Mnemonic City: FLORENCE
Pascal Ancel Bartholdi, Rodrigo César Ferreira,Anna Burel, Anna Capolupo, Yasmine Dainelli, William Howard, Rupert Jaeger, Yuri Pirondi, Jaime Valtierra, Ines Von Bonhorst, Andrea Lucchesi, Sebastiano Benegiamo, Marco Zamburru, Carmelo Cutuli, João Leitão, Laura Calloni, Jacopo Rachlik, Rebecca Filippi, Alberto Gori. The artists of Gattarossa and Magma collective have once more gathered to create a new perspective on a city we may think we know. The show combines time based, stills and installation works. A special thanks also to Jacopo Rachlik who opened the gallery and offered advice and the use of materials without which this exhibition would not have been possible. His video work was shown at a later date.
Imparando da Firenze.
Four years ago, Rupert Jaeger went to new York and began his expedition into the warp. The places we see through the eye of the ‘invisible man’ form a kind of extra temporal series encompassing different cities including London and Barcelona where he had been in 2011. These are mobile yet weirdly static spaces, almost sterile and other worldly because of the fragmented effect of the animation process and the prise de vue. Rupert tells me of a need to be there again, thinking of Barcelona for example. Something seen once, a postcard on a wall. He wished to relive the moment, somehow to revisit the space as it was…or as it always will be in this particular memory. The man in a white anti radioactive suit had to construct a craft to transport his emotions from what we presume to be in the past to a time and place we experience as (of)now. But the paradox here resides in the envelop of this moment, a medium that prevents him from being there as he is in his present entirety. Rupert confirms and contradicts this condition by duplicating himself. He is here watching himself there watching an image that contains part of him further back. The image opens into a back stage, at once an illusion and an affirmation of a feeling related to the place it represents. This is a game of ricochet through the personal eras of a man analysing nostalgia in a strangely detached way. It is an ironic take on time travel. Besides, it addresses the notion of displacement, but not as a sociological comment as we would find in Gulliver’s travels by Swift or Candide by Voltaire. We are led into the image that connects a space remembered to a space where it is being remembered. The medium is the gap into which the experience of linking those layers is made possible. For Rupert, this process approximates a spiritual state. Space and time are interlaced through the passage from one context into another. Each time this operates, the connection is questioned until we grasp the foundation of this exploration, an emotional quest into separate dimensions all existing yet physically or more so biologically impossible to access. The suit may signify the possibility of contamination from one memory cell to another. It protects the wearer from the collective unconscious that could interfere with private memories. Teleportation, even metaphorical has its risks. We could talk of a filtering re animation practice which, as Rupert tells me, could go on for ever.
Florence Extract A.
The verb commuting is double edged. On one hand, Bill explains, it suggest a change, a journey everyone takes. In his view, this means the mind also changes as each journey is unique despite its repetitive nature. This also means he adds, we never return from it, since we are already different people as we reach the same point. On the other hand it is a mutation. “co- mutating”. This is reflected in the transformative process Bill puts the moving image of the Duomo through, a complex rendering; the multi layered progression of an image in a state of continuous virtual flux where each angle represents an environment that Bill amalgamates to the next, thus giving us a 360 degree rotation from a specific view of Florence integrating London views in one image. In order to arrive there, Bill had to make copy after copy, copies of other copies… He talks of a change between body and mind. Bill is an obsessive collector of flyers, newspapers, some go as far back as the 90s. With these he makes collages. one of the pillars of his practice. Meanwhile, he has been shooting from the centre of Florence to Xenos gallery, and over the bridge right up to via San Gallo, making a record of all the gaps and holes. He was inspired by Wolfgang Tillman “Munich”, a view of streets. He wanted to reconstruct the same angle from the top of the Duomo. But he wishes to make it into a kind of Impressionist tapestry, in and out of time, finding a way to use a particular software against itself. In doing so, Bill hopes to catch the missing corners and bring them to light, to bring what he feels is the real beauty of Florence to life. Commuting also describes a double existence in which the two sides are connected artificially. It means we become separate entities. We subsist by virtue of our alter ego, we no longer can tell which is alter, what is the recto or verso of ourself. Perhaps this is why collage comes in handy, to rebuild decaying links with a former self, with place and meaning.
The bust of Sophocles…a stylistic composite. It is deliberately obscured by heavy remnants of ink fresh from the press, one of seven. Bill worked from a sculpture in the Ufizzi he visited nine times. It was a copy made around 1200 AD of a bust made around 400 AD. Bill suggests that the original was probably a good likeness of the features of the playwright. Perhaps there were other copies in between and Bill’s is yet another which could contain an impression of the real man passed down from one interpretation to another, arriving at some sort of purer quality, devoid of imitation, derived from an emotional and intuitive connection. He travels backwards to the provenance of a character. His image is an example of a memory process in reverse, from light to dark. Bill brings a physical method into History and the digital process. João Leitão Retrato di Irena(video) Florence through the eyes of she who remembers everything, or she who can t forget anything. Joao points out that memory being the result of a process of selection, remembering everything means Irena becomes no one. The extra fast jumped up editing reflects Luis Borges ‘ repetitive texts, a continuous yet broken flow of words. Joao asked himself how to make a work based on the idea of memory in a city he did not know. This led him to build a library in which the circuit camera became a leitmotif, watching and erasing simultaneously.
Eight small prints above and below a central image of what initially appears as a poetic prism of a land approached in a storm. As we look closer however, a chaos of organs and anatomical parts reveal themselves, and berried within this, the profile of a woman, a sleeping beauty open to the gaze of merciless explorers. Anna went to the natural history museum and to the cemetery up on the hill above Florence. She took pictures of the photos of the faces of the dead…when still alive. Many showed the deceased as young people although the dates suggested they had passed over in old age. Those faces remained anonymous, some with names, others without, their tombstones eaten by the elements . She says some seemed to glow with a kind of beauty we attribute only to the portraits of the masters adorning the walls of museums and churches. In the small prints, we notice the same female face appearing again and again, her body containing or intermingled with images of the city.
Rodrigo César Ferreira
How do we keep the walls from caving in, like the nightmare scenario, walls closing in and no exit in sight? Rodrigo has propped pieces one by one in an open cavity where someone had forgotten to put a door….or perhaps not. There are no nails, no screws, no need of a drill or a hammer. It is about balance and logistics. But there, to suspend is added to suspension. It could give up any moment. Or we could use it as a book shelf eventually. No luck, the edifice has been caught in the tornado, someone got hit on the foot, escaping graver contusions. By chance, a photo of it existed and artists rebuild the piece meticulously and would continue to do so ad infinitum. This is what it is about.
Qui reposa….this piece was obtained from a Florentine cimetery artisan . Marco hanged it above the stairs leading to the basement where videos are now playing. But we are not necessarily aware of this, not immediately. These could be the stairs to the crypt where the remains of the man whose name is engraved here, have been laid to rest. Had I not known this place as a gallery, I would have believed this gravestone to have been placed there on the decaying wall in the early 20th century. There is no date of birth…a deliberate omission?… But the age of the man on the year of his death was seventy five. Some letters have been scratched out. It looks random. This makes the sign even more incidental, even absurd…but then tomb stones are absurd, like pillows and beds dumped on the earth covering a body that no longer makes sense, slowly returning to a chaos of pre biotic existence. The date of his death reassures us that life indeed had left him, that he was not buried alive. 13th of July 1913, just before the first world war. But the man described here does not exist. It is an ideal of a man inscribed in a stone whose weight is representative of an impossible perfection flattening all the details once present in the lines of the skin. A butterfly is balanced on the top edge as an antithesis to the stagnant power of the monument. It is as if the insect was still alive, having arrested itself for a fleeting moment, perhaps just before a last flight. They are born out of a chrysalis, seek a mate, make love and perish before the sun rises a fourth time. What would a man do given four days to live?…Somehow the frailty of this creature makes an ironic mokery of an unnatural effort to preserve the embellished memory of a being who will no longer be able to contradict it.
He stands looking up, from his nose, a kind of ectoplasmic cloud frozen in time. Somewhere in there the specter of Giacometti wanders, but there is also something like a materialization of lost pre Raphaelite figures on the edge of melt down.
Like an artery feeding the city, a white road cuts into the land from the foreground . Pylons create a second frame of reference. They are setting the limits of our vision as they perhaps do in our life, as uncertain urban passengers. They direct the gaze, they delineate the perspective, reconstructing a mental image of nature on the edge, decaying as the city grows uncontrollably.
Small paintings and drawings. Florence as we do not wish to remember it. Raw material and building tools. History wiped clean. bran new accommodation. Deconstruction of overwhelming beauty. (Animation) in collaboration with Simone Brillarelli. Cranes move in slow motion in grey light superimposed on marble texture, the main building material of ancient Florence. the sound is wary, creaking metallic repetitive.
Punti di Vista
A Pigeon’s memory of a street of Florence. Simple short poetic black and white animated drawing. Florence, as birds fly down.In one flash, a colour filmed shot of a puddle, pigeons landing and fleeing. I did see Them touch the heads of gods with their tentative feet. But here, only a fast glance at an unnamed strada, like tourists without iPhones.
Three images two of which are made on cement, a third on canvas. Sebastiano uses an archaic technic. We detect structures, perhaps classical. They rise uncertain in the mist. The atmosphere has the colour of the material used to imprint the impression. The memory is fading, yet it is also fixed in the physical mass of the medium that reflects another era, a culture we only encounter in books, a narrative which meaning is unrecognised by the passerby.
Four square prints are back lit.They are set in a mock up concrete block resting horizontally on the floor. It is a lyrical piece. We can feel a silence only encountered in secret spaces, far from the public eye. We are invited to evolve in those fragments of nature, far from the noises of the city; these are privileged sanctuaries only accessible to us through the agency of transparent representation. Laura has decided to bring the wall down, cut windows into it and let the light through. She went on a detective mission and asked the owners of those private gardens, some of them parks, to be granted the permission to enter and photograph their content. We surely will never tread where she has. Only the ghosts and the rich of Florence can enjoy this delight.
These works are part of a performance : Marlon plays Adolfa Musso Lina Lisa by Marlon Random. A brutal encounter is scratched into the plate, as if to extract the hidden pain of a misunderstanding, or more so the dismissal of an apparent understanding. The lines fight one another, they scream at each other, they rebel against harmony, they are bent and stretched to breaking point. This is how it is. Sometimes, there is no way to find a way out of the collapse. The connection disintegrates. The sounds come at you from where you least expect, they don’t have a source any more. There used to be a face where a blank stares at you. Then, instead of a hand shake , you get smashed up by some estranged interlocutor. You thought you knew him or her. He or she knows you better, they know how to hurt you, how to manipulate you. This is the beginning of a civilized war with no guns, no bullets, no weapons of mass destruction. Someone plays with your head. But Adolfa Musso has left a text behind her and signs on paper. Now we can reconstruct the tragi-comedy. The catharsis can grow out of the spectacle of the ill.
(Olio su Legno)
Two paintings In one, a solitary figure lies on the ground, in what feels like a thick fog as if seen by someone whose eyes are filled with tears. The vapours of nostalgia. Is this man dead or dying? Is he dreaming? is he suspended between doubt and desire? Has anyone else noticed him?…who is he?, is his identity relevant?… In a round painting, an unusual format although used in the Renaissance until the nineteenth century, two figures move away from the viewer. They seem to be floating, giving us the impression that they are no longer contained in matter. The atmosphere is almost more corporeal than they are, or in that world, all objects, live or inanimate, are traversed with molecules that are no longer subjected to the laws of this Earth. These figures symbolise the memory of a moment, their names are mingled with the words that attempt to describe them. In this world made of pigment and oil, Andrea relives a scene he has felt rather than seen, or if he has, it was experienced in different streets, different times, different lives, again and again, until a synthesis of light and shade burnt itself into his mind.
(Calligraphia e gumprint)
Prints of ‘Florence’. A map dating from 1943 superimposed on a contemporary map. Below seven prints depicting specific places located in the map samples.Yasmine extracts a sense of being in the city, a sense of particularity out of the generalisation pervasive to urban management, and its manifestation in the form of mapping, a flattening of human experience through the pretext of empowering observation, the bird eye view of inter migrating population. we walk the city, we feel its meanders, its reformed quarters, its extensions, its inspirations and expirations. Yasmin explores the map, digs into it, excavates, without imposing names, directions or functions. It is like a game where the flat pages of a book open into geometrical three dimensional shapes. The map turns into a place, the place instils a sense of space.
Prega per la Fine della mia Gioventù
(Mixed pianting techniques)
The urban landscape, the face of the artist as a boy, before the fall into the uniform comfort of the city. But there is a rebellion in the air. There is a painting, Alberto tells me it was the last he ever made. It was “counter academia”. He says it represents what he left behind, in his early youth. He adds it could also symbolise a new beginning. In fact, he has painted a circle around a point, used in alchemy as a symbol for the sun and gold. A candle lights the alcove in which he has placed these objects. It reminds me a bit of Christian Boltansky. We may feel we are gazing at an icon rather than a real person, because this installation encompasses a state, an inaccessible condition where the soul still homeless despite being anchored in a body, reminds itself of a purpose that escapes it as it remembers it. The dot in the round is a centre that only exists by virtue of the visible perimeter, yet because of it it is impossible to access it. Alberto admits having grown tired of ubiquitous technology. He longs for the tactile universe of childhood, as I think most of us do. This is a shrine but also an open space.
(Black and white Photographic prints)
Three images show different kinds of urban constructs in superposition.It is Florence, or is it another city ? London perhaps, as all modern cities resemble one another , one old, the other new, one somehow idealized and preserved, the other, rampant with totalitarian progress. They exchange places, both ghosts of a sick utopia, although ancient walls will always have more to say than fibre optics, silicone and plexiglass. We cannot explain why. Classicism however is also a commodity. The art of the renaissance for example is not kept safe because it is beautiful or inspiring but because it is a currency. Those buildings belong to the market, they are kept in a precarious equilibrium by fantom transactions in the higher spheres of the global economy. In each image, something sinister takes hold of the eye. There is a ufo about to land, there is a big machine gun about to fire, there is a city about to crumble in the white heat of a radioactive wind. A latent battlefield in the cradle of history.
Ines von Bonhorst
Leonardo’s ecce Homo redefined by urban cacophony. He is bathed in the colours of a sun set, or perhaps the opposite. He himself is Adam, made of red earth. He is naked and headless. His head is the context in which it is ensconced. The architecture that constitutes his environment cuts into him. It imprisons him. But despite this apparent handicap and perhaps as a result of this limitation, the man has grown extra legs. He is dancing in suspense, his new territory a diamond chiselled out of the blackness.
Ines Von Bonhorst and Yuri Pirondi
The Day by Yuri Pirondi Coming into the city. Aurora. the streets unravel, the pace accelerates. Somehow things have changed particularly in the last seven years. As many europeans, Yuri moved to London and visiting Florence in his country of origin reminds him how both cities have in a way moved on a similar path while a strange battle seems to move him within , a choice between lives, between cultures, between pasts even. He travels here, not only in his memory but the memory of history, of art. Many have also chosen Florence as a refuge while retaining and perpetuating their own cultural identity, traditions that permeate the new fabric of urbanity while it infiltrates them. He could also be a foreigner here, as he is in London. Perhaps he no longer recognises the surface of things, instead, he reads a different story. As we are led through the outskirt of Florence, a voice permeates the narrative with sadness but also with a kind of astonishment and anticipation. Yuri tells me he was inspired by Calvino’s “Invisible towns”. Perhaps certain cities contain many. in Calvino’s novel, it is suggested Venice is such a place, with many faces, the faces of different women. But not all cities are feminine. Yuri concentrates on Ponte del Indiano because it is a Frontier and a centre. It became so in the 1970s when a population of Chinese emigrants began to arrive in San Donnino. There was also the scandal of the incinerator. Many people died of poisoning caused by dioxin leakage. A Lion dances on the bridge, it is Vietnamese, and through him, we are transported not so much to Vietnam as to London where Yuri saw first it. It is a dance of life, self affirming and a defiance in the face of global homogeneity. The day is a battlefield where speed and violence intermingle with joy and multicoloured vision.
The Night by Ines von bonhorst For Ines, The night is divided in two parts. The character of the nymph emanating from the full face of the moon and the double face entity, at once a more mysterious and androgynous aspect inked to the dark side of the moon, although with no negative connotation. These are archetypes containing the history of our earthly satellite, la Luna. Each one of her phases is like a composition in which our ancestral relationship is played out. Ines responds to this mythology by embroidering her personal tapestry and recreating the atmosphere we humans have been seduced by over the ages. The nymph echoes the statues like a statue herself come to life in the light of the heavenly mirror. She has escaped the pedestal she has been fixed upon. She only appears at night like lucciole. We follow her path, through the arches, the colonnades, the bridges, the alleyways, all deserted, alien to the daily roamers, a parallel city, perhaps gliding, like the moon, in our astral memory. The other figure rises slowly, like a plant awaking to lunar gravity and the pulse of her silver glow, an undulating mercurial presence. It seems to grow from the stones of a city that like the kingdom in the story of Sleeping Beauty had sunk into a deep coma. Each face reflects a different myth. One is quiet and inverted, like a lake, high in the mountains of Peru. The other, tilts towards the solar power.It becomes the night sun and harks back to Etruscan masks. We can imagine this to be the embodiment of a tribal god invoking the spirits of the ocean.In this being, sun and moon unite in a moment of silent adoration.
Pascal Ancel Bartholdi
(Black and White film based prints)
Figures are composed within an architectural setting, they integrate the material of the structure. The human form demands geometrical solutions that in turn may repress its evolution in space. But these configurations emulate an understanding of a space already defined and re calculated, a spatial reconstruction designed to transport the imagination rather than the body. In the renaissance in particular, surface became the playground of perspectival virtuality masters such as Giotto, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, and Ucello, but there is a Romaneque humor there, that cuts through the seduction of the tromp l’ oeil. In one of the images, the figures are engulfed and dwarfed by the brutal machinery surrounding them, the darkness emanates from it and pours onto them like the deluge. In another, the Duomo is turned on its head, some wall details fail to match, but the characters float within this inverted monumentality like seraphim. In a third image, the cluster of figures seem to aspire to the heights of an inaccessible dome. There is no doubt these are contemporary individuals, yet their posture and the composition of the scene evoke disparate eras of art history, namely those encountered in Florence, in particular the Renaissance from its outset to its end although we can also detect Mannerism and Tenebrism including the art emerging from seventeenth century Netherlands. There is no direct reference however to any period in the development of art because the essence of these works resides in the very personal archetypes of the psyche. These are the initial findings of an ongoing research into the relationship of the soul with the city.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2014
Within the walls of San Leopoldine, an old monastery in Florence, objects and events await discovery. In a way, this waiting is a discovery in itself. It causes a new question to arise, mostly internalised. Self questioning. The voices of Gattarossa and the Magma Collective mingle rise and fall. Works are scattered gracefully in a vast open clearing. These are disparate but harmonious. Sebastiano Benegiamo `s is a fresco, a method preserved only by a few. The portrait of a faceless human being making it impossible to distinguish between male and female. It gives the sense of what might have happened to the real shroud, where Jesus`s face fell into the cloth of Veronica, imprinting only the impression of a weight, the sinister chemistry of the calvary. We see no one here, all personal confessions wiped off, only the outer edge surviving. Andrea Lucchesi`s images speak of a lost paradise, yet there, all is stillness, not a sound, not a change in the light. Is this realm of perfection we pursue the real face of inferno? Can we only reach it once we have stopped the flow of life? Not life eternal as some would affirm but eternal death. This is an important question. Can we truly experience beauty or can we only re-create it ? Carmelo Cutili`s statues evoke the gardens we will probably never see. Guarded by electronic gates, circuit cameras, ferocious mastiffs, the secret gardens of Firenze. Yet, they look like passers by. Flaneurs caught in their thoughts. Laura Calloni shows a set of colour images combining digital , etching and polimer printing, a complex and delicate combination. Are there people there fleeing her gaze? She has captured the acceleration of time inside the incidental frame. We live there, in this wash up of sensations pursuing an exit, an intermediary satisfaction, a fast track remedy to a global malady. Anna Capolupo has produced an urban hybrid, a pictorial exploration of a composite universe. The Medium of paint is stretched beyond its traditional boundaries. We are entranced by the reverse side of reality, a reality that contains no truth until the artist pieces the drifting parts together again, in an nonsensical order. This nonsensicality is the source of beauty that is diametrically opposed to our sense of functional actuality and this is also what we find in Jaime Valtierra`s double sided work. He has painted like a butcher on mescaline and hanged it like a carcass. There, a static moment of violence confronts us. It will later become a prop for his performance, an emotional piece of theatrical furniture. It is what we do not want to see, like the ravage of wars, internal or social, the backdrop of society laid bare. Anna Burelhas transformed a personal experience into a complex psychological journey through a collage where chilhood memories interact with he history of Florence but also with the city she now lives in, London, where Magma began its subterranean course. In the centre of the piece, somehow feeding and unifying the assemblage of fragments like those of a body in search of an identity, a figure stands, the recipient of our unconscious, a Madonna in disguise, her eyes pointing to the upper firmament; there a plane cuts through the monochromatic sky. Some of the photos are purposely blurred, black and white derived from colour films. Text is spread between like mortar between bricks. There is irony in the face of that Mona Lisa, with a hint of sarcasm. We think of the Madonna by Piero Della Francesca opening her mantle to protect or devore the humunculi. Two etchings byYasmine Dainelli reveal a sensual form, slowly emerging from the penumbra. They almost float to the surface of the waters of her consciousness, the awakening of the senses, the rise of Aphrodite from the oceanic mind of Ovid, invoking the eternal muse.Rodrigo Ferreira, Sand Bottle Sand begins, bare foot. He slowly empties a bottle on the terracotta floor, sand leaks in a circle, clockwise as he walks backwards, then places the bottle at hisfeet, empty. He makes a funnel out of white paper and proceeds to gather the sand, , letting it fall back into the bottle. The grains of hours pass from an invisible state to the visibility of glass. He feeds the container gently and relentlessly, like the keeper of a goose, stroking her neck as food turns into agony. A trail of experience had settled on the surface, an image of the dust our memories become, as space incorporates the act, until the act either solidifies into a new object or the form melts into a new idea. The idea of passing through a conceptual wall in order to infuse it with the breath of contradiction, the flux of asymmetry within the ring of a personal stage. Rodrigo is no longer a social entity, is he mankind?A form of life emanating a narrative, the symbology of which is understood at this moment, albeit, in the shadow of the intellect. He gets up and pours the sand once more. It is an endless dance in slow motion. The solitary figure is moving inside the demarcation of a language where the letter “o” can mean Zero. He does not enter it. It remains unspoken. It opens onto infinity, we exist only in the margin. Is Rodrigo blurring the edges or reaffirming them? The erased face of a clock whose borders continually fade to reappear as it fails to disappear. The bottle is not empty, it is full of air, full of potentiality. We make a trace, this trace is a dna string, a memory of ourselves that cannot inform the development of any other being. Then the bottle is filled again, as we are born into a new life. The traces fall into it, psyche watching from above, and passing through the carnal filter of terrestrial life. We may be the ultimate masters of our fate, and the dogmatic makers of time, yet like vandals, we scribble half drunk over involutionary signs loosing sight of their archetypal message. The performer progresses through the toil. The quantity of sand diminishes as he keeps emptying and filling the bottle. This reminds us of a process of purification, when matter slowly dissolves into the atmosphere, a life time of distillation. The bottle itself is made of sand once heated up to about 2500 degree Celsius and turned into a hollow volume, an allegory of incarnation. Even this quasi miraculous crystallisation will wither, through the erosion of a natural game of oscillating equilibrium. After Bill Howard`s videos from the Lab Festival collection in Hackney,‘Commuting: Dark Heart of the Lea’, London, and preceding his poetic performance, a combined piece, text reading and video also shown at the Victoria and Albert Museum earlier this year, Ines Von Bonhorst and Yuri Pirondi create a night and Day vision of Florence Cleave, Alexandra Baybutt performing, Music by Matteo Penta. A shape is moving wrapped with screen material , Ines is holding a beam to cover the human cocoon in light. It opens up, and moves upward, becoming a second screen. It becomes the body of a city, changing, waking, rising, reflecting a soft scenery turning into urban dissonance. The pace has suddenly shifted from the pattern of a dream to the ambiguous assault of a nightmare. Ines draws the form out of the corner of our eye, The ringing sound becomes almost a litany, a cry and a protest. The human shape uncovers and recovers, the projector directs her movements; it seems to act as a bate, coaxing her from the darkness. Yuri filmed the day , while Ines filmed the night. The music by Penta echoes both dimensions, bonding them into an organic totality. While the night returns filled with statues, the day fills the screen with concrete monumental structures. There a cloth is agitated, by a draught, it has been trapped there may be for months. It looks like a moth flapping its useless wings in a void. The human shape echoes its febrility. Now stone faces adorn her as she faces the bridge, Ponte del Indiano, two dancers entering in the choreography surrounded by some gigantic walls, reflect ancient postures seen in hellenistic sculpture, reborn through the hands of Michelangelo, Donatello among others. She falls back into herself, as the light dies, like a flower, when the night returns. Two worlds collide and unite, Mars and his relentless progress, Venus in her veils of longing. The land, the river, the curve of infinity? The geometry of politics,, the cultural borders, the city. A new set up, a chair, a hanging painting like a swing, the back of a woman, facing a white screen.“Marlon plays Adolfa Musso Lina Lisa” There is something uncanny, before she even makes a move, she could be a character invented by Cindy Sherman, the lost girl on a deserted road, another, her hair hiding her face. A fake identity, a persona in limbo, stuck in a huis clos or a character in one of the brother Quay animated films In Absentia . A painting hangs like a swing. The woman steps sideways, crab like, and begins to draw on a column. She is wearing a green top, with painted yellow wings, angel of derision; she rips the paper of it and shows us. It looks like her, in a infantile representation. On the screen, the Duomo, a man as big cuts through its walls with a circular saw. It makes fire works. She wraps the brown paper around her head and draws again, this time, the simplified but disorderly schema of a human face the distortion of which contains the chaos of her mind. She remains motionless, seconds stretch into an indistinct length of time. Suddenly, her hands grab and tear the mask from her face, her blond wig falling there instead. She returns to the screen as a child to the drawing board. She pulls the chair backwards, to face the hanging wall. There, an image was painted by the performer, Jaime Valtierra. The image he is now incarnating. She sits, looks around her uncertain, as if she had felt a presence. She jumps, startled, she does all this three times over, the ghost of an aggressor obsessing her. She looks again as if she had hard something behind her. She gets up and removes her coat, the screen environment now filled with the Duomo on its side on top of a band of moving sky. Now she is reversing the act. She attacks an invisible victim, sitting where she had sat a moment ago. She shouts at the chair covered on the back of which the coat still hangs. She is still there, an empty shell receiving signals from another splinter of herself. She puts her outer skin back on and returns to the screen, each time her back to us, each time as if she erases the previous scene in the blankness. Amnesiac, recalling only sensations, faceless enemies. She could be inside a laboratory, like cats , running in their sleep. She grabs a shovel and throws earth at the chair. It makes a pile. All the while a light bulb was glowing on the floor, uselessly. She hurries to the chair, climbs on the mound of earth, stretching her arms out, shouting “art” as if it ,meant nothing, not as we know it, a sound that could open a flood gate, that could save her from herself, or an unknown intruder. This is the groan of the forlorn. She is desperately attempting to reach an image of the Duomo now suspended upside down on the screen, some kind of incomprehensible Paradise, its access a double impossibility. She climbs down and carries the chair back to a central position. The head composed of two Greek philosophers rotates. She is stunned once more, and removes her coat, as if the thing assailing her intended to denude her, to strip her of meaning. She is up and whispers something in the ear of who had sat there, but is instantly forgotten as who she is, an after Image of herself in the past and the future. She lies down and falls into a deep slumber.
Mnemonic City: INTER-SCAPE
I am a spectator. I was invited to a show. The group behind this show does not create spectacles. But there was something spectacular about it all…as I recall my journey. Where does this word come from? We wear spectacles to compensate for poor vision. We could say the performances and displays that took place within the event afforded a deeper vision into the mind of each participant but more so into a situation. This situation is not only a location, not only a point of reference but the lack of it. It is an open field …literally and metaphorically, it is an interior space, also literally and metaphorically. The situation situates us the onlooker inside the mind of time –space continuum. The memory builds up with each step we take across a body, as we piece the parts together. This body is human. But it is fragmented until we give it form. And this is operated through the intervention of each art state that intersects our trajectory. The event slowly builds itself into a series of experiences each reflecting a state of being, and with each moment in arrest, an image turns into a feeling, a sound turns into a colour, a colour turns into a word…This is what I mean by spectacular. What we were given is the time to forget time.
We were met by two guides outside Tottenham Hale station. They took us to the canal toe path. We walked without worrying about how long it would take to reach our destination. From this point on, we could not be late for anything. After all the guides were there to lead us to the right place in good time. Because each performance would only begin once we were watching.
We walk by the canal. This is not an insignificant factor. First of all we constitute a group and the guides intermix with us. They film the surrounding area, the spectators, the objects we come across, and the performers who have somehow merged with their host…the space they have chosen to inter-relate with in a state of active and open research. We could almost say this is a field trip and it would be true in both sense of the term. We can talk of grass root, hands on approach. The ‘tour’ is not really associated with fine art. We regard it as recreational and excursionial. In the nineteenth century, romantic students, poets, novelists and painters embarked on the grand tour, a journey of cultural and artistic discoveries spread across the Mediterranean, mostly consisting of the Hellenistic period. Our itinerary however would be the equivalent of time travelling rather than history trekking. Instead of imagining it as it was or might have been, we see it and sense it as it is. We are in the middle of it as it happens. We are led to the occult manifestation of a moment through a singular mind’s eye.
This man, Amos Shein we gaze at sits in total repose, his back to the waters. He appears as if lifted from an ancient forgotten world. No one knows why or what it means. It is a scene. A yogi meditates on the edge of a river. We are not here. He is. But we wish to arrest our attention, we suspend disbelief and motion to remove ourselves from a forest of pre-conceptions.
There is a rustling in the trees. A leg hangs , a hand opens and closes among the leaves, an eye peers through. A woman, Sofia Figueiredo (River) looks through a frame that hangs from a branch. She climbs up the tree and begins her suspension dance above the water. She uses a white sheet as a rope and a support, a resting place,a hiding place, she hovers between earth and sky.
The land is flat and wide and buildings soar out of the plain with a kind of tranquil aggressiveness. Figures, Alexandra Baybutt & Mark Carberry, with Lindsey Dayavati Best and Wendy Windle (Drifting, Grassland ) grow out of this depth. We are not certain they are human or how they got there. They are entirely oblivious to us, like the trees, weed, and structures. They also seem separated from one another by another kind of space, an ambiance filled with absence. We could imagine them as druids, lifting their arms to the sky, praying to the earth, listening to the flowers. This is a ritual, yet, we do not remember its origin and the performers emulate an ancestral history that no word ever spoke. White hands and feet have been painted by Carlos Moi on the path echoed by the line on which a black foot print has been made by Bruno Jamaica. Humans often depict our species through these attributes, as in the caves of Altamira where hands have been imprinted in the positive and the negative alongside animals. For these paintings may not have been there to invoke preys, good luck, the rising of the sun. They were quasi living symbols of divinity understood in their chthonic aspect. The human sense of natures ‘s power permeates these images which resonate with spontaneity and reverence. Is there a will within us now to catch this “elan creatif” without wish to attach a name to it? These image makers were artists although this may be the wrong word if it entails any form of artifice, and Joseph Beuys would probably agree, these proto-artists were in fact shamans.
A shape languishes on the path, Dagmara Bilon(Renactus). A woman dressed in black face down lies there as if left for dead. The crowd gathers just the way it does on a busy street around something unusual, an accident. There is a sudden frenzy. The guides and the audience transform themselves into paparazzi. She slowly rises and walks among us yet apart. Now we are here but she is not…looking for her shadow. She is a shadow lost in an invisible departure lounge.
Already the group disperses, and moves like an amiba. Something strange attracts our attention. A large clock face is held above a promontory by a woman, Andrea Meneses Guerrero. A child climbs on top of it with her help. She plays with the object, she hides her face , her face is a clock, the clock is a moon and a rope is tightened with clothe swinging as if a great wind blew through them. They stand there, the grown human and her young, above the Earth or some imminent deluge, but also inside the elements. An electric pole hovers above them menacingly, birds, perhaps pigeons, break into a mass flight. I recall apocalyptic scenes, The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock, the emptiness of urban slow motion dystopia in Antonioni, and I also wish to crystallize this vision, this pseudo memory in the making. Just before the bridge, a shed is left open, we are ushered in by Jennifer Lewin. ( Noisy Stillness)There in the penumbra, I hear voices slipping out of corners. Some light pierces through. But it feels weirdly warm and almost soporific. We could stay there a while longer in this wooden womb although the shed has just appeared, and would be deconstructed soon after our passage. The words fall out like leaves. They land in unpredictable places. A monologue in the dead of night. It is transient and ephemeral, yet as any form of false permanence, that takes the shape of our habitat, the poetry that may arise therein can be tainted by the morbid obsession for temporal constancy and a kind of salutary objectification. I feel this inherent contradiction, the human sound, then, the suffocating haziness, the artificial warmth, the walls that divide the body and/from the light. On the opposite side, two artists, Momoko Nishizono and Mario Fruilio (Onikakushi) have played with different sameness. the surface of the water has been split by broken mirrors. More mirrors are propped against the wall across the canal. Jean Cocteau turned a mirror into water. Now the water growths mirror skins that float, angular tears shed by Narcissus as he glared from the river bed, one stone among many. A world inside out. The bridge is covered in a mantle of egg shells. Reka Ferenczi (Tread softly because you tread on my dreams). Most have been trodden on , so fragile, so easy to shatter. We hear them, those mini skulls, crack under the swift weight of our soles. Below the bridge, ( white plaster limbs hang from the metal beams or surge from the tarmac. Much later, after entering Building Bloqs where film projections and an exhibition awaited us, we were led by the man in a cloak into the street ( St Antony’s way) to follow the trajectory of a performer.
Rodrigo Cesar (Ferreira) ( A Walk on the Pole) lifts a plank and lies it flat on the ground in a slow methodical manner. As he does so, he stands aside and retraces his steps back to the ‘end’ of the plank opposite the direction of his progress. He steps on the plank that seems to indicate the forward direction of his trajectory. It is not dissimilar to the sewing technique, one forward, half backwards, and round and down and again. But he does not see where he is going , and his back to the point of ‘destination’ gives the impression that he is moving away from elsewhere, not moving closer to anywhere, fate, a blind guess, an allegory of existence and a possible allusion to existentialism.
In the meantime more people have arrived, pouring into the cafe to eat and drink while watching the screenings and the gigs that follow, but also to visit the exhibition room. As above so below. I felt that, as a traveller, I had reached my destination. The works on display gave the rightful impression of a collection of experiences and objects reverberating their first utterance, specimen of phenomenological value. Bill Howard ‘s tv seems abandoned. (Commuting: Dark Heart of the Lea)The vision becomes a distortion of our own journey through this anonymous topography where the river Lea comes under poetic scrutiny. Amos Shein‘ s table nearby appears weighed down by chaos. It clarifies itself as we keep looking, a circuit emerges linking all the found objects, perhaps an allusion to the initiatic journey of the human psyche. The large pendulum built byRodrigo Ferreira (Creation, Meditation, Transformation) wavers imperceptibly as we brush passed it. A chicken made of scrap rusty metal stands firm. It is cockerel. Mario Pesenti said of it: “ I did not want to draw it, I wanted the metal to draw it for me.” Ines Bonhorst ‘s piece (Immutable) focuses on the paradox through which time and timelessness incoherently fuse with finite and infinite space. This paradox is contained in the human form. It is a key and a key hole at once. The body turns air into an opponent and each gesture becomes a battle with no definite end. The rhythmic violence of the network encircling us is emphasised by the acceleration of the super highway jutting out on each side of the body thus contracting and dilating in slow motion as it senses the monotony of its infrastructural cell. A strip of sky line sketched by Irene Pulgaevokes the low land etchings and drawings of 17th century masters like Vermeer. It is poetic and unencumbered by technical solutions. Yuri Pirondi’s (Quest:Prelude) is a story, almost like a dark fairy tale concentrating on the internal world of a homeless man ( whom Yuri enacts) as he drifts almost aimlessly in and out of the city. One object holds his memories and his imagination in suspension, a snow bubble. Yet, in this bubble we see the world of a decaying epoch, the electric pole, one of thousands that feed our cities and lives with artificial energy. This bubble is a Rosebud of sorts, a talisman too. Yet it also represents an enslavement, a sense of loss. On another ‘foor tv’ Luri Leche‘s (N7 Piece) moving image works like a recurring dream. Torrential water, a human shape, the submerging of a body…It goes on , bluish, blurred, in and out of focus, as if someone desperately attempts to remember, yet, the memory disintegrates as we grasp it, and the water rushes and erases all. Jaimi Valtierra‘s ( sarcastic visual humour slices through etiquette with his visceral poetic acts on canvas. A giant ear protrudes and eves drop like a conspicuous fly on the wall.
Of course there were other artists including Julian Thomasset, Rupert Jaeger, Pascal Ancel Bartholdi, David Richter, Vera Karlsson, Monkey Jar, Mauricio Velasierra, Michael Baur, Petr Davydtchenko, Eugenia Mossa, Ioanna Theodorakou...who all contributed to create a unique artistic experience and will continue to open and maintain a common and personal space of activated imagination.
Pascal Ancel Bartholdi
See also Zap Bang Magazine Review
Mnemonic City: MOVING STREETS
From The Flaneur – http://flaneur.me.uk/05/mnemonic-city-moving-streets/
Review of Alessandra Cianetti
Part of the series Mnemonic City, Moving Streets is the latest exhibition of Magma Collective. Ridley Road Market has been the starting point for a three-month derive that ended up in a two-day exhibition and live performances at Doomed Gallery.
The market has been the magnifier to explore relationships, trade, city spaces and the point of departure for the collective’s flaneries: a way to investigate the urban and human topography of Dalston.
Through their walks, Magma Collective experienced the city as a device able to trigger memories, build and witness history. Three months of exchanges, investigations, constant contact with the area, made the artists aware of the possibilities of the market and the surrounding areas.
Where are the borders of relations and spaces? What is the limit an artist encounters in exploring a complex organism such as Ridley Road Market?
Pascal Ancel Bartholdi, Mikail Baur, Anna Burel, Rodrigo César, Yasmine Dainelli, Ken Flaherty, Rupert Jaeger, Max, Michael Picknett, Yuri Pirondi, Julien Thomasset, Lucia Tong, Jaime Valtierra, Ines Von Bonhorst. These are the artists that worked at the project for three months of intense collaboration and sharing, with the aim to build new connections with a public space where the network is based on the coexistence of cultural differences.
The nocturnal video of Ines Von Bonhorst, the map collage of Anna Burel, the paintings of Jaime Valtierra, the video performance of Yuri Pirondi are only few examples of the artists’ responses to the explored environment. Although the individual works are dissimilar in techniques and practices, the exhibition as a whole recreates the feeling of a market, where the space is filled with conversations and exchanges. These dialogues among art works convey the sense of what coexistence in an urban space means, and of how difficult and enriching it can be. The artists of Magma Collective developed their practices while building relationships with the local community and engaging with its meanings, producing a collaborative portrait of Ridley Road Market that is complex, challenging and inspiring.
Mnemonic City: PLATO’S CAVE
At the Doomed Gallery, London
Magma collective multi gallery project 2012
visual/sound digital multi media event
Review of Pascal Ancel Bartholdi
According to Aristotle The Plot of a tragedy is immitative of an action while character retains a secondary position. Order, appearance and magnitude will follow logically. We see that such a model would leave no room for evolution other than technical amendments. The scope of psychological enquiry having increased through the ages, we now must observe new forms of theatre have emerged as off shoots of conceptual art and interventions: Dan Graham wrote “the culture in the 60s was about immediacy and presentness. The present was detached from historical time. It was thought that one was to experiment in the here and now: thus life was a perceptual experience… it wanted to not have a lasting material existence, but to exist only as a catalyst, to change and help to deconstruct or to destroy existing material, established icons.” (Two-way Mirror Power selected writings by Dan Graham on his art). The catalytic nature of contemporary performance is based on the intense acitvation of the mental space existing between the audience and the actor/performer/artist who will enact in a sense the background imagery of a definite collective consciousness, that is, determined by the plot and the cultural language chosen by the artist. This space is almost literally electrified, in the case of Magma. We can speak of a galvanisation of memory and the imaginary.
In his book, Creative Evolution, Bergson analises the principle of the “Elan vital”, one could equate to the “will to Power”, from a Nietzschean perspective, or to Prana, an aspect of Cosmic energy in Hinduism, one of five “organs of vitality” constituting our living being, each an essential sense without which our connection to the world and other human beings would be impossible. He “addresses the question of self-organisation and spontaneous morphogenesis of things”(consider ‘morpho’ as a constituent of ‘epistemological being’, not as biological being). This appears to relates to “ a body without organs” in Deleuze’ s work, derived from Antonin Artaud’ s radio play “To Have Done with the Judgement of God”, the term initially refers to the “virtual” dimension of the body. “In Anti-Oedipus Deleuze and Guattari say: “The body without organs is an egg: it is criss-crossed with axes and thresholds, with latitudes and longitudes and geodesic lines, traversed by gradients marking the transitions and the becoming, the destinations of the subject developing along these particular vectors.” This is the potential/virtual body of what they(Deleuze and Guattari ) call “Phase Space””. The nature of performance is intricately linked to this conjunction of natures by which disparate physical and emotional organized elements construct an image, a common space which becomes an internal metropolis of sensations, a ‘Mnemopolis’, city of remembrance, where ‘anasubstantial’ interconnections take form and language turns back into a primordial sign. The character of the environment thus reflects the development of the rapport established between the phenomenological process taking place ‘on stage’ and the perceptual response of the members of the public ‘off-stage’ in which these very ‘on/off’ dividing rules become interchangeable and indistinguishable. “Morphogenesis” in this case is also the by product of flux, that is the experiential duration of the art or the “subjective experience of time” to follow Henri Bergson’ s hypothesis. At no.w.here , a film studio/workshop in London, curator Maxa Zoller hosted a seminar on what she names “ the cinematic body”. She affirms that“ In the last decade film and video installation art has produced a new set of critical ideas about our attraction to immersive film environments and the desire to experience the engulfing quality of virtual reality…”.
In this project, the fundamental principles of an ancient form of creative expression are evident. We may speak of a nascent shamanistic culture through which any given space becomes a cave, an alembic that will contain a moment of illumination, and as the participants pointed out, a mirror of the outer city itself, beginning with London. It is Orphic in nature, in the way of an oracle. This is not a deliberate aim but the result of an organic communion of ideas and their ramified manifestations among the performers whose devices interact electrically and electronically during the show. From the concept of the city, Magma moves to the concept of the cave and in doing so triggers a descent rather than an ascent, in correlation with a process C.G Jung called “involution”. Once more, the cave opens to show the dark motions of the mind traversing territories of ancestral memory having embarked on the ghost ship of mythology.
Orpheus himself embodies a tragic journey into the unconscious, his demons are not comprehended, only charmed; his soul personified by Eurydice succumbs to the second death as he denies the gods of the underworld by inventing a virtual copy of his experience, the music acting as a camouflage vehicle saving him from a sensory impact. Thus there is no revelation, his head is severed, in effect rendering all experience obsolete, prefiguring the dilemma of 21st century hominid, whose presence is rent asunder by the age old divide Reason/Nature, his body torn apart, a fragmentation equated to that of the modern personality, split into multi-personas but also into a world of multi-functionalities where focus is lost as much as identity for the sake of uninterrupted integration into the societal system. Finally, his psyche swallowed by the shadows is reflected in the alienation of the singular mind into the innumerable patterns created by digital networks. In this myth we find an echo of Plato’s cave, although Plato does not imply a tragic ending but merely makes a philosophical observation without definite conclusion. The metaphor has gained more relevance as the layers of human existence have accumulated. There is a chain of events based on a hierarchy no longer determined by external agents such as the gods, for in this place of perdition, mankind alone must decide its fate. God indeed is not a guiding principle, nature is no longer a distant notion or a well of resources, it is a womb and a stomach all at once, an egg expanding with the power of the gaze, and Plato implies that the eye of the mind ( the philosopher’s eye)can comprehend the light outside the cave, the glow from telluric flames only symbolising a state of semi consciousness where shadows become more palpable than reality.
The cave has also been associated with the labyrinth, or the centre of the maze, the place where one meets their destiny or falls into a state of utter forgetfulness. One cannot escape the Labyrinth, one can only dream of escape, and this is precisely where the solution might reside or arise, for the labyrinth is a dream; it epitomises a psychic reality in whose theatre all of our complexes are played out. Malpertuis (Maleperduis or Maupertuis, place of evil but also place of the forlorn), written by Jean Ray, is such a place, the name of an ancient house covers a world of intricate passages and insoluble situations, the product of one mind, its owner whose death seals a testament to which his descendants are bound until their last breath. In this labyrinth, the gods of Olympe have been sequestrated, their essence entrapped within the body, moreso “inside the skins” of common mortals. Stairs in particular stretch from impossible heights to cavernous depths. Groteque characters conspire with monstruous shadows. The players must remain to discover why they cannot leave. This discovery however is not salutary but the crowning of a sentence. Essentially, the characters cannot find an exit to a place which does not really exist, and furthermore, none of them realise the extent of their affiliation with the deceased patriarch until their own fate is administered with the relentless precision and punctuality of a clock. It can be surmised they are all in fact aspects of his own depraved soul, all but Jan ( in the eponymous movie by Harry Kumel), whose purity ressembles that of ‘the son of god’, a tragic resemblance pushed to its logical conclusion. Here, the story of Plato’s cave takes on a Shakespearean tone imbuing the faceless penitents with personal characteristics, a past, aspirations and intentions. There is no real opposition between good and evil; no real possibility of a world outside of Malperduis exists. The cave in this sense is a living nightmare without end, in fact, it is an inferno.
Magma’s own artistic evolution defies Plato’s argument, since the work at hand affords the audience a form of knowledge through sensation rather than through the exposition of form as an idea to be unravelled by the intellect. Magma in this set of scenes, on screen and in space, through sound and visual interrogative realisations, creates a dramatic interlude from an eschatological condition. Yet, the cave can become the source of vision itself, no longer filled with projections of latent fears mingled with soporific illusions, it can resound with instants of truth, it can become the place of creation itself as Isabel Hilton describes in The Search for the Panchen Lama.: “Lhamo Latso . . .in Tibet [is] a brilliant azure jewel set in a ring of grey mountains. The elevation and the surrounding peaks combine to give it a highly changeable climate, and the continuous passage of cloud and wind creates a constantly moving pattern on the surface of the waters. On that surface visions appear to those who seek them in the right frame of mind.” The electrified chamber Magma engineers shows us how the cave can transmute into a lake, the retina of an interior gaze remembering a history in the making, a parallel story, putting an emphasis on the transmutation of the meaning of this word, i.e. how what is purported to have been seen can become a fiction, and how this fiction can be the direct result of an experience leading to a new kind of perception, in which case we could call this spectacle ‘Histerautopsy’, a narrative founded on what has been sensed in real time, not by proxy, on what has been sensed in real space not with remote viewing. From this position, the artist and the viewer can be said to fulfil a new part in the context of the phenomenological universe, that is, a “proprioceptive” (“one’s own perception” )state, not only in relation to the physical body but to the spatial projection of the body, and as such we can deduce space and time no longer reside outside our vital perimeters but constitute an essential body intertwined with our own, a natural antidote to virtual amalgamation. What needs to be noted is the irony of this inversion, that is, how artists by integrating digital mediums into a complex set of creative expressions disable the homogenic apparatus of the state, such works alluding ‘regular’ incorporation. What marks out this new ‘insurgence’ is not a political direction but a metaphysical impulse within the shell of a philosophical dialogue. We are no longer staring blankly at a shallow pond, this ship is taking us to the ocean…”for those with the right frame of mind”.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2012
REVIEW OF EACH PERFORMANCE
22D SEPT 2012
The Magma collective visual/audio/live performance finally arrives withMnemonicCity at Doomed Gallery.
The event opens with Roberto Crippa, sound artist, composer and improviser,Electroacoustic Improvisation.
The artist stands behind the mixing deck like a musician throwing spells at a machine that seems to contain the last microwaves from the big bang, reaching us, the audience through his finger tips. Beside the electric apparatus, and plugged into it lay a harmonium which now and then Roberto presses and extends, like a lung inspiring and expiring inhuman plaintive notes. As intriguing is the use he makes of a metallic plate, pushing, turning and disturbing its equanimity, a trivial object out of context, claiming the position of a musical instrument, but then perhaps it is, and sending waves of gaseous white noise, to confuse the assemblage of signals already emitted into the air filled by the silence of the audience. It is loud yet never cacophonic, surprisingly seductive, simply because of an overwhelming sense of submersion into the secrecy of an incomprehensible sound. We are not outside of it. I could imagine a trip in an alien space ship generating a similar experience.
Ines Von Bonhorst, director and Yuri Pirondi, cinematography, invite us to their performance/video screening The Guise accompanied by music duo, musician Mauricio Velasierra, singer Heidi Heidelberg, in the garden. It is already dark and as we gather, the flutist and the singer/sound artist have already begun. A woman, performer Sofia Figueiredo is entangled in a set of strings attached to the branches of a dead tree, she stretches them to the limit and in so doing also stretches her life line up to the point of breathless extenuation. This is reflected in the strident effusions of the flutist and the pseudo screams of the singer, who both have become the ectoplasmic voice of the prisoner. For this is what she is and those elastics to my mind symbolise the rules of the outside world imposed on her freedom, subjugating her flow, restraining each movement, and never allowing her enough space or time to speak out; but it is also a sign that her existence is intricately linked to nature, this dead tree, a tragic embodiment of our own nature escaping from itself, yet incapable of subsistence in complete loneliness. She speaks only through her body, the momentum receding, and forwarding, yet with no real progress, an illusion of change, of hope even. She is Sisyphus. And we have become the mountains surrounding this human being, like gods turned to rock. We observe the pain without emotion for to us, this is mere entertainment; a possible interpretation. The separation between the eye of the public and the woman who falls before us is vast, despite her physical self manifesting among us and dragging itself confusingly on the ground rolled into a dark shrine, inhumed in mental alienation.
Insights Allein, a mime act in which we find the protagonist shrouded, waiting for a sign. Riccardo Attanasio Mataklas is prostrated before what looks like a shrine covered by a membrane of cellophane. He contorts himself out of his second skin and soon rips the membrane which he wraps around himself. Left there on the floor are a spade and a transparent head made of glass or Perspex. He picks both of them up and makes his way to the exit, disappearing through the door into the dark. We follow him with our gaze and soon, each of us walk out into the dark to find out what happened. We follow the pipe piper into the garden. He is mute, but his gestures are telling the story. He hits the earth with the shovel, digs a hole in the ground, stops, looks around and quietly picks the head he has enveloped in the cellophane, to place it in the hole and finally, without ceremony, buries it. He stands still. He carries this stillness within. We wonder. It is an ending. Ricardo’s main body of work also includes graffiti art and poetry, music and painting.
Adolfo Healer puts his helmet on, reversing the title: A Cave in the Head, a square box painted with geometric shapes that will soon move, distorted on the screen, and launches the live projection. He is acting as if possessed, his accomplice also under the spell of some disjointed automated pulse. Images appear, geomantic allusions, intruding on the angular order of one another, with saturated stripes, bleached out lines crossing the straight and regular trajectory of their neighbouring figures. The chaos of mathematics is released in the mind of Healer by electronic magic, reverberated on the wall for all to ponder while sounds are extracted out of entropic objects, his accomplice, musician Cementimental brutalises with a passion. They dismantle physical truths with improbable solutions made out of a symbiosis between unpredicted sound waves colliding with one another and de-calculated forms, flattened, stretched, inverted, reversing the brain lobes of the population watching transfixed this metaphysical experiment.
The artist hidden in the box is Jaime Valtierra, a multi media painter, who expresses his deeper philosophical questions through inventive electronic constructs as much as through traditional oil paint. He ends the event suddenly, almost unexpectedly.
The Outside Puppets trio (before the last performance) begins with a lesson of what seems like a mixture of religious doctrine, phonetics and body language.
The great teacher is impatient with the two young puppet students who keep scratching their heads as the master shouts out his wisdom. He is certain of his message, no matter how incoherent it sounds to everyone else.
2 more characters are brought on the stage in succession as the other three hide backstage.
Incredibly eerie and expressive, both are hooded and play their part alone. The hood is suddenly pulled back to reveal a face that looks horrified, astonished and perplex all at once, the eyes wide open like those of victims in horror movies, yet a mouth turned into a rictus proper to the psycho about to achieve his end. This face/mask is the recipient of a complex balance of emotions that fit each act equally well. We believe it. It is scared, trembling before the unknown, then it is horrified, then disgusted, then mocking…we are taken on a hell ride through the deep psychological transformations of these ‘creatures’ risen from the shadows of the collective unconscious. When both stand side by side, they engage in a discussion about the audience and laugh at us; a brilliant inversion of roles.
In fact, the puppeteers are a collective of multi disciplinary artists, (and so are most of the artists involved in the Mnemonic City event), who believe in the cathartic value of their work with good cause. One of their events advertised on their site called “The Thinker” is introduced thus: “If you accept the shadow…then you can reclaim the light”.
The Entire show, echoing memories of Commedia dell‘Arte, an experiential exploration of the Myth of the cave by Plato, organized by the Magma collective and Doomed Gallery was founded on this principle…to reveal and expand the deeper psyche through the liberation of visual poetic and philosophical creativity; a principle gallery founder Ken Flaherty, and curator Pascal Ancel Bartholdi are applying in their choice of artists and their own work. This therefore could only lead to a fruitful collaboration the result of which was a magnificent spectacle that will now travel to main cities in Europe beginning with Madrid.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2012
Review of Pascal Ancel Bertholdi:
The evening was thus introduced: “The Kula is a ceremonial exchange system conducted in Papua New Guinea. All Kula valuables are non-use items traded purely for purposes of enhancing one’s social status and prestige”.
I can see relevance in the ‘exchange system’ via the multidirectional communication between a carefully selected set of mediums all of which were ‘live’. There was little if no ceremony, but rather a sense of ritual derived from an archaic need for unison. Unison with other human beings as much as with the environment in which they, on that particular evening, evolved from the mundane and the primordial to the conceptual and the ‘technosavism’ of our age. “Non-use” is a term I regard as ambiguous and ambivalent in the same sense as the more provocative derogatory term: ‘useless’. This latter adjective has interested me since it has become ‘practically’ synonymous with art. But of what use can a Titian be after all?
This is where we find ourselves now, in the midst of an ‘amoebic’ battle between values and units, nomads and sedentary entities constituting our social fabric, a chaos of self censorship and soft dictatorships imposed on all aspects of our civilisation. But culture indeed grows outside the Petri dish. That is, as an indefinable passage existed between the Byzantium and the Gothic ‘movements’, an era most of us overlook, the Romanesque, so it appears to be today, as humanity dances on the edge of a precipice. This counter reactive current embodying the will to imagine, the desire to transform, to break out of the established intellectual continuum to manifest a realm where rules reflect the newest and most insane quantum theories, where even quantum strings shatter under the infinitesimal weight of their inadequacy, was evident in the Kula Ring.
A strong anthropological link appeared to resonate between Two pieces: “ROPE” with Johnny-Lee Leslie on the accordion, Michael Baur on the guitar and Sofia Figueiredo performing live and a video about birth, life and death by Ines Von Bonhorst accompanied by musician Jez Houghton.
Both ‘stories’ relate the existential journey of a woman, perhaps of woman as the anima, the muse and the Sibyl, following the trace of a mental labyrinth, exposing it, and closing it as we close a book, yet more akin to a dream, the pages withholding the significance of their content within undecipherable glyphs. The pale body emerges hesitant… maybe blind. As the Rope woman, Ines’s feminine being is entranced in her own internal revelations. We are left gazing in awe as we would before the spectacle of a waxing moon over a territory where liquid and earth are indistinguishable. The redness of the bed enhances the visceral suffocation inherent to the brutal emergence of consciousness in the world of matter, it impregnates the walls of a cell that expands beyond the frame. By contrast, the rope unleashes in its unwinding the endless hopes for a resolution, a loop, an access into a parallel state of being. Despite this, we are confronted with the affirmation of loss, the end of the rope does not lead anywhere, more so, it arrives entangled, lose, abstracted in the increasing de-coordination of the performer’s movements who had found for a brief instant a path to the centre, and a path to the edge. This edge, Ines’s foetal woman never quite reaches. She in fact is the edge. All other elements revolve around her, silent, as if she was imagining them in and out of existence. The room is not a room, the air is not air. This being is not yet conceived. It dreams of touch and smell. It curls back on itself like a rose that almost blossomed.
The interplay between Techno Widow(Madelena Pinto)at the microphone, Yuri Pirondi, visuals and Etienne Decroux using “dynamorythms”, or one could add “diamorphism”(passing through form), deploys a regalia of childhood inventions and emotive fixations, possibly provoking in the audience a kind of subdued embarrassment as much as a disarmed reverie. Yuri’s camera focuses and blurs alternatively across a panel of toy figures, the colours and composition of which are strangely reminiscent of 1950s cinematography and advertising. They warp until all detail is lost infusing the toy stage with the aura of treasured memories while the widow intones her cat mourning ode, a sorceress at the deck. Absurd and beguiling.
Presanth Guru invites us to draw with the mind alone. Would his name infer the idea of divine cause, or Govinda presence in the objects and their shadows? Govinda after all also meant “master of the senses”. This performer acts out the psyche of a personal cosmos as if it was entrapped in a whirlpool. His pen captures waves then disconnects from the surface having engendered a cosmos out of the regions of terrestrial physics, alluded to by Mandelbrot and Cornelis Escher, inaccessible to mortal beings. Yet his body chases after the line and the gesture pursues the thought via the electro carrier of sound and image, unpredictable yet repetitive, asymmetrical yet quasi homogeneous. Protector of the land they say, but here, Presanth unravels the invisible land as he lets the senses master him.
Lastly but not least, the strangest and in my view most powerful performance: “Life visual projection” by Adolfo Healer in collaboration with sound artist Roberto Crippa.
The equilateral shape conducts the orchestra. It is a mask and below lies what lives in the secrecy of the Gods, as Homer or Euripides could have seen it. The darkness is obliterated by light through the intertwining game of grids overthrowing the pretensions of Piet Mondrian who loathed the unpredictability of nature or Jackson Pollock who once exclaimed: “I am nature”. What stares from the bar-coded caelum is the face of tragedy in the Greek sense as the poet Horace would enunciate a few hundred years later: caelum, non animum mutant, qui trans mare currunt, “those who run across the sea change their sky but not their state of mind.” The fearsome mask moves like a snake; with it forms integrate and disintegrate, the universe is nothing more than a convulsive and schizoid amalgam of prototypes, the Platonic Solids, latitudes and meridians , flat lines, ghostly dismembered cities and the sound echoes this sense of dead beauty, this perdition in no man’s land. The dice are cast and roll effortlessly across planes attached to nothingness. The mask seems to inquire, then retracts. It is a sphinx awaiting its prey, yet it embodies the hunger for knowledge. During the festival of Dionysus in Athens, theatre not gladiators would enliven the arena. Actors would enact the gods wearing enormous masks, two holes for the eyes one for the mouth. Thus, the public, too far to recognise a human face would know their characters and follow the plot. But here, there is no plot to follow. There is no narrative. The performer acts in the corner of my eye, his intention almost moulded into the impression that moves on the screen. The mask is the face of an act we all perpetuate. This one contains ancient mythology, Ulysses, Achilles,Penelope, Perseus, Medea, Agamemnon, Orpheus, Ariadne, Oedipus… but also technological lunacy, scifi delirium, digital exponential expansion, identity deletion… it is grotesque and alluring; hypnotising and yet absolutely enlightening. I might as well be sitting in the amphitheatre 500years BC.
I may have missed a performance, a girl torn between a sun flower and a motherboard. This in its simple way describes our dilemma. Will this play turn out as a tragedy or a comedy? Even time I suppose, will not tell.