The Jungle Soul multimedia installation is an immersive experience reproducing eight micro-video performances within an indistinct “exotic” garden; a sort of visual and perceptive recontextualization and extension of the Salvo Lombardo \ Chiasma Company’s artistic research on the colonial imagery and racialized representations of human bodies. The glossy human zoo and hallucinated freak show of Jungle Soul, features drifts of cultural appropriation and its current representations in the various aesthetic and linguistic areas of an ever-growing jungle of capitalism. At the same time, ethnocentric preconceptions have been pushing people to a kind of idealization of the unknown, depicting some exemplary subjectivities, inventing traditions and labelling the others according to a brutal domination and authoritative scheme. The installation was born from both the projects: L’esemplare Capovolto and Opacity.
Salvo Lombardo presents at Short Theatre 2020 also Opacity#2, scheduled 6 September.
Salvo Lombardo - performer, choreographer and director. His own artist research moves between dance, theater and visual arts while focusing on the languages of video and relational art. The company’s productions have been programmed in many theaters and festivals across Italy and abroad. Chiasma works in collaboration with and is supported by Festival Oriente Occidente, Theatre National de Chaillot (FR), Fabbrica Europa, Romaeuropa Festival, Aura International Dance Festival (LT), Attakkalari Dance Festival (IN), Scenario pubblico, Ater Balletto, Short Theater, Teatro di Roma, Anghiari Dance Hub, InTeatro Festival, Teatri di Vetro, Attraversamenti Multipli, Festival Corpi in Movimento, Versiliadanza, Piemonte dal vivo and many others institutions. In 2019 he founded and co-curated with Viviana Gravano and Giulia Grechi Resurface_festival di sguardi post coloniali in Rome. In 2020 he works as associated artist and guest curator at the Lavanderia a Vapore \ Piemonte dal vivo, (Turin).
by Salvo Lombardo
video performance Jaskaran Anand
video editing Isabella Gaffè
sound Fabrizio Alviti
production Chiasma Roma
supported by MiBACT – Ministero Beni e Attività Culturali e del Turismo
© Isabella Gaffè
Notes on Short Theatre 2020
What else is your work about, besides what is already told in the synopsis?
To better describe these two works that I am presenting at Short Theatre, I need to contextualize them within a wider path and research that I have been carrying out together with Chiasma for several years and whose “productivity” shows no signs of slowing down, hand in hand to the increasingly visible emerging of those nodes and questions, political and social, which feed this process. Opacity#2 (like the other volumes of the Opacity cycle) and Jungle Soul are part of the larger project L’esemplare capovolto, which originates from a research and a rereading through the lens of postcolonial studies and decolonial practices of a famous work of the Italian academic dance, the Gran Ballo Excelsior (1881). Starting from 2018, the project began to come to life and to constitute itself as a “performative atlas” rather rich in “tables” (a sort of Menomosyne à la Warburg) which is divided, in this case, into a series of artistic formats including performances, installations, workshops, theoretical interventions, round tables, debates, video projections, publications, and even a festival (named Resurface) which on the one hand is conceived as an extension of our research on postcolonial issues and on the other as a “sprawling” organism, eager to activate substantially multimedia and polycentric interactions, collaborations and grafts and therefore open to the gaze and practices of other artists and theorists.
Both Jungle soul and Opacity#2, although using very different languages, propose points of view and modes of interaction that probably ask viewers to focus and deconstruct those ethnocentric imaginaries that the so-called West has built and affirmed above those it considered and classified as “Others”. Both works are an invitation to “keep in touch with the problem” (as Donna Haraway would say); an invitation to question and overturn, in fact, those representations of the body and those racialized imaginaries who flatten any culture of differences, determining a fixed and universalistic character of the very concept of identity and orienting any form of ontology with imaginative oppression, through the tyranny of the visible. The opacity evoked by these works would be an alternative to the neurotic need for definitions, for stable, unitary identity boundaries, as a critique of the excessive power of “transparency”.
Who or what—real or imaginary, present, past or future—do you think contributed to the creation of this work?
It was 2013. I was studying at university for the Aesthetics of dance exam, which then – ça va sans dire – meant nothing more than a meticulous acquisition of erudite notions, as well as nostalgic of dusty virtuosity, just within the sphere of academic dance. In any case, I came across the study of one of the pivotal titles, a monster show, of the exquisitely Italian tradition of the 19th century, Il Gran Ballo Excelsior (1881). As I analyzed its aesthetics, in fact, I realized how this work was imbued with exquisitely colonial postures, with racialized imaginaries cloaked in mainstream exoticism, and at the same time I noticed how all the literature that supported it (and argues) the good name, was mostly animated by philological reasons, while the cultural frame was always framed in rather aseptic, although punctual, historiographic terms. Yet those of Excelsior were the years in which the imagination of the Universal Expositions was established, born to celebrate and exalt the achievements of progress, the industrial revolution, colonial imperialism and the affirmation of the concept of national identity and invention – at least for Italy – of an indigenous cultural tradition and its own imaginary of reference. These were the years in which the real process of “cultural” unification was to be established, according to the famous motto: “Made Italy, you had to be Italian”. Then, when I read the opening words of the libretto by the author of the ballet, Luigi Manzotti, which says: “[…] It is the titanic struggle sustained by Progress against the Regression that I present to this intelligent audience: it is the greatness of Civilization that wins, overthrows, destroys, for the good of the people, the ancient power of Darkness that kept them in the darkness of servitude and ignominy […] “, I became convinced of how unusual it was that no one (except the isolated case, I later discovered, of Prof. Sergia Adamo) had ever observed and analyzed that object as a sort of programmatic manifesto of a national superiority. I became aware of how much that work, and its narratives, were imbued with “popular innocence”, monumental ambitions, colorful images and bodies, eclectic architecture, pharaonic visions and kitsch and “meatball” dances; of how much the prodromes of a sovereign sentiment and its reference imaginaries were present there. It all seemed sadly current and I found it embarrassing – but I soon understood why – it sounded so heretical to subject that object to the scrutiny of postcolonial theories. From there, the project The inverted specimen was born, together with the desire to juxtapose new signs and inscriptions, even on this type of (immaterial) monuments, in the impossibility of being able to tear them down.
What do you imagine you will say about this work in fifteen years time? Would you ever have imagined making such work fifteen years ago?
15 years ago when I was just 19 I would not have been able to think of my work in current terms, perhaps I had not yet clear for example how much artistic work and political exercise were related. Those for me were the years of artistic training in which usually prevails the expectation that tells you that you must first learn to draw well a “O” with a glass, while the things pass in front of you, the world is shaking and you are there as if anesthetized to acquire techniques. In 15 years, however, when I will talk about this work, I would like to be able to do it from a position of definitive overcoming of the problems and knots that generated it.
I like to imagine that future so near as a long wave, a natural propagation of my way of being in the world today so alert. And at the same time I would like to think that we could have turned our gaze elsewhere and that the struggles will have become so plural, supportive and multispecies that I feel legitimated as well as positioned in 15 years to activate artistic processes even if I don’t know the motion of crabs or the trails of snails.