Federico Lanaro, Pietro Weber, David Aaron Angeli

Sciamani. Techné, Spirito, Idea

Palazzo delle Albere, Trento | Museo etnografico trentino a San Michele all’Adige

December 17, 2023 - June 30, 2024

Three museums, one foundation, two venues, one theme.
For the first time together, as explained on the website of the Trentino Ethnographic Museum in San Michele all’Adige, three major museums in Trentino are organising a single major exhibition. Between anthropology, psychology, archaeology and contemporary art, Sciamani is a journey to reflect on the relationship – never so topical – between human beings and what is not human.


In the spaces of Palazzo delle Albere in Trento and the Trentino Ethnographic Museum in San Michele all’Adige, a major exhibition explores one of the most fascinating themes of human history from different and complementary points of view: shamanism.
The exhibition proposes a multidisciplinary approach and innovative points of view among eerie masks, immersive installations, handicrafts and works of art.
Sciamani is an original project born from the collaboration of three important museums in Trentino: MUSE – the Science Museum of Trento; MART – the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto; and METS – the Trentino Ethnographic Museum San Michele. Each institution curated a section of the exhibition, tackling the theme according to its own specificities and expertise and contributing to the definition of a heterogeneous, inclusive itinerary suitable for all audiences.


A partner in the exhibition is the Sergio Poggianella Foundation (FSP) from which more than one hundred artefacts and artefacts from China, Siberia and Mongolia come.
The METS – Trentino Ethnographic Museum San Michele looks at the exhibition “Sciamani. Comunicare con l’invisibile”, is dedicated to folk technologies and it is no coincidence that this section is entitled ‘Téchne, spirit, idea’. Curators of the section at METS are Sergio Poggianella, Micaela Sposito and Luca Faoro.
The rooms – Agriculture, Forest, Mill, Wagons and Sledges, Sawmill, Textile Fibres – and the Cloister display works by eleven contemporary artists including our own Pietro Weber, Denis Riva (Deriva) and Federico Lanaro.

The only foundation relied upon is the object-specific perspective, an insight that allows us to bring the collections of Trentino folk technology, Eurasian shamanic ritual trousseaus and the works of contemporary artists onto the same plane. In this way, “all the objects, inside the museum, are rethought as impermanent, transient beings so that their bearing, their evocative capacity is not exclusively resolved in their biographies, in the memory of a function, but on the contrary is also shaped through the contemporary experience of gazes”.


But what really is shamanism? Who are shamans and what do they do? Can we consider these figures the most ancient mediators between humanity and nature?
The section curated by MUSE – Trento’s Science Museum tries to give some answers using the extraordinary shamanic artefacts from the Sergio Poggianella Foundation, from Mongolian, Siberian and Chinese cultures that still practise shamanism today.The focuses addressed in this part of the exhibition interweave archaeology, anthropology and cognitive science.
More than one hundred original exhibits, including ritual costumes, masks, headgear, sticks, divination and healing tools, guide visitors on this anthropological journey. A glance is also taken at deep time: the exhibition includes a number of archaeological finds dating back to the Upper Palaeolithic period in Europe, which depict human figures wearing animal masks and take us back to the dimension of the sacred of our ancestors, very often associated, rightly or wrongly, with the theme of shamanism.


We then return to explore, through an immersive sensorial experience, the individual dimension of the altered state of consciousness, a central element of shamanism that today can be studied, interpreted and even reproduced thanks to technology applied to cognitive science.
The curatorship of the MUSE section is by Elisabetta Flor, Luca Scoz and Sergio Poggianella; the Scientific Committee consists of Stefano Beggiora, Nicola De Pisapia, Fabio Martini and Lia Emilia Zola.

In the third section of the exhibition, the contribution of contemporary art is placed in continuity with the scientific and ethno-anthropological narrative. Between heterogeneous styles and different media (painting, sculpture, video, photography, installation), the path investigates the spiritual and therapeutic dimension of contemporary practices. On show are around 40 works produced by 26 international artists over the last 70 years, selected by curator Mart Gabriele Lorenzoni and anthropologist Massimiliano Nicola Mollona.
In some works, the dialogue with shamanism is declared or blatant: the artists recover material objects or ritual gestures; in other cases, an inspiration or contamination between cultural practices can be recognised; in still others, the correlation is discerned by the curators. The red thread that unravels along the exhibition route is the environmental issue, a topic of absolute topicality. Starting in fact from the manifesto work Defence of Nature by Joseph Beuys, shaman artist par excellence, the exhibition suggests a respectful and conscious coexistence in which human beings do not live outside or in antithesis to the animal, natural or spiritual worlds but are part of them.
The artists in the exhibition also include our own David Aaron Angeli.