The Whales Song
photo Alice Brazzit
“Perhaps we could choose to be there.
To be part of a ritual.
A declaration of presence.
A funereal lament.
A wedding dance.
A call song.
A choice to welcome.“
The Whales Song is a work thought with Matteo Ramponi, a performer and friend whose ability to become invisible I have always admired. But The Whales Song is also a work whose debut took place on the edge of a cliff.
It was March 2020. In Italy, airports were being closed. In Gent, Belgium, we were going on stage without understanding what was happening. We could feel something coming at us strong, something we could not quite give a name to. We were too deep in the eye of the hurricane to see.
The work had been written around the concepts of distance and call when they had not yet been redefined by the pandemic, but it happened to debut at the very moment those terms were being stained with gloomy meanings.
All we could do was relax our muscles and resist the urge to fight the storm.
And now, months later, we take up this creature once more. How should we talk about it?
We see our work resurface like fossils do. Its structure is unchanged. Its flexible skeleton did not oppose the current and so it survived. But storms change everything. Always.
I cannot talk to you about The Whales Song because this work, thought to be an immersive landscape which heart is redesigned time after time by the people choosing to experience it, was based on what
I once knew of the world and the people.
Now I, us, come back with dread and surprise to search its carcass: our hearts filled with joy at the idea of breathing life back into it, and our gaze afraid at the thought of not being able to foresee its new identity.
Death brings us closer to one another. Looking separation in the eyes. Finding that although we are very far apart, we can still recognise each other. We are infinitely close to each other in separation.
This work anticipated this time of pandemic and silence. Losing sight, going into other dimensions. The space is not that which we inhabit.
What will we do? Where will we be?
Now that life is someplace else, perhaps no longer here. Maybe we don’t see it anymore. As we look in the eye of separation.
We find that we are very far apart, but we can still recognise one another. Infinitely close to each other in separation.
Whales can make the sound of their call travel for many kilometres. Through oxygen and water, through night and day.
They answer, on a precise frequency, each message they receive or think to receive. They measure distances with devoted intelligence.
At the end of the collective experience, each one of us can see their Whales or come, together with the others, a cetacean whose enormous body is the carrier of dreamlike matter and love, and life, and death. Losing ourselves in the ocean to see each other.
The Whales Song is Chiara’s most radical, indefinable and revolutionary work.
The spectacular colour tones of day and night chase one another all above us, around us. Time seems to have stopped, but I don’t think it is so. Has Nature then stopped? All we need is to take our time to watch; watch the change transform everything in its own time, experimenting within ourselves the living element of the colour flowing, the soul of Nature. Colours are different every day, they move us without letting us choose to.
We can look at them or ignore them but we cannot avoid change, and should not overlook the human ability to think, which can make our resurfacing conscious. We can decide when to resurface as cetaceans do. Cetaceans can resurface at any time throughout the day, although the shaving light of early morning and late evening often creates the ideal conditions. But how does the choice to resurface arise in me? It is the ability to think, more than the lack of boundaries, that matters the most when it comes to freedom.
To me, The Whales Song is the artist’s invitation to look “beyond” the surface of things, very much like in Bleu De Ciel (Light Blue Sky) by Vassily Kandinsky, 1940.
In this painting, Kandinsky shows us an unknown world. His eyes penetrate the matter of invisible life and return to us a pristine view that reaches further than what the eyes can see. Biomorphic painting is – as in all of Kandinsky’s works – a means of revealing another reality. Not merely as an imaginary and dreamlike vision of the painter’s world, but also requiring complete involvement from part of the viewers, who using their senses are projected into another reality. Images vibrate and organisms appear to be crawling before the eyes of the viewer. Beings twirl around in a blue sky that seems to be made of fog. They are not limited in their flying; they are free of all geometric boundaries.
I thought it appropriate to write this aside because I believe there to be a strong analogy between Whaless and the painting Bleu De Ciel.
Sometimes I think you have made Kandinsky’s painting into a “performance” by adopting another language.
I saw The Whales Song for the first time on its second performance in Gent, the day after its debut.
Before then it had not been really clear to me where we were going, or which direction was Matteo taking. Then I watched Matteo, at “the end” of the performance, return to his starting point: a seat like any other among the audience.
I watched him put his coat back on, and then go out and engage in conversation with the last remaining members of the audience.
It was then that I started to see something. After that, however, this vision was first interrupted, then forbidden. When I met Matteo again it was after months of separation and absence, rooted and warped by time. And at that moment, I saw that the work had survived and that its form was clearer, no longer doubtful – I feel like using the word “surpassed”, meaning gone beyond its former self. It was no longer a shape but a living organism, nourished by its surroundings, hungry but patient, slight, or unexpected as a cut.
When I forget about the sound, because it has become a part of my body, I know I am in it. When the sound becomes the environment and not the story, I feel that there is room enough to live in it.
video Thomas Montalti, courtesy Centrale Fies
Creation Chiara Bersani
Action Matteo Ramponi
Sound F. De Isabella
Participation in sound composition Ilaria Lemmo
Light and Set design Valeria Foti
Technician Paolo Tizianel
Dramaturgic advice Marco D’Agostin
Coach Marta Ciappina
Styling Greta Rizzi
Mentoring Alessandro Sciarroni
Video Alice Brazzit
Producer and Logistics Co-ordinator Eleonora Cavallo
Communications, Diffusion and Care Giulia Traversi
Administrative Consultant Chiara Fava
Production Associazione Culturale Corpoceleste_C.C.00#
Co-production Kunstencentrum Vooruit (Gent, BE), Santarcangelo Festival (Santarcangelo, ITA); Armunia/Festival Inequilibrio (Rosignano, ITA) Theaterfestival Boulevard (S- Hertogenbosh, NL);
with the support of Centrale Fies (Dro, ITA), Teatro Gioco Vita (Piacenza, ITA), CSC – Centro per la Scena Contemporanea (Bassano del Grappa, ITA), Piemonte dal vivo – Circuito Regionale Multidisciplinare (Torino, ITA), Lavanderia a Vapore – Centro di Residenza per la Danza (Collegno ITA).