I am not an Illegal Alien

The New New World (Il Nuovo Nuovo Mondo, 2012)

The original collection of ten dyptichs had been shown in 2012 as part of a collective exhibit to address an outbreak of racial tension and hostility towards non – Florentine citizens.

“One does not acquire citizenship by birth, one does so through effort and contribution.” Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, formerly Mayor of Florence quoting Lorenzo de’ Medici, in response to the racist incidents.

The original renaissance paintings are famous because of the personalities they represent more than for the mastery of the artists. Mark Abouzeid appropriates the concept of representation by replacing the historic personalities with contemporary immigrants who are based in Florence, Italy.

The portraits are not intended to imitate the style, method or technique of the originals. The subject and what they represent are the message: New World twins. The question raised by this work: “can we make the audience see similarities in person and character, even when racial identities differ greatly”. The subjects were chosen for their similarities in acts, deeds and contribution for the society they are part of.

The (renaissance) heritage, adored by the Florentine society, is after all thanks to foreign influences in economy, the arts and society. This pride of cultural history is the vehicle to adapt our way of looking at immigrants.

Regarding the current social and political situation of cultural divide, nationalist pride and open racism, the message of the series becomes even more actual on a global level.

By addressing a New Renaissance – to overcome social, political, cultural, economic and ethnic divide, this series seeks to widen the context we can relate to.

Although the original exhibition of the series had the full support of the City of Florence and the Uffizi Museum, it has been shown only once for three days. Since, it has been quoted, referenced, stolen and appropriated by other artists. It is taught in photography and art history classes in several major universities overseas.

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