correspondence

–––Brasilia / Belém / Roma / Livorno

Bolsonaro announced live the possibility of a golpe in front of foreign ambassadors: after calling Brazil's electoral system "vulnerable," he called for a parallel vote count by the armed forces for the elections scheduled for 2 Oct.

A few days earlier, Berna visited the Ver-O-Peso market, and sent a video message to Paola to show us the space.

Video file

–––Bilbao

We arrive in Bilbao: it's the first time in the SO IT IS project that we can materialise together, with our bodies, in the same space-time, making contact, meeting other artists, meeting other practices, in a space surrounded by a community, exchanging experiences and points of view live. The previous night, we wandered around Casco Viejo and its narrow streets, the bridges over the river and the railway, the sun extending into the night. In the morning, we go to Bulegoa b/z, where Leire is waiting for us: it's an open space, spatially located onto the street. It was founded in 2010 by Leire Vergara, Beatriz Cavia and Miren Jaio. It's a space that deals with critical pedagogical practices, situated knowledge and collaborative methodologies, feminist and decolonial perspectives, and social transformation related to the arts.

We see the poster created by Itziar Markiegi, a.k.a. Jana Jan, and Myriam Rzm, performers and sound artists, who imagined a double, multiple, collective body in transformation. They altered the shot both analogically and with Photoshop. The poster is placed in front of a speaker and printed on lightweight paper, which vibrates in contact with sound waves. After the sound action, we will remove the poster from the speaker and stick it on a wall in the city.

In the afternoon we have the meeting: 𝕤𝕔𝕒𝕧𝕒𝕣𝕖𝕓𝕦𝕔𝕙𝕚𝕕𝕚𝕟𝕠𝕥𝕥𝕖 ("digging holes at night") has a map-conversation format, it’s a muddle of entangled things, in which, together with Paola, we explore performative practices and wandering research made with others, starting from sound fragments and images: the nomadic project SO IT IS, with all its spatial and relational cores; the transfeminist movement of Non Una Di Meno in Italy and what kind of questions and activism it has triggered in the artistic world we inhabit, such as anasuromai (2017) and the action on Montanelli's statue (2019), in public spaces; we go back to the voices, fragile and still emerging, of the first feminist demonstration in Campo de' Fiori in 1972, the luminous presence of Mariasilvia Spolato, the first act of lesbian visibility in Italy; and then from voice to voice, narrating the cultural occupations in Italy in the 1910s (Teatro Valle, Macao and others), starting with the cry of Silvia and Judith Malina inside the occupied Teatro Valle in Motus' The Plot Is the Revolution, making our way through a decomposed map of the struggles of artists and performing arts professionals, until we get to the occupation of the Globe Theatre in Rome in 2021, at the peak of the pandemic; then we look at how performance creates and rewrites public spaces, and consider the amorous and affective investigation of the ephemerality of queer lives and archives.

It's a nocturnal collection, made while wandering, as flowers slowly blossom. The meeting happens within Material Voices: Feminist genealogies of the work of making exhibitions, a programme created by the group at Bulegoa b/z that investigates curatorial practices and women's work from the 1970s to the present. There is listening, care, attention. We discuss similarities and diversities between Italy and the Basque Country and the intensity of radical movement politics that have crossed both countries. Now, in Bilbao, it's impossible to think of occupying since only a few of many spaces still resist.

We finish, and the sound action of Itziar and Myriam begins. We stand between Bulegoa b/z and the street, beer cans in an ice bucket, between Italian and Castilian, while, in another bucket, Silvia and Leire are melting the glue for the poster, and Miriam and Itziar discuss where to stick it. We set off, bucket and billboard in hand, about thirty of us going down the stairs of the barrio. And after the bridge, we choose a wall by the water.

We go back up to the bar together. The girls at Bulegoa b/z organised drinks and comida. We eat tortillas, drink wine and cervezas. We feel the vibrant air of the Bilbao scene while they tell us how it works and its political transformations in recent years. They tell us that arts and culture are highly endorsed and financed, even though Bilbao is governed by the right, a moderate right, which grants something in terms of civil rights but is entirely liberal with regard to economic and welfare policies. After a period of deindustrialisation, a lot was invested in culture. In the 1990s, there was not much at all, terrorism was still active, and many of them went abroad - to London, to Berlin - to study and work. When they returned, they opened spaces, shared the knowledge they had gathered and brought their relationships and networks back to the city. They tell us about the transition from Francoism, which was slow and incomplete. As in Italy, there were strong continuities within power systems - according to them, Spain is a radically right-wing country. They tell us about the independence terrorism of ETA / Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, what it was like to live here then, and how until the 2006 truce - though not without many contradictions - this presence had somehow contained the capitalist hold over the city. We tell them that for us in the Italian movements, the Basque struggle was a symbol, that there is a community centre in Turin called Askatasuna. Here, they have the political myth of Italy and conflict, while we have that of the Basque Country. We laugh. Now it's a little different, everywhere.

We talk about the death of migrants in Melilla on 25 June, the externalisation of the frontier and border violence. We also discuss how the presence in the government of left-wing parties like Podemos has not even slightly affected repressive migration policies and deportations. Once again, we feel all the similarities. The day is very long, and a gentle, endless twilight extends our time together.

 

––––Hong Kong

7:27 p.m. CEST We receive a message on the chat. Since April, after shooting the picture, Rebecca and Kee Hong had found a location for the poster. It's no longer possible to freely put up posters on the walls of urban spaces in Hong Kong; it would be too dangerous in terms of political signalling.  The idea was to collaborate with PRÉCÉDÉE, a private art space with a window on the street, functioning as a public space open 24/7, another way of bypassing censorship and keeping the works as accessible as possible.
But, given the contents of the work, PRÉCÉDÉE no longer feels like collaborating, since they risk being accused of violating public obscenity laws. Kee Hong explains that art spaces are becoming increasingly fearful, and the political atmosphere is really tense. He proposes to put up the poster indoors or in sex-related spaces. We have to postpone. We have to research.

 

----Bern / Berlin

Va-Bene leads a guerrilla performance in front of the Ghanaian embassy in Switzerland to protest against the anti-LGBTQIA+ law. A few months before, in February, friends and allies had brought Va-Bene's poster in front of the Ghanaian embassy in Berlin as a protest. 

––––Hamburg

We finish rehearsals early and go to the protest in the centre of Hamburg. Lara, an activist who is also part of the curatorial group at Kampnagel, takes us there. Finally, we're back on the streets. We call friends in Rome, and they say that the rally is beautiful. For a moment, the voices from here mix with those coming from there.

We go towards Rote Flora, an occupied space that will host the party, and we stop at another squat on the way, where they give us a warm soup. They prepare food for sharing.

––––Bilbao

On 8 March, the collective of Bulegoa z/b takes part in a day of actions and meetings with the contribution of Itziar Markiegi and Myriam Rzm, who will also collaborate with SO IT IS in July for the Material Voices programme. Itziar Markiegi (aka Jana Jan) is an artist, cartoonist, noisemaker and transdisciplinary performer. Myriam Rzm is a percussionist, creator, performer and sound experimenter.

Gora borroka feminista, gaur eta beti!

 

 

Video file

 

 

–––– Hamburg / Hong Kong / Rome / Milan

We have a call with Rebecca, who rented a studio with Kee Hong to shoot the picture. We work together remotely for about an hour while Rebecca is in the studio. For us, it's early in the morning, while for them, it's the evening: we're trying to align the time zones. Rebecca tries positions and shapes, and we give each other directions and suggestions. We are in Hamburg for a second residency at Kampnagel, Paola is in Rome, and Valla is following everything from Milan. The image Rebecca has in mind is quite complex and stratified, so Valla is participating in this phase of the work as well. In her works, Rebecca often uses ropes, that she weaves and ties in a second, with extreme skill and lightness.
In Hong Kong, the lockdown continues without easing. Here, in Europe, the war goes on.

––––Ghent, Belgium

We are doing an artistic residency at Vooruit for a new project, The present is not enough. We work on publicity campaigns, on the non-monetary exchange of sex in public spaces, on a particular gay masculinity, on forms of relationships that we - as lesbians and women - are excluded from, on bodily postures we haven't experienced and that in our eyes can become a utopia, on how to create possible futures on stage, on an archive of shots, images, fragments and ghosts of the New York Piers scene of the 1980s, on flickering worlds (a word that Nina gifted us), which is also the flickering of the black, murky waters of the Hudson, on the fullness preceding the loss, which back then came in the shape of the AIDS pandemic, on that fullness that is a past becoming the future again, on a warm night full of strangers, on the queer that isn't here yet, on surfacings and nameless intensities.  We work with the words and the images of David Wojnarowicz, José Esteban Muñoz, Samuel Delany, Olivia Laing, Peter Hujar, Alvin Baltrop, Jack Halberstam and others. We are with Ondina, Fede, Gabriele and Giacomo - Tony will arrive next week. Nina comes from Brussels in the first few days we are alone, and together we have a lesson with the students of KASK.

We blend bodies, desires and frequencies coming from other temporalities. We imagine abandoned warehouses, crumbling buildings, luminous bodies under the sun, free and wild urban spaces. 

On 24 February, at dawn, Russia invades Ukraine. The war breaks out, And the world as we have known it these past decades, in Europe, seems on the verge of collapse.

––––Rome / Bilbao / Hong Kong / Etna 

Alarming news is coming in from Hong Kong: infection rates are rapidly increasing, hospitals might not be able to cope with this pandemic wave, not many people over 80 are vaccinated, and wards are already over 90% of capacity. Fresh food supplies are at risk since many commercial vehicles have been stopped on land because drivers have tested positive for COVID-19. European media are reporting crowds of people fleeing Hong Kong and attempting to cross the border into China. We write to Kee Hong, who replies that they are doing well, but the restrictions are progressively more severe. The city might go into complete lockdown again. In the meantime, every second, a war could break out on the eastern borders of Europe. Putin and Biden are raising the stakes on Ukraine, and perhaps they're bluffing, but how many wars have broken out over a round of poker gone wrong? A sort of agitation is keeping us restless. We watch the Etna erupting for the third day in a row on the screen and in the pictures our friends are posting. On Thursday, abnormal phenomena occurred during the night-time eruption: a volcanic storm caused lighting, a lava fountain and an ash cloud of about 10 kilometres. In the afternoon, we have a call with Leire, Beatriz and Miren, who are in Bilbao, and we discuss how to frame the project within the specific context of Bilbao and, more generally, of Spain. We also consider whether we can transform the body into a collective body and what the space of the city can be. . They tell us that, although a form of feminism has become mainstream, there is also widespread TERF hate. The Deputy Prime Minister, Carmen Calvo, is explicitly against the recognition of gender identity and announced an anti-prostitution law to fight sex work even in its free and more self-determined forms. She opposed the Ley Trans proposed by the Minister for Equality, Irene Montero (of the political party Podemos), who is part of her own government. The Ley Trans - which was eventually approved in March 2021 - supports gender self-determination, guarantees the rights of trans and non-binary people, including irregular refugees and migrants, and demedicalises transition protocols. Despite this, they tell us, the "real women" narrative is widespread and has a lot of resonance.

–––Kumasi / Roma / Berlino

Last Saturday Va-Bene prepared and installed the poster – the chosen space was an abandoned railway behind PerfocraZe International Artist Residency -p IAR, the space for research and artistic residency she runs. Those arriving for the party will pass by the poster. The LOVE fEAST 2022 started in the afternoon until night – the party is an annual dinner to promote hospitality, community networks, human relationships between artists, queer families and local communities. LOVE fEAST marks the celebration of the new year, of rebirth and fierce love. It is a moment open to everyone to eat and drink together, listen to music and dance, sharing stories and meet the artists in residency and knowing their work.

There were the artists joining the residency program and hundreds of people. During the dinner party Va-Bene wrote to us: the poster was vandalized, torn by heavy stones and broken bottles. But we are hundreds of people, all is very powerful. In solidarity Va-Bene invited some colleagues to take pictures with her near the poster.

In these days in Ghana is up for debate a heavy law against LGBTQ+ people, that would further aggravate the situation criminalizing every non-conforming identity. All the communities are active since several months – today Va-Bene’s poster will arrive in Berlin, in front of the Ghanaian embassy to demonstrate.
Accomplices, loving and determined networks activating.

 


 

–––Kumasi

Today is the day – between preparations for the 𝙇𝙊𝙑𝙀 𝙛𝙀𝘼𝙎𝙏 2022, bank transfers from Europe to Ghana that don't work, a thousand messages / exchanges / phone calls / and many hearts in the air ...

Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi [crazinisT artisT] // Kumasi for SO IT IS_project. A lot of emotion, from a distance, but into the bodies.

 

A few nights ago, Va-Bene explains us what the writing means –– Anyie Ne Nye is in her native language and means "You are Clay".

After a while, sHit wrote in chat:
Clay as earth
So it is believed in many regions that humans are made from clay
Our common ancestry

Video file

–––Torpignattara / Bangladesh / Kumasi

{where we speak about money transfers between continents and other things we take for granted but are not}

°3 p.m._We talk to Va-Bene about the payment. We suggest a bank transfer, but Va-Bene tells us that it would take many days, and sHit needs the money fast to have the poster printed. So we try with Mobile Money, since online payments are faster, but it doesn't work. We try again with MTN Mobile, with no results, and then with Western Union online. Still nothing.
°4:30 p.m._ We go down the street looking for a Western Union point, and we get to the one in Torpignattara. The guy who runs the place, Sarwar, is incredibly knowledgeable: while handling our case, he simultaneously assists other people with online services, transfers and phone assistance in Italian, speaking on the phone for those who need to change their phone plan but don't know the language well. Sarwar advises us against Western Union, their fees are higher than others. He suggests Ria Money, but it doesn't work. We eventually find the right service, MoneyGram. Silvia tries making the transfer in her name, but it fails. Sarwar tells us that money transfers from Italy to Ghana don't work if the sender is an Italian citizen.  We try again, with no results. Sarwar proposes a solution: for a few euros, he tries calling a Ghanaian friend who could provide his personal details for the transfer. He cannot find him – so we end up transferring the money to him, who will then send it to Va-Bene. It works, from Bangladesh to Ghana. Sarwar is a problem-solving champion, and by spending an hour there we begin to understand the madness that he and people who migrated without stable conditions – of citizenships or bank accounts, which are connected – have to face to carry out even the simplest procedures. A huge amount of time and energy. While we wait, Sarwar tells us that in Bangladesh he used to work at the Ministry for Culture.
°5:48 p.m._ It looks like everything turned out okay; we say goodbye to Sarwar and go home.
°6:30 p.m. [Italy time]_ Whatsapp video-call with Va-Bene: sHit is arriving at the bank; it took an hour and a half to get across the city. Va-Bene gets to the office, but it's closed.
sHit tries again the following day, even during the preparations for LOVE fEAST. Once sHit gets to the bank, sHit finds out she can't withdraw the whole amount, because it exceeds a withdrawal limit. sHit goes to another office – here they don't know Va-Bene, and they make a fuss about the name on the documents and sHits identity; after all, this is only one of the endless tedious problems trans people face daily.
We phone Sarwar – he made a mistake while typing. He's home now, though, and will only open the office later. We are despairing in Rome, Va-Bene is despairing in Kumasi: eventually, Sarwar tries to do it from home, and he solves everything.
We're left with the invoice he gave us – it's ripped in half, because there are his details on the left side.

 

 

 

–––Hong Kong / Naples / Rome / Bologna

Kee Hong tells us that an order was issued for the culling of 2000 hamsters purchased after December 22, 2021 - there is the suspicion that they might carry the virus from animals to humans. Meanwhile, online groups are secretly organising to try hiding and saving the animals. The culling has already begun.
Hong Kong's "zero-COVID" policy led the country back into strict lockdown: schools and gyms are closed, restaurants are open until 6 p.m., flights are limited, and public parks are sealed with tape. Yet the number of infections is low, about 20 a day.
The slaughter of the hamsters is a disturbing omen. But we get used to everything; it will seem reasonable in a while.

Rebecca and Kee Hong tell us of the image they want to create. Rebecca wants to create a sort of talisman – in the Chinese religious tradition it is a piece of paper with signs inscribed on it, words someone at the temple writes for you on the paper, according to the requests (e.g., marriage, health, exams...). The words are often illegible, the writing intertwines, like the drawing of a cosmology. The paper talismans are then kept in a pocket, a wallet, or a bag - you need to keep them with you, close to your body. People often burn the pieces of paper, dissolve the ashes in water or tea, and then drink them. The literal incorporation of magical words. When I was little - Kee Hong tells us - I used to have nightmares and my mother gave me one to drink. The nightmares disappeared.

The image should resemble a talisman, reinventing it – a sort of public, urban talisman. Can a poster put up in Hong Kong have the power of a talisman, a protective force over the people of Hong Kong in this time of crisis?
Rebecca wants to work on her body, infesting it with images of Chinese goddesses, demons and monsters that often have a protective function. In particular, the Goddess of Mercy / Guanyin (觀音) who, in cosmological stories, almost became a buddha but decided to remain in her body on Earth and not transcend into Nirvana. She is a deity that changes sex, the first trans presence in Chinese cosmology, an actual trans divinity.

Rebecca thinks about the location of the picture. She would like to take it in a bamboo forest outside the city. Discussing together, we think that a cut-out outline of the body could be one layer and the bamboo background another layer.

–––Naples / Kumasi / Rome

Call with Va-Bene. sHit tells us about the project – a picture of sHits naked body, resting, in black and white, with a writing on the body, inside the body. Va-Bene proposes a date, Saturday, January 29th: a very special moment for sHits space, a day of celebration and gathering. LOVE FEAST 2022 is an annual dinner promoting hospitality, community networks, human relationships between artists, queer families and local communities. It marks the celebration of the new year, rebirth and wild love. It's a moment open to all, for eating and drinking together, listening to music and dancing, listening to stories and getting to know the artists in residency.

Video file

 

 

–––Chile / HK

In Chile, the left wins with Gabriel Boric, against the right-wing, ultra-conservative, pro-Pinochet candidate. The first words Boric spoke were in Mapuche, an indigenous language. The coalition brings together many forces involved in the 2019/2020 social and anti-liberal protests against Piñera’s para-fascist government. One of the objectives is abolishing the 1980 constitution imposed by Pinochet during the dictatorship and writing a new bill. On December 19th, the previous day, elections were also held in Hong Kong, the first under the new electoral law: only "patriots", i.e., people close to the Chinese regime and supporting the government, were allowed to run for office. In the preceding months, most opposition parties were charged with attempted subversion and forced to disband. The election registered a turnout of 30,2%, the lowest rate ever. Many activists and opponents who have been participating in the protests of the past few years have either left or are leaving the country.

––––Kumasi (Ghana) / Rome

It's our first meeting with Va-Bene, who is in Kumasi, with an unstable connection that comes and goes, forcing Va-Bene to constantly move to find a good network. Va-Bene is wearing a tank top, it's hot. sHit is enthusiastic about our proposal and laughs infectiously. Va-Bene tells us about sHits work and the space sHit created, a space of residency and production, but also a meeting place for the LGBTQ+ community of Kumasi.  In Ghana, sHit tells us, there are very strong colonial remains, especially in religious contexts - Christianity generates fear, panic, widespread paranoia, a sort of hypnosis.

Homophobia is everywhere and legitimised – the parliament is discussing an anti-LGBTQ+ law, promoted by religious groups and associations. Homosexuality is already illegal and punishable by imprisonment, but this new law would determine an actual criminalisation of gay, lesbian, trans, non-binary and queer people, with sentences up to 10 years. All non-heterosexual practices and sexual activities considered outside the norm (e.g., oral sex, anal sex, use of sex toys) would become illegal, as would public displays of affection, public festivities and initiatives. Medical transition procedures would be interrupted, and there would be "gender realigning" processes for intersex people. Since the beginning of March, when the parliament began drafting this law, violent attacks against LGBTQ+ people increased exponentially.

Va-Bene tells us that sHits works take shape in this environment while facing it. sHit know the religious context very well, as it's part of sHits background. Yet, Va-Bene tells us, unlike the Western representation of Africa as a uniform space, there are many ethnic groups celebrating homosexuality and different sexual identities - homophobia is an entirely colonial legacy. (After all, if we think about the violent persecution of queer people in England, which lasted well into the 20th century, the picture is clear.)

We also discuss translation. There are about 200 languages in Ghana, and Va-Bene is working with some universities on multiple translation projects.

And then she tells us the story of sHits name.

–––10 a.m. Hong Kong / Rome

First meeting with Rebecca Wong Pik Kei on the project. Rebecca is a dancer and choreographer from Hong Kong. We got her contact from Kee Hong, who has known her work for some time and suggested getting her involved. Rebecca works on the body and its stereotypes, desire and sexuality, and she does so in explicit ways, too. https://wongpikkei.wixsite.com/wongpikkei

We talk about the political situation in HK, the limited freedom, and how the situation is changing for women.

And then she tells us a story that we only partially understand because of the language, a story that remains wonderfully obscure to us. It's the story of a walk in the mountains, when they got naked, and people were looking at them from the heights of the forest. The story of a male gaze that consumes.

 

11:30 a.m. ––– Rome / Bilbao.

Call with Leire Vergara - we met while she was in Rome for an artistic residency at the Royal Academy of Spain. We met her several times thanks to Giovanna Zapperi, who created connections, then we started chatting and exchanging ideas. She opened an independent space in Bilbao with other artists/researchers - Bulegoa Z/B, in the neighbourhood of Solokoetxe. A small space, she tells us, where different artistic and research practices meet, starting from the different backgrounds of the founders: dance, choreography, writing, curatorship, sociology. They share a feminist and decolonial approach, and they work on developing critical pedagogies, situated knowledge and collaborative methods. They organise artistic residencies, exchanges, productions. Leire is very close to the activist experience and the independent scene; she also knows about the struggles of cultural professionals in Italy and the occupations that took place in the 2010s. We tell each other things, weaving threads – among militant research, feminism, radical practices. It would be nice to take SO IT IS to Bilbao, and we start thinking about how we could do that. She mentions a programme they organise in June, Material Voices, which includes meetings, installations and performances in an open context, intersecting practices, inventing new formats. 

https://bulegoa.org

 

–––Turin / Hong Kong / São Paulo / Belém / Rome / Bologna

We arranged a meeting to introduce Berna and Rachel to the workgroup but, right after starting, Berna interrupts the meeting, bursting into tears. Her daughter is not well, and she's really worried, also because of the general health situation, so she can't continue working on the project. We tell each other that this project is built precisely on the impossibility of working together and planning during the pandemic but nevertheless trying to do it together. We decide to postpone and take all the time we need, taking care of all the obstacles.

[The whole day is an obstacle: the opening of the exhibition we're working on in Turin has been postponed.]

---Brasìlia / Roma

Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity for his management of the pandemic, which caused over 600.000 deaths in Brazil, the highest death toll in the world after the US. The Brazilian Senate investigative committee approved the final report, which includes – in addition to the crimes against humanity – eight additional serious crimes:
_violation of sanitary measures
_charlatanism
_incitement to crime
_epidemic resulting in death
_falsification of documents
_misuse of public funds
_prevarication
_offence to the dignity of office.
On the same day, Bolsonaro defended volleyball player Mauricio Sousa, who was fired from his club over a homophobic post, ironically stating: “Today everything is homophobia, everything is feminism”.

°afternoon_ In Italy, the Senate blocked, by secret vote, the Zan bill, which aims at the recognition of the crime of homo/lesbo/bi/transphobia. When the result of the vote was announced, the centre-right deputies applauded and cheered from the benches.

 

---Rome / Berlin / São Paulo / Belém

°18:00 (CET) | skype call with Rachel and Berna. We see Berna’s work, and we love it. We Italian with her and Rachel. We talk about the city as if it were a scene. Berna asks herself where in Italy she would put up the poster. Maybe in Florence, near Michelangelo’s David, her own body – “boobs and balls” – relating to a body that has long been considered the perfect body. In Belém, on the other hand, maybe it would make sense to put it in the Ver-o-peso market, the busiest in the city, filled with the almost naked bodies of the workers. “I am interested – says Berna – in the possibility of a connection with people who have never been in a gallery, or, on the contrary, with people who have always been in galleries, like in Florence. A connection with different bodies.”

 

---Hong Kong / Turin / Bologna / Rome

°11:30 am [CET] | skype call. We talk about the project, how to develop it, how to make ourselves feel each other’s presence from a distance, how to modulate according to the different contexts.
How to gather community/togetherness around actions. One question stands out: the issue of translation. We would like the website to be translated into all the languages spoken by the participants – Italian, Brazilian Portuguese and Chinese, other than English. Crossing many languages without a fixed language of reference. It’s a political and poetic stance. No universal language.

Regarding our poster being torn down, Kee Hong says it is a violent gesture, but it is also a sign that the conversation is happening.

 

°11:53  –––Rome, Testaccio Bridge

[whatsapp message: ilenia > silvia]

---Rome, Short Theatre

It’s the inauguration day. So It IS #Roma and Reclaim your future. Lola Kola plays and, sometimes, sings – she has a beautiful, sparkling blue sequin dress.
We feel the power of being there, among other bodies. The power of relationships intertwining and stratifying, even ancient ones.

––Rome, Short Theatre

The whole Cheap crew arrives from Bologna with the poster – they will put it up themselves, since they are in Rome to prepare the installation for the Pelanda roof, RECLAIM YOUR FUTURE. They
are covering the walls of the canopy with the golden side of emergency blankets, wrapping square metres upon square metres with that shimmer. The day before, they spoke to the residents: when there is no festival going on, homeless families, even children, sleep under the canopy. Hanging above them there are flags designed by artists, created from their desires and demands.
We meet in the morning, at breakfast, to look at the poster together and inspect the space. The sun is out, and it’s hot. We open up the poster and lay it on the ground: it’s beautiful. Eli starts cutting it out with a pocketknife – we leave a small white border that stands out against the wall. He cuts freehand, with precise, expert strokes.

We prepare the glue and decide to stick the poster immediately – it’s better to do it during the day, in the sun, so it will look normal. It’s the two of us with Eli, Flavia, Sonia, Piersandra and Paola. Buckets, ladder and brooms. In the sun, we laugh..

 

---Sao Paulo

email from Rachel:

"Dear Ile, Sil, and Paola,
I have thought about it a lot, and I want to propose Berna Reale as an artist for your project, I will send you some links. She is a visual artist who works as a forensic expert, she created a very powerful work on violence and the female body. She has exhibited her work in many countries, including the Venice Biennale and recently the Contemporary Art Pavillion in Milan. I will attach some pictures of it here [...]. She does not live in São Paulo, she comes from the Amazon region (Pará), I do not know her personally, but we have a dear friend in common [...], so it would be easy to get in touch with her and get an answer as soon as possible.

I also thought about how you asked me to have São Paulo as a point of reference, but I feel that the city is not only becoming weaker, but it is also driven by the false belief of being the centre of the country, both creatively and economically, which is giving it an arrogance we do not need right now. Because the centre is more fixed than ever, while the outskirts are moving. These issues involve nature, the environment, the people outside the capitalist system of exploitation (perhaps eliminated by it, living below the poverty line – or by choice, as in the case of aboriginal people), women, black people, body|neuro-diverse people, who are all pieces of the same broken mirror, reflecting the image of this country and its iconic clichés.
I will give you some time to read these words I put together, coming from ideas that have been inhabiting me since we last spoke, among different things. I am waiting to hear from you, and I send you a big, big hug…

Rachel"

–––Fabriano (motus residency) / Rome

We keep thinking about the wall issue – whether to put up the poster on a free wall without a permit or rent out an advertisement space. 12:23 pm: Piersandra writes us that they checked the measurements of the poster, and it doesn’t fit on public notice boards. A wall it is, then. We would like it to be a place not immediately related to the festival, so we rule out the main entrance to the Pelanda. We want a wilder, an odder place, a place of transit. Together, we choose the opposite entrance opening towards the Testaccio Bridge. It’s the entrance to the university, the faculty of Architecture of Roma Tre, and the Tevere bar is a meeting place for
students.

As we drive past it at night, the wall, illuminated by street lamps, moves like a long tracking shot.

––– Rome, tram 5 / Bologna

Porta Maggiore Square. Silvia's phone call with Valla: Lola's horse's legs won't do. We should try something else, hoping the quality holds up. We hadn't taken public transports in months. The tram is populated yet livable, and - as it always happens on lines 5 and 14, which go from the Eastern outskirts of Prenestina towards the city centre - the population is mixed. Especially at night, public transportation is incredibly crowded, full of migrant people coming back from working in the city centre, extremely tired, mixed with the native residents of the Prenestino, Collatino and Centocelle neighbourhoods.

––– Hong Kong

A 24-year-old man was convicted of inciting secession and terrorism for participating in the HK protest on July 1st. It's the first conviction after the introduction of the national security law imposed by Beijing.

–– Rome / Salzburg

We listen to Piersandra's voice memo: she's in Salzburg, tonight she will go to the premiere of Don Giovanni. She proposes to meet in Rome, either on Wednesday or Thursday. She has some ideas she wants to talk to us about: a nightly billposting, or perhaps a visual action on walls.

-–– Santarcangelo / São Paulo

 

We have a Skype call with Rachel. It's 3 pm in Italy and 10 am in Brazil, where she lives. Futuro Fantastico, the festival, has just begun. We ask her how things are over there, telling her we heard about the protests happening all over Brazil and the impeachment proceedings moving forward. She tells us how much she misses N. and that she will come to Italy in the autumn. She's enthusiastic about her new collective project, Every extinction is forever, and about the festival in the making. She tells us that the number of contagions is increasing, the health system is about to collapse, and many people have no access to vaccines or medical care, especially in the favelas and especially black, indigenous, poor people. She says Bolsonaro is a murderer, and he is currently hospitalised because he has been having hiccups uninterruptedly for ten days. We laugh. We root for hiccups. The newspapers have been publishing countless articles on the origins of hiccups, the possible causes and remedies, presenting it as a potential symptom of chronic or acute illnesses. Hiccups are a contraction of the diaphragm, a respiratory spasm that happens when the glottis is closed. It's usually a transitory phenomenon. It can happen while crying convulsively. As for its origins, some hypothesise that it might be a residual primordial reflex, an ancestral, involuntary memory of our amphibious phase. Back when we had gills. The organ is extinct, but hiccups remained.

While we tell Rachel about the project, she thinks of some artists who work on the imagination of bodies in public spaces. They're not from São Paulo, but none of us thinks that'll be a problem. We start thinking about the current times. We tell her about the struggles of our artistic and cultural system and the upcoming economic crisis.

 

We ask Lola for her bio to publish for the project. Email from Lola:

 

No one ever really understood what Lola Kola does.

She is a woman, a man, a transgender, a child, a toy, a rocking stud mare.

She has been a fashion designer, model, actress, prostitute, drug dealer, drug addict, singer, pop icon, diva, a madwoman, without ever wishing to be anything.

They handed her a little queen's crown without shedding a single tear of joy, and she will give it back, without a single tear of sadness.

After years of hard work as a designer in the fashion industry, she went to all the parties and after-parties she possibly could, listening to all the music she could, taking and drinking as much as she could, attending as many events as she could.

That's when photographers, directors and stylists all started wanting to photograph her, see her act, have her in their videos. 

Her only masterpiece is Sambaca, the music video for Alien Alien. 

She worked a little in television and even less in film, but she doesn't even remember the titles, nor did she ever watch herself.

She ventured out in music with Impy at U-Kabarett, blending live performance with circus bands, cabaret music and even techno.

But she is uncompromising, unmanageable and rude, and she left at the first signs of disagreement.

She's now busy organizing Rome's best party, TROPICANTESIMO, with the best DJ ever, Hugo Sanchez.

During the event, she sings, which, by now, is the only activity capable of moving her and bringing tears to her eyes. On the best beats that any vocal artist (as she defines herself) could wish to sing, she performs pieces ranging from bossa nova to punk, from reggae to cumbia.

That's Lola Kola: a new sound, without genre, wrapped in the fashionable outfits she creates for herself.

Perhaps it's a revolution, or maybe, once again, an unkempt promise.

––Rome / Amsterdam

2:27 p.m. voice memo. We're sitting at the bar in Piazza Vittorio, listening to a voice memo we just got from Silvia Bottiroli. The following day is a Wednesday, and we'll shoot the photo with Lola. We're thinking about what tool to use to start working on Queering Platform, whether we should choose a website or an Instagram page. Silvia B. explains to us why we cannot make a website for the platform, both for the administrative slowness of an institution as big as West Kowloon but also because China is constantly controlling the content produced in Hong Kong. The personal profiles and websites of artists and curators are under control, including those of the people we're working with. With Silvia B. and Kee Hong, we try to develop a bypassing strategy: we build a website dedicated to the artistic project and not to the platform, conceived as an autonomous space. It's the website you're browsing right now.

...and so, dance dance dance!