listening' is a practice-based research project which re-imagines sirens and emergency signals, resulting in a documentary film/exhibition, an audio archive, a symposium, a related issue of the journal Disclaimer, and a co-authored journal article.
2020 – 2021
'Acting before the Emergency: Artists, Environmental Disasters and Climate Justice in Brazil'.
PostDoc Funded by Research UK, Global Challenges Research Framework
University of Kent in partnership with Federal Rural University, Rio de Janeiro.
How are Brazilian contemporary artists of Indigenous or Afro-Brazilian origin to cultivating awareness and hope for climate justice? The context for the project was to explore how design and art can radically transform decisions and behaviour when it comes to climate issues and consider contemporary indigenous artists' contributions to re-imagine the role of artists within our societies. Outputs include the still ongoing festival Brazil Footprint00.
2016 – 2020
Sensing it Coming. Regarding the Aesthetics of Risk.
PhD in History and Philosophy of Art funded through the Vice-Chancellor Research Scholarship from the University of Kent
Today the ubiquitous guidance, warnings and protocols of risk management construct possible futures as risks to be managed. How is this need to manage risk transforming the contemporary visual language? Are its rhetorics of danger, reassurance, or rationality effectively convincing us that we are prepared? Can art reconcile us with these issues and be a safe space for constructing resilience? In my PhD dissertation, I focus on the rhetorics of risk from the perspective of art and visual culture, examining warnings, instructions, drills and data visualisations across risk and art.
Supervisors: Dr Michael Newall (Art History), Prof Adam Burgess (Sociology) Examiners: Prof Natasha Luchetich (External), Dr Grant Pooke (Internal)
'Organising Disaster: Preparedness and the Population'
Research Associate - Centre for Invention and Social Processed at Goldsmiths, funded by the European Research Council.
Principal Investigator: Dr Michael Guggenheim
The project focused on how populations deal with and perceive preparedness and emergency procedures in the UK and Switzerland. My role within the project was to explore how artistic practice might provide a space for publics to reflect and/or challenge how emergencies and risks are 'governed' through preparedness. Co-designing my method with the PI, I was responsible for identifying key themes, artefacts and artworks for an exhibition on the topic of risk in partnership with the Turner Contemporary Curatorial team.
Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes
Cavallo F.L. (2023) Connecting the Dots: Emma Kunz’s methods as Infographics and the Politics of Probability. Parallax 29 (2). (forthcoming June 2023)
Cavallo F.L. (2022).Avoiding the Apocalypse: The How-to Guide as a Method. In: J. Kowalewski, ed. The Environmental Apocalypse: Interdisciplinary Reflections on the Climate Crisis, London: Routledge, pp.107-121.
Cavallo, F. L. (2019) ‘Rehearsing Disaster Pre-Enactment Between Reality and Fiction’, in Czirak, A., Nikoleit, S., Oberkrome, F., Straub, V., Walter-Jochum, R., and Wetzels, M. (eds) Performance zwischen den Zeiten: Reenactments und Preenactments in Kunst und Wissenschaft. Germany: transcript Verlag, pp. 179 -198. doi: 10.14361/9783839446027-012.
Candela, E., Cavallo, FL. and Oppenheimer, M., (2013) ‘Risk Assessment: A Para-Artistic Work’, Critical Contemporary Culture 3
Other industry-specific professional publications:
Cavallo, FL and Snafey, I., (2021). If you do as this booklet describes. In: Ed Hands, ed., Penrose Helix, catalogue of the exhibition, Plicnik Space Collectiv, London, pp. 26-33.
Cavallo, F.L. (2021). A Manual for Every Disaster. Contra 03, pp. 96-101.
Cavallo, F.L., MacPerson, A. (2018). There She Lies Motionless. In: ed. Jankowsky,C, Cabaret der Künstler Zunfthaus Voltaire. Catalogue of the Joint-Venture programme of Manifesta 11, Zurich 2016. Zurich: Foundation Manifesta 11 and International Foundation Manifesta, pp. 161-162.
Selected Exhibitions and Public Programmes:
2022 Brazil Footprint 0.0 Festival (2nd edition), Science and Industry Museum. Manchester
With: AMITIKATXI, Amazônia Mapping Festival and Rafael Bqueer, among others.
2021 Brazil Footprint 0.0 (1st edition)
Online Art Festival, Barbican Centre. London, 2021 With: Naine Terena, Uyra Sodoma, Carolina Caycedo, Pedro Neves Marques, Olinda Wanderly Tupinambà and Mulambo, among others
2019 Is Extinction Imminent?, Aphra Theatre. Canterbury.
With Lucia Pietoriusti, Artist Himali Singh Soin, philosopher Simon Beard (CSER) and an Extinction Rebellion activist.
2017 Operating Manual for Living in the Worst-Case Scenario, Cabinet. New York.
With Afield Studio, School of the Apocalypse, Emily Candela and Maya Oppenheimer.
2016 There She Lies Motionless, Joint Venture Programme, Manifesta 11 at Cabaret Voltaire. Zurich. 2016
With Hamish McPherson and Caroline Thomas
2015 -16 Risk, Turner Contemporary, Margate.
Artists included Francis Alÿs, Chris Burden, Sophie Calle, Yoko Ono, Marcel Duchamp, Harun Farocki, and Marina Abramovic.
2015 Pre-enactment between reality and fiction (round table), Majorie Dirkman's Luna Talks', Week 22\50 of Fig -2. ICA. London.
2013 Risk Assessment: a para-artistic work, Royal College of Art. London.
With: Rosa Barba, Superflex, Simon Faithfull, Lucy Beech
2012 Trial: Is This a Warning? Shoreditch Studios, London.
Academic Conferences and public engagement
CARLA (Cultures of Antiracism in Latin America), post-show talk with Gustavo Caboco, Contact, Manchester, Apr 2022
Amazon Art Project at Essex University, Poetics of Resilience, paper presentation, Sep 2021
CCA Annual Conference, How not to Return to Normal, panel co-chair, Feb 2021
IV ISA Forum of Sociology, Risk and the Visual, panel co-chair, Feb 2021
IV ISA Forum of Sociology, Aesthetics of the Probable, paper presentation, Feb 2021
IV ISA Forum of Sociology, The Visual Vocabulary of Risk, paper presentation, Feb 2021
Mancept Workshop in Political Thought, The Ethics of Risk (mis)communication, paper presentation Sept 2020
The Aesthetics of Risk, Francesca Cavallo in conversation with Ksenia Chmutina, Radar, Jun 2020 Courtauld
Institute of Art, Imagining the Apocalypse, paper presentation, London, Nov 2019
Institute of Cultural Enquiry, P/Re/Enact Conference, invited speaker, Berlin, Oct 2017
College Art Association Annual Conference, Operating Manual, panel chair, New York, Feb 2017
Turner Contemporary, Art Matters: at Risk Symposium, organiser and convenor, Margate, UK, Dec 201
European Summer School in Cultural Studies, Living by Vesuvius, paper presentation, Oceanario, Lisbon, June 2011 10th National Convention of Community Museums (Union de Museos Comunitarios y Ecomuseos) Museo Zoque Regional (delegate), Oaxaca, Mexico, Nov 2004
External collaborations and other activities
Honorary Research Fellow, Centre for Indigenous and Settler Colonial Studies, University of Kent
Artistic Director, Brazil Footprint 00