Abramović and Fosse in Taobuk, identity becomes “total” art between legendary performances and Nobel-worthy narrations


By John

An enchanted evening in Taormina, where art becomes legend with two of the most anticipated international protagonists of the Taobuk festival: the Serbian performer Marina Abramović and the Norwegian writer Jon Fosse, Nobel Prize winner for literature 2023, introduced by the artistic director of the festival Antonella Ferrara. The artist born in 1946 in the former Yugoslavia, is a unique character on the global art scene, proposing profound and disconcerting performances in which the public is the protagonist of the “sacred space” with actions that fill the “work” with meaning. La grandmother – “grandmother” as she defines herself – is the unshakable point of reference of performing art, capable through incredible provocations of digging into the human soul and its cruelty, studying its abysses and then “crossing the walls” – as the title of the his autobiography – breaking down the barriers, even the deepest, unspeakable ones, which separate humanity from its opposite.

Pain, suffering, mortality: these are the three great fears of human beings, which Marina wanted to sublimate for the Taormina public who welcomed her like a star, cheering her upon her arrival in the square, where she dedicated memories, words and a special video , “The seven deaths of Maria Callas” a multimedia performance in which the artist retraces some of the tragic deaths of protagonists of the work that Callas interpreted. From Piazza IX Aprile, where he spoke with the journalist Roberta Scorranese of Corriere della Sera, and Arturo Galansino, general director of the Palazzo Strozzi Foundation in Florence, the appeal to love the planet, love people, against wars and for life , the future.

The memory of a 55-year career is intense: the canvas burned by the man who was his first master has made fertile an imagination that increasingly pushes the boundaries of a “total” art, expressed even at the risk of one’s own safety . As happened in Naples in 1974, when Marina with Rhytm 0 made herself and a series of 72 tools available to the public, including blades, guns, and roses full of thorns, which were used on her: and the public was divided between tormentors and defenders, with the fortunate victory of the latter, to demonstrate the “Lucifer theory”: according to which even the best people can become evil if they have the opportunity. In 1976 in Amsterdam she met Ulay, a partner in life and in art amid scandals and passion: the 1977 Imponderabilia performance in Bologna was interrupted by the police for outraging modesty, as she told the Taobuk audience. The two artists had positioned themselves naked in front of the entrance to the Gallery of Modern Art in Bologna: to enter it was necessary to pass between them, choosing whether to turn towards one or the other. Rest Energy, with the bow and arrows turned by Marina against herself and held in check by Ulay, instead aimed to focus the sometimes inexplicable trust towards other people even when they could harm us. Their love was a work of art and also to say goodbye in 1988 they chose a scenographic method, with the exhibition, The Lovers, created by walking the 2500 kilometers of the Chinese Wall from opposite ends to meet halfway and leave each other forever. They found themselves face to face again in 2010 during Marina’s famous performance The Artist is Present, when Ulay surprisingly sat in front of her and smiled at her: the shot went around the world, it was impossible not to hear the beating of their hearts, everywhere on the planet. Abramović at the 1997 Venice Biennale protested against the war in Yugoslavia with the performance Balkan Baroque, spending 4 days cleaning blood from animal bones. And against the war in Ukraine she proposed again to News York, The Artist is Present, with the donation of those who sat in front of her to benefit medical aid for Ukraine.

Fosse: the Nobel tale of the unspeakable

«For his theatrical works and innovative prose that give voice to the unspeakable»: this is the motivation with which the Swedish Academy awarded Jon Fosse the 2023 Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Norwegian writer, author of novels, plays, poems and short stories translated into more than 40 languages, spoke in Piazza IX Aprile with Sabina Minardi, culture chief of L’Espresso with the introduction of Caterina Andò, member of the scientific committee of Taobuk. Through a journey that leads from masterpieces such as Melancholia and The Other Name. Septology (The Ship of Theseus) reaches the most recent works, Jon Fosse, Nobel Prize for Literature 2023, “accompanies us in his narrative world, aimed at searching for the supreme meaning of existence”. And the theme of the festival, identity, was expressed by Fosse with an emphasis against discrimination and the invitation to respect the “soul” of writing without thinking about gender, male or female. And the theme of identity also returns in the important reference to the language used by Fosse, Nynorsk, at the center of the piece written exclusively for the pages of Gazzetta del Sud and Giornale di Sicilia: he was the first Norwegian writer to win the prize writing in this minority language, which has become famous.

“We wait to disappear”: writing, confidentiality, inspiration, the absence of control in those who write and those who read following the flow of uncontrolled thoughts; There are many recurring themes relaunched for the Taobuk audience by Fosse, one of the most significant and multifaceted voices of contemporary dramaturgy, after his writing debut in 1983 with the novel Raudt, svart (“Red, black”). A stylistic code characterized by minimalism, between the contradictions of language and relationships, family and couple relationships. Among the works are the diptych on the Norwegian painter Hertervig “Melancholia”, And the night sings, Io sono il vento, Mattino e sera and the recent A glow. A narrative linked to the local Norwegian reality in the landscapes, in the characters and above all in the language, aimed at embracing existential and mystical themes of a universal nature, with small sudden revelations and repetitions, which are sometimes only apparent, with minimal lexical changes. An “ineffable” style, with the ability to say what is unspeakable, which is the same principle underlying poetry, or religion: “I hope that my writing makes people understand that there is something that goes beyond life itself”, expressed the hope of the author in Taormina, who converted to Catholicism in 2012, pouring themes linked to faith into frequent passages of his works. And speaking of God he also concluded his meeting in Taormina, against nationalism and with a hymn to what unites and does not divide: “Identity – he added – for me is a place where we can talk about everything, even of God”.