Since I can remember, I have had a strong desire to expand my awareness and move myself into the unknown.
Art has played a major role in this proces of self discovery. Certain artistic experiences, that I have either been a part of or a spectator of, has lead me into completely new territory.
Living a life through art, has brought me deeper into myself and allowed me to create the kind of space I like to live in.
When I moved to Italy, I ceased seeing films for three years. I had been passionately immersed in them every single day, for more than a decade.
But from one day to the other, I felt the need to release the vision I had of myself and the world entirely. Since I was searching for a new way of life, everything too familiar had to go. Including film.
Removing a filter from your eyes, even one that you love, is overwhelming. You loose protection. The light seems invasive at first. But it helps you get real naked. I needed to step out of what I knew. To rediscover what I was missing in my life.
Living in a new country is a bit like being a spectator. You don’t understand the words at first, so everything turns into an image!
The basic truth that we are part of nature, and that change happens automatically became apparent. Everyday I became clearer to myself. It was beautiful, painful and very liberating.
My way back to film happened through sculpture, painting and dance. One by one.
I had the desire to look more closely at other artistic processes and started filming them.
It felt incredibly delightful: to simply follow a paint brush sweeping its way across a white canvas. Once again, life was starting over. Exploring a new art form forces you to come back to what’s essential. In this meeting between languages, I fell in love with film all over again.
In 2018 I was invited to be artist in residence at Fabbrica Europa, the contemporary art festival in Florence. The purpose was to explore the relationship between contemporary dance and film.
Maurizia Settembri, the co-founder of the festival who is now the director of the dance and multimedia program, had seen a series of videos I had made based on performances by young choreographers at the festival. She wanted to see more, and introduced me to Isabella Giustina, one of the young dancers I had filmed.
She and I started working almost immediately. It was a joy to be in the studio. No distractions. Mind and thought was overtaken by rhythm and form. A white room, my camera and a talented dancer.
I introduced various tools for improvisation, based on which we started building a character, a choreography, a story and a relationship between the dance and the moving images, that would eventually be projected on the back wall during the performance.
The process expanded into a collaboration with the musicians Francesco Giorgi (on violin and piano) and Francesco Gherardi (on indian percussion), who readily took the cue and started building a composition based on my directions and the improvisations that we all did together. Through the music, a steady and mystical atmosphere was stretched out under and above the visual world created for the character.
It’s all movement
When film is freed from strict narrative and dialogue it is permitted to be what it was in the beginning of film history: moving images in time.
Those images are more often than not confined to the frame.
In this case, I worked with the square format of the projected image as a metaphorical window to the world. Later this window would turn into a sort of canvas which the character would “paint on”. Through her movements and emotional shifts she would cause the images to take new forms. The screen had become a window in you could say.
I wanted to establish this as a power dynamic between the moving images and the dancer. In the beginning the character is thematically framed as a creation shaped by nature and society. But gradually as she evolves through her dance, impacting more and more vividly, what is happening on the screen, she becomes her own creator.
The main object that ignites the character’s journey towards self expression and liberation is the paint brush. Midway through the performance she discovers how she can reject the confined frame she finds herself in, and (literally) sketch out a new vision for her life through movement.
Influenced by film-language and screen acting, I therefore experimented with ways to emphasize the gaze of the character; as a soulful representation of thought: a pause from action.
When a close up is well crafted, it can produce an intense and beautiful connection between the character and her viewers. With the eyes the actress expresses her feelings, her intention and the direction she is moving in. It is both the most vulnerable and most powerful part of her expression. The screen actor knows that she is not alone. She is supported in her performance by the camera and willingly lets herself be seen by it.
The stage dancer is obviously depending more on the presence and totality of her body. She cannot get as close to the audience as the screen actor. But she doesn’t need to either. In the dialogue between choreography, scenography, light design and not least music, the audience is brought into an intimate space. The rawness of a live performance is in and of itself a kind of close-up. An actual meeting is taking place.
But from the camera’s point of view, the face will always be more exciting than the body. I often envisioned Isabella Giustina as a silent movie actress. She had anachronistic features: big eyes and a small and often painted mouth. So little by little I found a way to integrate the idea of the close up in the reality of the studio space.
In the beginning of our story, the world she inhabits is concrete, represented by live footage from city life and nature. Later it turns abstract, when the inner world of the character breaks through.
During the rehearsals I experimented with using the projected images in a similar way to music: to turn on, move and drive out emotions. We had trance like sessions that brought us further into this mysterious ambience, ignited by the rhythm of both music and montage. From here we also found inspiration to develop character and story.
A new awareness
Dance is an art form that belongs to everybody. It is the most immediate path I know to radically transform my feelings and thoughts. If you surrender to rhythm and melody something is effortlessly moved inside of you.
Only when I became a filmmaker did I start paying closer attention to dance as a visual experience rather than a physical one. It was eyeopening.
I was always inclined to study films with very little dialogue. In this case the director depends on sound and image to tell the story through her characters and can hereby reach a sharper narrative with a more sensual mood. The absence of words leaves space for the viewers to participate in the storytelling with their imagination.
New media is already changing how theatres stage their plays and performances. Dance and film will undoubtedly move closer together in the future and it will lead to exciting artistic innovation.
In my personal exploration at Fabbrica Europa our character transforms, while moving passionately through the early stages of her life. From innocence and play, towards rebellion and explosivity she finally lands in a more complete and elegant expression. Her vision and her emotions change together; and for the spectator everything is carried through a living image in time: her moving body.
Check out 5 minus of our improvisation in the below video. Please choose HD quality.
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