—Boy, are you in love?
—... (me smiles)
—Yeah, he is.
—I am, I am...
(Fragment from a conversation I had with a man and his friend at the bar in front of the square I chose for the second performance. He approached me while I was dancing and offered me a coffee.)
During Spring 2014 I was invited to be part of a group of ten young artists, with the aim of making a series of projects directly related to the neighbourhood where our atelier and final exhibition space was located.
The place was a vacant building once inhabited by a small shop, in an area of the city of Bolzano where neighbourhood shops still do exist.
The project commissioned, il cubo di Rubik (Rubik’s cube), was part of a larger one-week festival called Resistenze (Resistance), held between the 25th of April (Italy’s Liberation Day) and the 1st of May (International Workers’ Day).
After some meetings with the public administration which regulates this part of the city—held in a sort of interview-like format—I realised how many old people lived in that area with a nostalgic attitude. They didn’t really accept the soft decline of their homes, how young people prefer moving to other places within the city—leaving that zone quite empty—or how things are just simply harder when you get old and you remain alone.
One feeling apparently quite strong in the neighbourhood was old people’s dislike for noises of any kind, being it kids playing together in the street or a concert in the main square.
Parallel to this, it turned out that the only and still very popular way they had to have some fun (and to get out of home) was to meet at the local dancing room.
Would it be different if, instead of noisy kids playing football, the main square of the neighbourhood was used to host dancing event with live music? On a broader perspective, how strong did the buildings around you and the bar you frequented for most of your life affect your idea of homeyness?
These two points pushed me to work with the act of dancing in public spaces, using old fashion songs from the 50s and 60s, in order to re-enact in old people’s memory a kind of reaction.
After some wandering in the streets around the block, I decided for two places where to perform: the main square and the market street. Though I didn’t really know how to properly dance this music, I tried my best to mimic the different kind of necessary movements 1 and I got some interactions out of it, in particular a man invited me to get a coffee and, during the performance at the market, three people gave me a coin (one was a chocolate coin).
During these actions, besides a small speaker put on top of my backpack which was laying on the ground and me dancing around it, there was a sound recorder which kept track of the situation and which got an impression out of it. Me dancing was just a trigger to one’s own personal recollections: my attempt was to act as a ghost, an internal agitation that could push people back to some other times, in order to possibly make them remember how they were having fun at a younger age.
The output of the project consisted of two artefacts:
a 13’’ audio track and a hand-drawn map of the area.
The map depicts the two points which I chose for the performances and the location of the final exhibition space, plus some notes of various nature.
The final track, instead, is an assemblage of the three field recordings I took, which are cut and re-ordered according to the playlist I made 2 for the performances: each version of one of the songs, played during the different actions, is stacked on top of all the others, sort of synchronised with them, recomposing in this way the original playlist’s order, while on the background my feet slide on the pavement, people hum and talk, cars make noises.
If time distorts memories and memories are different from one’s own real actions, which kind of agency might bring to old people’s stimulated reminiscences a person who dances songs of those time but who wasn’t present to that era which the songs recall to?
Before going to the street I watched some videos and practiced a bit in my bedroom. Dancing on tarmac or sampietrino is quite different that on a smooth surface, but after half an hour I got used to it. ↩