Eleni Kamma, More Than One And Less Than Many, à propos de Georgofili

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A l’occasion de son exposition au NAK, Eleni Kamma a édité une publication reprenant les 3 livrets des films « Georgofili », « P like Politics, P like Parrot » et « Malin & Tor, two architects in dialogue », trois films qui font partie de la série « Travelogues ». L’ouvrage est accompagné d’un entretien entre l’artiste et l’écrivaine Ines Chabes.

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Extrait concernant « Georgofili »

I: Can you describe the creative processes behind your three Travelogues pieces… from arriving with your suitcase at a residency, not knowing the place, often not knowing the language, and maybe not even having an idea of what to do there…?

E: All of the Travelogues are the result of long processes. In Georgofili, I was initially very interested in the question of landscape and agriculture, and I was searching for historical dialogues that related to this question. I had worked with the dialogue format before. In my first dialogue-related work, I was interested in the alternation between a dialogue as a theatrical event and the spontaneous comments of the performers related to the dialogue that followed each rehearsal. In Florence, I wanted to dig deeper into the format.

I: Did you use the historical dialogues as research material or as dialogues themselves?

E: The latter. I think there is a lot of interesting existing material around. It is enough for me to edit and recontextualize it. Together with Angelika Stepken, the director of the Villa Romana, I visited the Gabinetto Vieusseux, an old, literary Florentine Gabinetto. We spoke with Maurizio Bossi there and I told him what I was looking for. He explained me how the Tuscan landscape was inextricably linked to aesthetic as well as social and political questions, and he came up with some dialogues. They were compiled in the Tuscan Agrarian Journal dialogues, written by members of the Academia of Georgofili and published by the Gabinetto Vieusseux. The Academia of Georgofili was founded in Florence in 1757 in order to promote the use of science in agriculture. The three dialogues Maurizio Bossi offered were published in 1827 and 1835. It was the period of enlightened despotism. The owner of the land felt that he had the responsibility to educate the peasants. Thus the dialogues are stories with a moral conclusion. The peasant women were taught not to go into debt, and the peasants to economize time. The texts also introduce the function of a bank and the virtue of saving one’s money.

I: Do you know how the dialogues were used?

E: No, I do not. Maybe they were a script for a play, performed from one village to another, or maybe the landlord read them to the peasants. Today, formats of vocal social organization where many people participate are not very popular in Florence. But the old genre of the contrasto, a “conflicting coexistence” of two performers, is still popular. Tuscan contrastos take the form of a verbal duel between two poets. I wanted to work in a way that would be looking from a distance at Florence’s spectacular past. In my study of the city, I became interested in a type of theatrical performance or spectacle, with music and often dance, which was performed between the acts of a play to celebrate special occasions in Italian courts. The intermedio—intermezzo in the Italian Renaissance—was one of the important predecessors to the opera, and I could detect remnants of the intermezzo’s extravagant structure in contemporary Florence: its pluralism and complexity, and its transition from life into art. The intermezzo has been a very influential and inspiring guide in my attempts to join different elements as the contrasto and the educational dialogues. I wanted to use them for a new work on contemporary Florence without limiting them to their historical purposes. I thought about actors rehearsing them, and discussing contemporary Italy between the rehearsals. I was also hoping that the “poets of the street” Emilio Meliano and Realdo Tonti would like to join the conversation and to compose a new text regarding their own perspective.

I: How did they do?

E: They wanted to do it as a professional performance, which means I had to hire them. We did the recording in a farm in Tuscany with a small audience. I introduced the topic, and explained what I was interested in and they decided how they would work: they took opposing positions. One defended the past and the other the present. I didn’t know what the outcome would be. It was totally up to them. It was a complicated and difficult process. They improvise. They have to respond to each other in rhyme: the eighth verse of the first poet has to rhyme with the first verse of the second poet. It’s an oral tradition.

I: So you didn’t give them any material?

E: I gave them my area of interest and the historical dialogues. I was interested in contemporary Tuscany, the landscape, how it had changed, what was there before and what is there now. I was also interested in the economy of the place and the acoustics of the space.

I: What is your role in this whole process as an “outsider”? Do you start a discussion that brings things to the surface? I feel it is quite courageous to go to Florence and start a discussion on landscape.

E: Why do you think so?

I: Because it is such a cliché.

E: I really like working with clichés. The cliché presents a possibility for understanding what people are sharing. One can start from there.