Petrolio2 – foreground
Pier Paolo Pasolini was murdered November 1975. Fall 1992, almost twenty years after his tragic death, his last novel Petrolio (left incomplete) was published. November 1994 I presented Petrolio – ackumulation av materia, a choreography dealing with Pier Paolo Pasolini politics of poetics – a work that forced me to reevaluate my understanding of choreography and paved the path I still walk. November 2014, after twenty years of working continuum, I return to Petrolio – ackumulation av materia and retrace Pasolinis urgency – once again to question how and why choreography.
To work on material that is that old is scary, but productive. The vertigo of time becomes fully tangible. That nothing has changed is clearly exposed. I anxiously smile at my former brave efforts, and question today’s drive, probably equally naïve, yet still equally well meant. I ponder over the former unreserved tone, over he courage, so violently confident, even if unconscious. Realize that it takes a beginner’s energetic ignorance to dare this kind of run-up that with contagious enthusiasm dares stating that which one neither understands nor knows how. I by no means sigh for the past. Still, the challenge jostles from within. Why return? Because continue. If not as enthusiastically, still with equally entranced thrust/trust.
And everywhere; Pier Paolo Pasolini. Still today a role model, a hinge onto the strived, language, poetics, rigor, violence, the intellectual effort, the visual wallow, power politics, the barricade. Most importantly the female figure – all of that which still occupies my time and meager strength. Pasolini outlined my tentative tracing steps. It is a privilege to return to what has been – my now. My ongoing disoriented steps, now in company with new collaborators, in a different circumstance. Much has happen since. Choreography dares much more now then we were able to then. Audiences participate, are critically acquiescent, at least some. Pasolini’ s dread for consumerism dystopia has become our common ground. Still, here we stand and state a gesture. Once again with naïve optimism. Petrolio2 is a here and a now, a place that ‘revolts’ inwards as it unfolds outwards. A run-up that reaffirms the run-up. Into and between bodies, words and all that remains usefully inexplicable. What it will become, I once again do not know.
cc, May 2014
Petrolio2 – background
Petrolio – ackumulation av materia (1994) was a performance that addressed the work of Italian poet, cinematographer, and social critic Pier Paolo Pasolini. Specifically, his posthumously published novel Petrolio, which constituted the script (and soundtrack) of the piece. The performance took place in two separate spaces, each targeting a specific theme/issue. One, the bio-politics of poetics, staged in the small stage of the theater, and two, the everyday social choreography, performed in a nearby underground garage.
At arrival, audiences were brought to the garage where four male dancers played a (choreographed) soccer game amongst parked cars, priest garments, bags of flour, tubs filled with water and swimming eels, and a video screening Pasolini’ s last interview, which provided the soundtrack of the event. The choreography was performative and installation-like, for audiences to behold whilst walking along and inside it. Although unconsciously, this set-up anticipated my current understanding of choreography as a regulated ‘game’ what outcome cannot be predicted. Since its outcome is depending on the interaction between players and spectators, who neither behold nor perceive themselves nor each other but the game itself, that is, the collective choreography they themselves produce (1). This first event addressed Pasolini’ s life long care for youth, not least the soccer youth culture, in Italy run by the Catholic Church. Here, the soccer game (and the young male dancers) stood as metaphor for Pasolini’s unlimited faith in and love for lower class (male) youth, and for his life long conflict between his catholic faith, radical activism and homosexuality.
After this introductory event, audiences walked back to the theater and to the small stage, which was entirely dressed in white fur. The fur covered the floor, the back wall and all seats. The space folded itself upon itself, sight was brought out of focus, the sound was muffled and the atmosphere became intimately tactile. The space stood as metaphor for the flat and smooth unwritten page’s white surface, upon which scripture (‘white writing’ (2)) can and at the same time is hindered to inscribes its meaning. Here depicted neither as flat nor smooth, but rather as a (living) fuzzy surface what motion blurs and distorts both writing and language. In this fuzzy-white room, four female dancers, dressed in tight grey skirts and cardigans (bourgeoisie code) performed a dynamic yet higly restrained abstract/non-figurative ‘white’ choreography that depicted a number of female figures from Pasolini’ s films, what gestures were engrafted upon the furry background (fuzzy page).
Once in a while, selected excerpts from Pasolini’ s text were projected upon the furry background, where they were set in motion not only by the fur, which uneven surface blurred the sharp contours of the scripture, but also by a series of distortions (at the time programed analogue) such as dispersion, accumulation, swaying twists and mirroring revolutions of graphs and patterns that made the text ‘dance’, and by that also its meaning.
Other times (sparsely) a recorded reading of the text could be heard, spoken by a TV news anchor, whose unaffected reading handed hermeneutic interpretation over to the spectator. Other noises traveled (sparsely) the room; light steps walking about, climbing up and down a stair, loud voices from a bar, a passing train, dripping rain. These sounds came from 18 speakers, strategically distributed in the room, allowing audiences to experience sound as choreography moving in space. Finally, the performance ended to the tones of Bach’s Goldberg variation BWV 988 nr 1 played (and hummed) by Glenn Gould (Pasolini considered Bach’s music, and Gould’s interpretation of Bach, as the ultimate example of a coalescence of stringency and poetics).
This second (female) choreography addressed Pasolini’ s life long care for the female figure, and his concern with questions of language, specifically his interest in how semiotics operate within writing, cinema and politics. Which are the concerns that still as of today dominate my work.
It is therefore relevant for me to return to Petrolio – ackumulation av material, and therein recognize that which was and still is crucial. And I the spirit of Pasolini, with restraint sustain unrestrained faith in language, and the politics of poetics.
(1) This concept of the ‘game’ is widely informed by the writings of Hans Georg Gadamer and Jacques Ranciére.
(2) ‘White writing’ is a concept introduced by Roland Barthes and and depicts a writing potentially unimpeded by circumstance conditions.
The stage is invaded by an empty swimming pool inside which seven performers and a writer reenact scenes from the film Saló – or the 120 Days of Sodom by Pier Paolo Pasolini. Whilst writer Johan Jönson recites his own text, written in relation to Pasolini’ s writing. The performers constitute a gender-undefined listening crowd, which at times trans-morph into multiple organisms (creatoids) crawling along the pool’s walls. Four screens hang on the back walls of the space; one showing the Saló film (muted), one playing a You-tube clip of Glenn Gould playing (and humming) Bach’s Goldberg variations BWV 988. Two screens render live the event occurring inside the pool.
Audiences may sit on the gallery and using binoculars observe the event as rendered on the screens (the inside of the pool otherwise inaccessible to sight), or else may stand by the edge of the pool and observe the event at close sight from above. Once he has completed his recitation, the writer leaves the pool and three creatoids crawl up onto the front edge of the pool (tongue) where they reclaim narrative by performing a live-edited collective recitation of textfragments from Marquis de Sade, Johan Jönson and Pier Paolo Pasolini that speak of body, sex, sadism, homosexual pleasure and politics.
Petrolio2 is a self-revolting version of its original. The empty pool and its glossy white, cold, bare fencing walls replace the original billowing white, softly swathing furry room. The gender-undefined creatoids replace the original divide between men and women. Instead of pre-recorded, the text is now recited live. Instead of citations from Pasolini, now it is text by Johan Jönson that are recited (in my opinion Jönson is the closest counterpart to Pasolini in Sweden today). Pasolini’s novel Petrolio no longer constitutes narrative, but rather opens language to that of de Sade, Jönson and the creatoids.
Furthermore. In the original, it was sight that designated perception, now it is listening that triggers the sensible. Here, sight is impeded, and specified. Listening is enhanced, and breached. Instead of enfolding language, the room now differentiates the body. And in its submerged enclosure it breaks language, and the body apart, by a rigorously structured, yet performative choreography, where politics and poetics occur in one and the same gesture.
Petrolio2 is a violent place that revolts itself inside out. In and through a poetic submergence that affirms its act of politics. Through and between bodies no longer human, in and between words no longer text. What meaning is hard to handle. But possible to speak-out/do.
cc, November 2014
Choreography Cristina Caprioli and performers
Performers Ulrika Berg, Philip Berlin, Pavle Heidler, Emelie Johansson, Sebastian Lingserius, Louise Perming, Pontus Petterson and guest Johan Jönson
Text Johan Jönson, Marquis de Sade, Pier Paolo Pasolini
Film (YouTube) Pier Paolo Pasolini Saló – or the 120 Days of Sodom (1974)
Music Bach Goldberg variationes BWV 988 played by Glenn Gould
Space Cristina Caprioli
Construction Johannes Fäst
Technical coordination Tobias Hallgren/Lumination
When not dwelling Petrolio2, the pool turns into the installation POOLLOOP