power of a Gaze.
Interview with Gloria Chiappani Rodichevski
May 13, 2010
Photo gallery and video. 3
Imaizumi during the second part of
© Photo by Gloria Chiappani
As a writer,
poet and journalist writing has been the medium through which you have been observing
and interacting with the world of ballet and dance for years now, as an
“observer.” I would like to start our conversation by asking if your multimedia
work Uomossessione is your first creative “incursion”
into this universe you are already so familiar with.
Yes, if by creative
incursion you mean the development of a theme (obsession) through explorations
in the world of dance and the synergy of artistic languages.
How did you come to create
Uomossessione? What was your starting
point? Given your strict relationship with writing, I imagine that the first aspect
that sprung up was the poetic one. No, everything began
from the music. I started composing without any precise theme or goal. Listening
to the piece again a few days later, I was impressed by its obsessive rhythm.
The initial idea was, therefore, the rhythmic interaction which was very insistent,
or obsessive, to be precise.
This is quite
striking: a writer producing a dance video starting from a musical cue and
developing it further. Musically speaking, did you draw any cues from some
particular genre or musicians?
How is the
It is divided into two
parts. The Observed and The Sublimated. I want to say that in the
first part there is a musical intervention by Alexandre Rodichevski, which further
accentuates the obsessive rhythm. During the assembly stage, Alexandre’s
technical assessment combined with his artistic sensitivity,
And so, as a
renowned and controversial saying goes: “First of all the music, and then the
The music comes first, then
the image, and after that the word, and lastly, dance. On listening to the
rhythm I felt the urge to comment on it through images. I therefore selected
some videos I had created a few years earlier and produced new ones,
harmonizing them. When I say make a comment, I mean to say that the image was a
big contribution to the sense of obsession, sustaining the rhythm of the
musical composition and developing the psychological theme. And after the need
for images, I felt the need to make a comment through poetry. The first part of
the video is introduced by this poem:
has now imprisoned man
under the observation lens
obsessing him to death.
The poem that sets the pace
for the second part is this:
As a freed man
in the deep heights
of the sea-sky
I sublimate human misery.
The final need was that of dance.
With the participation of Yuki Imaizumi.
Yes. This young Japanese
dancer entered into the European Terpsichore Company – Balletto di Vicenza, after
having achieved her specialization with Prisca Picano, former prima ballerina of
the San Carlo Theater of Naples. Yuki's participation in the video was
important for the choreography which was fundamental due to the interaction
between her gaze and mine.
You chose a
remarkably modern theme, as demonstrated by the initial allusion to
sado-scientism, “obsessing man to death.” What is your view on the actual
relationship between man and science? Do you think that man today has become a
victim of his creation?
Undoubtedly, something (or a
lot of things) has gotten out of hand. We know that science and technology are
neutral instruments that can be used for the good or evil. In the video,
however, the allusion to sado-scientism must be taken in a less specific way.
The key to interpretation is the answer to the question: what psychological
conditions are we led to by our contemporariness? It is evident that with such
a question, the range of answers is very broad.
however, a “strong” element, and this is the great eye projected on the screen,
in the first part of the video.
Yes, that image is a
metaphor which decodes itself. It stands as a visual materialization of the
theme which the first poem refers to. Some artists and intellectuals of
different schools of expression to whom I showed the video when it still did
not have the choreographic interpretation, underscored the tangible emotive
effect this eye achieved on them. Yuki herself took this direction. While she was preparing to interpret the part of the
Observed, her spontaneous reaction was: “That eye imbues fear in me.” My
reaction to her impression was equally spontaneous: “It should imbue fear.”
Earlier on I had said that the interaction of our gazes was fundamental, and
what I have just narrated is an example of this.
So what does
the eye represent? It is clearly a symbol, but why is this symbol so strong, so
emotively and universally recognizable?
As I said earlier, the
range is extensive…
… because the theme is rich, complex.
Yes, it may be considered,
for example, from the viewpoint of a capillary prolongation of mass
communication: man at that point found himself trapped in a cobweb of gazes
(and ears) he could not elude. A sort of reference to the Orwell’s Big Brother of
1984 is a natural consequence.
referring to any particular political system, if Orwell’s romance can be seen
as contextual to the atmosphere of the cold war and in fears of Soviet
totalitarianism, contemporary life has demonstrated in the fact that the Big
Brother is in reality, simply the Leviathan of modern times.
In literature there have
been numberless diagnoses of the controlling eye with all its attachments and
interconnections. What comes to mind for example is the fact of citing Sartre’s
perhaps be the more modern representation of hell: three people locked up for
eternity in a room, under the weight of an invisible and likewise omnipresent
gaze. The impossibility of being visible is the truest and horrifying condemnation
man is subjected to today.
In the non-literary
ambience, we find the theme of controlling in Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon also
made known through Michel Foucault’s mediative article (Surveiller et punir). Leaving behind these intellectual ambiences
and in considering our daily life, we are aware that we are controlled by video
cams in offices, shops and public facilities (whether they are open or closed),
rummaged through by metal detectors of banks and airports, and even on the
Internet our movements are spied on through electronic "spywares." Due
to this the eye is a symbol that skips over emotive evidence: I think that
contemporary man would not find it difficult to identify himself with Yuki, in
her desperate floundering in face of the gaze that imprisons her on a glass
In effect the
choreography really succeeds in reflecting and translating this theme. I was
also struck by its correspondence to the music, not so much as to the themes
but to the tones. In the part on the Observed, the alternating conflict between
acute with grave sounds is almost strident: and seem to allude to a state of struggles,
of being torn apart and is reflected in an almost mimetic manner in Yuki’s
movements, in that claustrophobic anguish which pushes her to “knock” on the
glass imprisoning her.
I agree with you as to
being torn apart and the state of conflict. However, Yuki in reality never
knocks on the glass. The fear/terror of the observer’s gaze consists in two
facts: firstly, we as spectators assist in Observed’s struggle under the unmovable
Eye we see projected on the screen; secondly, the Observed is aware he is being
observed but does not know where the “video cam” is hidden. Even if –
paradoxically – he looks in the direction of the camera, he does not see it but
perceives its presence. The Observed in fact, has lost her awareness of spatial
dimensions and all contact with the outside world.
Going back to Yuki, what helps her to find her way out is not an
external intervention (like the observer removing her from the slide, or being
liberated by someone), but an interior journey which allows her to transform a
critical situation into a strong point. It is of no matter whether she found
the way on her own or with the help of a guide. In the transition from the
first to the second part in fact, the circle - clearly referring to the eye –
that terrifies her due to its intermittency, is gradually transformed into a
face. Not by chance the eyes of this face are set offstage, and the face so to
say is dominated by the lips alone that – from time to time - speak, whisper,
are intent on a pause, explain and convince. Lips that without hesitation speak
of the fragility of the person they belong to: the starting point (the access
to the way). On the other hand, it is the admission of one’s fragility, and not
its negation. It is through the honest admission of feeling entrapped, of the
sense of imprisonment which opens out to the possibility of finding a way out
and – consequently - of being born again. Yuki listens to what the lips have to
say (that is, she assumes the attitude of listening to the voice within her)
and establishes contact with them. The first contact that occurs is physical:
she touches them the way children do when they need to acquire knowledge of
things. The succeeding contact is more important. It is metaphorical and comes
about through the re-elaboration of the message. The rebirth pact is sealed by
an embrace, a gesture which is continually repeated. While the lips continue
speaking, the face becomes increasingly clear, until it disappears. Yuki is
ready: she rises, arranges her tutu, starts to stretch
out as if she were crawling out of an egg (archetype of birth) and starts
dancing on points to express Sublimation. (Others in the video are the symbols
connected to birth: the maternal breasts in the first part and the uterine
contractions in the second).
finds its fulfillment in the final part: that of the Sublimated. The contrast is
evident: at both chromatic level (the predominant tones of blue on the
background, free from images) and at musical and pantomime levels.
For the part of the
Sublimated, I wanted to give Yuki some precise choreographic indications: I
wanted the liberation and consequential psychological lightness, for example,
to be sustained by an uninterrupted sequence of pas de bourrée. Following the interior voice thread of Arianna,
Yuki manages to leave the slide from underneath, eluding the Eye and steps into
a universe of peace and beauty. Nothingness (taken as lightness, “underwaterness,”
liberation, air, wings that open out and serve to make the body and spirit fly)
sustains her. The video concludes with a freeze shot in which she leans, in attitude, ideally on salutary
nothingness. The vision conveys a wealth of elements and symbols. To cite a few, the lightness implied in the tutu, the final wheel
symbolizing the journey of life, the transition, during the video, of the
In flying or swimming, Yuki
significantly moves her back in cambré en
arrière: as if to underscore that she feels finally able to open out to
life, and to relate with trust, letting herself be soaked with strength and
So can we
really free ourselves from the Eye? Using the words of Montale, is there a
“tear in the canvas,” a margin of liberty to which we can aspire?
Certainly. There are multiple and totally individual ways: the
path may be of the ethical type for some, artistic ones for others… The common
element is the strength of will based on interior motivations. In fact, you are
not liberated by others, you free yourself. You do not ask for help, that is,
if you have decided to let yourself be helped, it is due to the fact that you
are already helping yourself. As I said earlier, we cannot elude the Eye without
following that thread of Arianna which only our foresight has preserved for us.
Photo gallery and video
See the complete photo
gallery and some shots of the multimedia video on: http://www.morfoedro.it/doc.php?n=1485&lang=it.
reviews on Uomossessione at: http://www.morfoedro.it/doc.php?n=1509&lang=it and http://www.morfoedro.it/doc.php?n=1490&lang=it.
Translation by Yolanda