Leaving reality and entering truth...
During times of plague, just like in Decameron, we hide in tales, but not without expressing discontent. A plague has spread in this historical moment: it is a moral, ethic, linguistic plague that runs the Internet.
During plague, awful behaviours like language corruption, violence, pornography spread faster instead of desire. We entered a new era of technological revolution and we are starting to measure the consequences of Production. In the last hundred years, the planet went into an acceleration that deleted our previous history. A structural change that will become irreversible. The sense of the sacred, its manifestation in nature, has disappeared. Religion became an excuse for fighting. Experts define this era Anthropocene, to underline how much Humanity has changed the substance of the planet and of its inhabitants.
During times of plague, it is necessary to rebuild unity to find a new relationship with the nature of things. With the sacred and with beasts, living creatures with which we share life on Earth. Our relationship with animals has been told in many ways in the past: from Lascaux's primitive caves to Middle Ages' bestiaries, in which nature got the shape of a book and reality was seen as a symbol. And then, there is today: we have a more concious relationship with animals, curated on our plates and dishes. Or it's culturally mediated by cartoons, soft toys and tales.
The beast exists and resists, especially in the subconcious. We dream about animals much more than we meet them, as sleeping gets us back to the beginning of the world, made of deep darkness. A separation occurred after that primitive darkness: now we are stuck in this human shape after million of years of evolution.
In these alternative and technologically evolved Middle Ages, made of crusades, new war religions, obscurantism, industrial work on fear, behind us, or sometimes by our side, there are animals, beasts, standing as an unsolved access point to the mystery of nature, human nature.
This is the topic. A formal question arises in its development, and the answer can be found in the ballad; it doesn't require shortness nor synthesis.
This dance features authors of great ballads, like Oscar Wilde, John Keats and Francesco d'Assisi, along with the genious of a XIIIth century erudite, Richard de Fournival, who wrote a wonderful Bestiaire d'amours. He teaches us the complexity and the natural mechanisms of love seductions, but he also reminds us that every story is a love story. Even the absurd, destructive and bloody history of humanity.
Song by song
Let's start from the beginning, from Lascaux's caves, where Picasso claimed: «I eventually found my master», and his master is the Man, when he first tried to get out of survival laws. The man who invented game, art and pictured animals; he represents himself between them, smaller and hidden behind some animal's head. Since the beginning, the access to sacred, to mystery, has the face of an animal. Its enygma is everything that went lost as men could lift up their head and back, and so perceive what is wider, wonder, then asking questions about things. At the beginning it was Wonder, and Lascaux's caves represent it perfectly.
Il povero Cristo
Christ did not succeed in teaching people to save themselves through the simplest precept, the one that holds the whole gospel: «Love thy neighbour as yourself». A simple precept, but impossible for mankind. That is why now Christ remains silent, while people scream.
And from that bone threw into future, now we are in the plagued contemporary time, in the web of tweets, viruses, influencers. Internet is the most innovative, revolutionary pneuma made of liquid crystals, able to spread new plagues and bad behaviours. Let's tweet again, let's dance on the ruins... The plague, as Artaud said, breaks everything into pieces and makes everybody equal. The illusion of everyone being unique, while actually being more homologated than ever.
Fear, and paralysis due to fear, have always been the most useful tools used by the ones who hold the power. Frightened people easily give up their rights, starting from the right to think. And the biggest fear has always been death, the only taboo that still lives in the Western world. In Late Middle Ages the "danse macabre" was born: skeletons dancing and saying «Hodie mihi, cras tibi», which means today to me, tomorrow to you. A reminder that brings with itself liberation too, in the Triumph of Death, the only thing that is equal to everybody.
Il testamento del porco
And with a death made sacrifice, after a life of fattening, here it comes: the pig, the creature that is most similar to man. It has different names if you refer to it when it is alive or dead. Living creature or food. Rural culture grounded on pigs before food industry warded it off us, reducing it to ham or cartoon. The pig cannot see the stars, but he leaves a testament. And it is also the testament of a man that wanted to live with all his body, which is, in Italian, the anagram of "pig" ("corpo" means body, "porco" means pig TN).
Ballata del carcere di Reading
Oscar Wilde, about his Ballad of the Reading Gaol, used to say: «Christ did not die to save people, but to teach people how to save one another». And his Ballad actually is one of the most powerful denunciation of the prison system and especially of death penalty, but also of the betrayal of mercy and the teachings of Christ. Wilde, the most extraordinary aesthetician, rediscovered compassion during his darkest times and wrote about it in this ballad, that, without his downfall, couldn't have been written. It is his last chant, the scream of Marsia rather than the song of Apollo. A scream in a world that, just like the belle dame, is merciless.
Nuove tentazioni di Sant'Antonio
An up-to-date version of the temptations of the famous saint that, like Prometeus, went to Hell to steal fire and bring it to people. Saint Anthony went into the desert, eating roots while looking for God. His temptations are famous and inspired Bosch to paint his wonderful Trittico. Many demons stood in front of him. He used to be accompanied by a small pig, that perhaps symblolises the temptations of the body. On his night, on 17th January, fires are lit and zoomorphic masks come out: Krampus, Merdules, Wilder Mann, like hell creatures that emerge from Earth hitting bones and bells. During that night, in rural cultures, farms were blessed and animals started speaking. But what if Evil came to Antonio nowdays? How would he be seduced?
La belle dame sans merci
Winter and forest are the places where fables and enchantments take place. It's the environment of wolves, wandering knights and fairies. In a forest, on the side of an iced mountain, on a mirror-lake, the paralising enchantment of love reflecting our image is'nt made whole. We become half creatures, unable to move, paralised by the waiting for somebody who will not come back because they do not exist.
Imitating Christ, Francis does not surrender to the law of accumulation and lets poverty be a most precious sister. Getting rid of everything, he is the only one who talks to men and beasts. This is his greatest miracle: talking with the Creation, talking with animals. In the simple language of Fioretti, the clearliness of an uninterrupted and impossible harmony. A kind of harmony that must not be found in sacrifice, but in joy. The perfect joy of supporting the pain of life with cheerfulness, because the only good thing we can attribute to ourselves is being able to bring our cross... The burden of living.
I musicanti di Brema
A donkey, then a dog, a cat, a rooster, the four famous musicians of the fairytale that are sentenced to death due to the end of their "productive circle" get together to do something useless. After years of hard working, they go to Bremen and gather a band. If you have been fired, join people just like you and start a rock band, or worse: a municipal marching band.
Le loup garou
The werewolf melancholy doesn't get the melancholic werewolf during full moon nights, but in the days of electoral ritual when the country gets naked. During those moments, it feels a deep desire for raw flesh, the desire of going back to wildness, to night runs, to destroying memories. Leaving reality and entering the truth. Leaving reality's clothes and dressing with what is the interior actual truth of being. The "versopelo" is an animal that can be discovered only amputating its limbs, thanks to a scientific autopsy. The urge to break the edge between man and animal, between living and dead, between reality and Truth, ends with amputation, in name of normality.
La giraffa di Imola
The run of this young giraffe in the streets of Imola expresses the whole impossibility of coexistence, the broken deal with nature, the childhood of the world that hits with the objects of our everyday living. All of this gets suddenly naked... It's like a big cage from which you cannot get out, only when you are dead. A death caused by a sedative, not by a hunt gun.
Di città in città (...e porta l'orso)
A winter journey. A lost chance. A dead love and the neverending exile. If you do not have a place to stay, you leave, exiled by men in a nature where the king,a bear, is made a fool. Riding from city to city with the bear, trained by the "orsante"s, with a ring on its nose, dancing with the goat in lace and tights. A solitary winter journey of the nomad, the season of memories.
It is necessary to get smaller to notice others, it is necessary make room to perceive the world. The bigger our ego gets, the smaller the world becomes, until it disappears. The snail sums up the mystery of both the minuscule and the giant, it is a humble creature that placed the hard material on the outside, so as to defend itself, but also to live inside the world. The shape of a snail shell is the same as a galaxy, its slowness is cosmic: clinging on earth, in harmony with the sky. Its teaching is passing, in opposite to staying. If you stay, you accumulate, if you pass, you exist. Humble, there is space for everybody.
The sacrality of the snail, of its slowness, of the cosmos that suits its shape, is the immanent sacrality of the world that these ballads for men and beasts aim to celebrate.