For a long time, Italy has been a leader in the context of the arts. It is proving itself to be at high grades once more, thanks to those artists had a chance to pursue their career abroad, thus achieving resounding success for their specific international peculiarity, for their overall view beyond provincialism, but above all, for manifesting professionality and reliabilty typical of planetary contests and festivals.
Vera Michela Suprani and Claudio Oliva – founders of the artistic project Teatro Deluxe , which examines visual arts fields from different perspectives, including dancing – succeeded thanks to their stubbornness and competence. It is in fact typical of a country like Italy to have great difficulties in adopting a fair merit system. After returning from Burma, where they were selected among more than five hundred artists for the IMMAF Symposium of Contemporary Art in Yangon, they have immediately exhibited their Italian artistic production with the following works: Elementa – 1 (2012), Animalità Residua (2012), Imperfetta Solitudine (2011) and Feminea – I animazione (2009), in addition to the performance Greetings from Coney Island, conceived when they stayed in New York.
After presenting their works at the KC Fringe Festival, at the Theaterlab in Manhattan, in Israel, Colombia, Spain and France, they decided to go on this long journey to challenge themselves and to develop new projects based on current sources of inspiration, Eastern unions and cultural change. This is confirmed also by the artistic director Aye Ko: “…The implicit idea of the project creation is the will to spread Burmese art beyond national borders by thus allowing international artists to enjoy it and to let it grow through cultural change with local artists. They, in their turn, will have the opportunity of appreciating the works coming from a careful selection of international contemporary art exponents, in order to examine in depth the contradictions and the conflicts between the creations of ritual art and contemporary art practices…”.
Teatro Deluxe’s work – through a socio-anthropological research accompanied by a half-computerized and half-handmade material aesthetics – is without a shadow of doubt one of the most cosmopolitan movement in circulation. It comes from the polysemous order of the Gesamtkunstwerk, from a dynamic and minimal scenic design of the twenty-first century theatre, from the cognitive multitasking of Richard Sennet’s “flexible man” and from the liquid Baumanian conception of life. These are systematic works whose effects stretch beyond the post-enjoyment process, they are fine and breakable in their intimate production, and even allegorically magnetic in their sociological introspection: they are manifold ethnological pixilation.
They ooze a particular subtle communicability free from redundancies, an ethical sense of duty of a democracy not driven by profit, an organic and harmonious concept, where details are meant as contents of a whole. The experience that Teatro Deluxe offers through their installations, performances, videos and pictures is a mnemonic and ontological one, it is an out-and-out crossroad of physical languages and performances with the purpose of dismantling ideologies and beliefs through moving, and through Fellini’s and Deluxe’s utopian hermeneutics.
In addition to the patterns that from time to time materializing in an intense and eloquent part of the whole, we can find a sensory, sentimental and iconic beauty; the style of these performances aims to approach an idealized style in the same way as Manet strove to show Olympia to us. Here’s how Claudio and Vera introduce a new psychology of style, a further jump forward in postmodern performance, an annihilation of eloquence aiming at a suspension of living in the instant of the device initium. And if – as written by Jean-Luc Nancy – presence requires intensity, now Teatro Deluxe succeeds in reaching a multidimensional perspective, manifesting in the promiscuity of times and spaces, in the fragmented and at the same time complementary bodies. It is the overcoming of present time.
I would like to sincerely thank the team for having granted me this interview (conducted both in Rome and in Ravenna), which gives us a wider idea of their way to perceive reality.
Massimo Schiavoni: Who were Vera Michela Suprani and Claudio Oliva in the past? And who are now?
Teatro Deluxe: Vera Michela Suprani and Claudio Oliva were lucky enough that their paths joined together at the university and they had the opportunity to start an artistic project together. Now they are the core of Teatro Deluxe’s team (to which Giulia Di Vincenzo, Alessandro Oliva and Valentina Vanja Suprani belong). It’s a project that examines reality through photography, video and performance.
What has really changed in our working method compared with how we worked at the beginning of our experience with Teatro Deluxe, is that now we’re aware that our work can actually be examined by somebody able to recognize and appreciate our way to investigate the present time. Once we’have become aware of this fact, we have also become motivated to try to better combine our way of perceiving reality with a pattern potentially comprehensible to everyone who give us their time.
Massimo Schiavoni: I would like to dig deeper. Where were your way of perceiving reality and your passion for this kind of artistic research born? Which are your main features and competences and why have you decided to examine reality through different means?
Teatro Deluxe: We have had a fundamentally self-educated career. Claudio studied – and still studies – by practicing and reflecting on photography (unites still photography and photo feature) and video-cinematography. These practices are included in the performances at Teatro Deluxe. Vera’s career has initially focused on theatre and dance, but now it is going to include also the visual arts. She’s studying at the Odin Teatret with people such as Eugenio Barba, Julia Varley, Iben Nagel Rasmussen and Augusto Omolù, with Nigel Charnock (Dv8 Physical Theatre), Masaki Iwana (buto bianco) and Silvia Rampelli (Habillè d’eau).
Their projects are produced collaboratively: Claudio deals with direction, photography and video editing, whereas Vera, in addition to looking after the coordination, the web communication and the dress rehearsal, is the present body able to meet the ever-changing performing requirements. We believe that examining reality through different means and preferring shade to classification is the most congenial method for our work. We like to modify our perspective and constantly relativizing our work: media like theatre, video and photography allow us to fully meet this requirement.
Massimo Schiavoni: Considering the new market requirements, the age we’re living in and the contamination of languages, which have led to the socio-anthropological attitude of multitasking, is this a wanted or an obliged “hybrid” choice? Please, tell me about how you conceived and developed your first works for each methodological pattern.
Teatro Deluxe: our work is strongly wanted. As we were mentioning before, it has been triggered by our diverse backgrounds. In order to be able to follow our passions, we need to practice this kind of hybrid research. It’s a path which obviously has to do with the present period we belong to and which is open to the future through practical experience: we need to communicate how we perceive reality through the languages pervading contemporary culture and that we feel congenial and stimulating for our work. Moreover, we believe that using only modern media isn’t as much functional in our research. We need to use media in a modern way, i.e. we need to find a way to enable these devices to emotionally communicate reflections on reality to people living in this very age.
Teatro Deluxe was born as an acting company. Since the first show we put on, it was clear that there was an unstructured desire to focus on the communicative potential implied in the interaction of different languages acquired during our research journey. Starting from the premise that artistic media that are incompatible with each other don’t exist, we have tried to start from semantics: the irruption of a language into another one must be subject to the ability of the first one to make sense at a logically and/or emotionally significant level.
In our first theatre piece, entitled Pearl – Interno notte con figura insonne (2008), we built an audio-photographic prologue (it’s a short film where the video session is the time sliding of transparencies) in which the condition of the main character is introduced immediately before the beginning of the live-show: the characters giving life to the short dialogue – this is the peculiarity –are dolls put in a set built on purpose for them. The father, the stepmother and Pearl are there, in front of the audience, talking and partially moving. Without a smooth transition, the dolls shift to a flesh and blood actress. By that time, the spectators have the feeling to have been catapulted into a half-known world, which now has different shapes and dimensions. This forces them into actively using their senses in order to perceive a new language, whose perception will be inevitably influenced by the previous one.
From here on we try to essentially work on the relationship between different media, by both diversifying production and consequently testing the hybridization among the above mentioned languages. Feminea – I Animazione (2009) is the first video experiment by Teatro Deluxe and is also the work with which the research on the effects of multimedia performance starts (photography, video, music, movement), that is, when an object influence the way spectators perceive it. The ambiguous feminine human being, hidden behind a masculine mask, makes a series of movements by forestalling or following the postures shown by different pictures displayed behind her: the subject of those snapshots is Feminea herself. The multimedia aspect “shown” throughout their work has been useful to trigger a reflection on contemporary bodies, with a particular reference to the standardization of feminine beauty tied to the difficulty of inevitably making a reference to an unrealizable model.
At the end of 2009, we started the photographic project Faceless, an examination of the expressive potentialities of human bodies conducted without using the most immediately communicative and misleading element: the face. That’s the reason why it’s hidden in the project. Some of the five photographic series are presented both as independent works and as integral part of performances involving the character (immortalized in the snapshots), who establish a gestural relationship with their iconic representatives. In “Faceless” the presence of two videos contextually displayed together with as many photographic series makes much more evident the multimedia nature of the work. The illusory compulsiveness of this work finds an explanation in the embarrassment and in the anxiety which the work would like to instill in the heart of the audience. In this way, the audience is obliged to reflect on the concept of sight, but above all on the concept of perception.
Massimo Schiavoni: Let’s talk about theatre. Describe to me the show Feminea – White Frame, displayed in Germany and in Austria, where – by quoting a statement published in “America Oggi” – “there’s no limit to experimentation”. Which role does the identity of the contemporary body play here and which behavior does it expect? What do you want to give spectators by using this kind of performing method where space, bodies, videos and sounds interact in a synth-ethical white? How does the “perturbing” performance, which I attended in Mondaino in May 2011, activate in your practice? Will this choreutic and synesthetic approach develop further in the future?
Teatro Deluxe: Feminea – White Frame was displayed for its first time at the Theaterlab in New York City in the summer of 2010, as the last stage of a project started with Feminea – I Animazione in 2009. This long and well-structured path has inevitably led us to reflect on the concept of identity, with particular reference to contemporary bodies. The way we structured the show pushed us to examine, through gestures, that mysterious and charming stage of life forestalling consciousness, including the notion of sex and gender (male and female, man and woman). By making an animal and an instinctive human being move through an adult body, we’ve tried to create a sort of short circuit able to give spectators that sense of ambiguity pervading reality and us as humans. We’re interested in creating new visions able to brush, even only for an instant, the sensibility of those enjoying the show.
The concept of identity, both in a single individual and in a global sense, raises new questions tied to its becoming in the virtual universe; it’s an entity that is always more liquid, and that inevitably has reflections on the real world. The potentially unlimited multiplication of egos is a theme whose implications deserve the greatest attention.
The work you saw in Mondaino is entitled Greetings from Coney Island and it was created with the intention of restoring a specific place (to be more specific the decaying New York neighborhood of Coney Island) through the body. Starting from that concept we have set – or better to say, we’re setting, since the work hasn’t found its final shape yet – to define our representation of that place as a prostitute, a woman, an animal and a monster. Through her actions, she relentlessly marks the image of that place and the turmoil we felt when we visited it and experienced it live. Once again we’re trying to entrust a body with the possibility of telling something about us, hoping that this practice contributes to build a place where it’s possible to see ourselves side by side other people. From a scenic point of view, through this new production we’ve tried to provide spectators with an illusion (ambiguity is close to our heart) to be in front of a movie screen rather than a stage featuring a flesh and blood actress; we want to make spectators enter the dark and voyeuristic dimension of the movie, without using the medium of video. It marks the beginning of a new direction rich of stimuli, to make more room for the choreutic approach employed in this project and in developing performances.
Massimo Schiavoni: Let’s talk now about Imperfetta solitudine of 2011, – freely inspired by the personality of Francesca da Polenta – and about the performance/installation Animalità Residua of 2012, which I had the pleasure of admiring in person during the International Convention “Culture a Sistema” in Rome. How could you explain the disquieting and awe eliciting animal-like work? Why should a totem imprison and at the same time liberate you?
Teatro Deluxe: The video Imperfetta solitudine focuses on the relationship between body and place; in this work we imagine the soul of Francesca (through the story narrated by Dante in the Divine Comedy), who, day in day out, roams in the current industrial and rural spaces of Ravenna, the performer’s and her hometown.
Trying to explain a work is the same as perverting its nature. The focus of the project Animalità Residua is in fact on the relationship with its spectators. This gravestone, totem, white monolith preserves and imprisons a timeless human being who is in search of a contact with the present through the fleece, the primordial symbol of the animal origins of mankind. The totem liberates by helping human beings to remember who they really are.
Massimo Schiavoni: Tell me shortly your experience just finished in Myanmar.
Teatro Deluxe: That experience has been greatly stimulating for us. We spent three very intense days meeting artists coming from all over the world and young local artists who actively work in the field of visual and/or performing arts. We were the only Italian artists present at that event and on that occasion we exhibited our video works and the performance Greetings from Coney Island. Spectators were very enthusiastic and took part in all the festival by defining our job as works endowed with a unique, abstracting, original and fresh nature. Our specific work on bodies was also very much appreciated. They said that it was able to produce instants of rare intensity by going beyond cultural differences. We are extremely honoured to have taken part in this adventure. Now it’s time to reflect on new and essential stimuli that are coming to us from the works of other artists with whom we share needs and aspirations. This first time in the Far East was a significant opportunity to confront ourselves with other artists in order to test the evolution of our artistic path and to approach such a distant world.