EPISODE 1: Uno specchio per cinque (A mirror for five)

Lu Cafausu
April 4, 2016

This is the first episode in the series by Lu Cafausu. Also read Episode 2: Anna Vaniglia, Episodes 3a and 3b: The Screen Will Be White, Episode 4:The resurrection of the wizards, and Episode 5:Battle.
In the crypt of Cabaret Voltaire, a set will be built with the aim of shooting the first scene of a film. In this scene five non-professional actors will be invited to enact the personal obsessions of the five members of “Lu Cafausu” who will take the role of directors. The audience will be very close to the action and, at times, inevitably become part of it. Through this film, the five artists will be confronted with their own selves, their mirrored images, and their contradictions.

Part 1: Giancarlo’s lost thoughts

“There are three things I really should never forget. First, I have no obsessions. Second, each portrait of us has to be split into five egos. And third . . . already forgotten, sorry. To be more precise in what I have to say, I must start by depicting some of the images that are wandering in my mind as follows. Please have a seat.”

“Here we are: the photo of Jean, shot by Man. In this case, Man the photographer reveals Jean the poet who had portrayed himself using a wire. Jean’s head hangs from the ceiling (I mean, a portrait of his head made of iron wire), and it is so nimbly twisted as if it were a brain that casts its shadow, first on the head of the poet and then on the backdrop. The two subjects, the poet and his wire head, are merged in the same shadow. So the poet and the wire, the thoughts and their representation are now made of a single matter, as you can see.”

“The right hand of Salvador — in the picture taken by Arnold — seems to be grasping at his own head. Or probably not; he’s just going to cover his face. The painter is starting to recognize in the twists, knots and bows of a wire (here too) floating in the air, the figure of a very, very desirable woman caught in the act of undressing: a woman he will never be able to possess because she is made of pure desire, and precisely for this reason bears witness to a failure that is even more unbearable for an artist.”

“Eventually, in spite of its old-fashioned allure, the last image comes from the present. I can recognize our friend Flavio with his Black Magic digital camera on the left, and Luigi N. who holds that wire as if it were a clear, fluid skeleton to be subsequently dressed on stage. He looks at me, while the other stares at him. He doesn’t like this portrait at all, and has trouble identifying with it, maybe because he thinks his inner essence is revealed, with the inside in place of the outside, or because the round shapes of this new superimposed body have clearly feminine overtones.”

Part 2: The Doubles

Una and Adrian have designed a set that is halfway between a ziggurat and a boxing ring at the center of the crypt. It is covered in copper sheeting, and the column has been incorporated into the set along with a bed, a table, a lamp, and a chair. There won’t be enough room for all the people who will fill the space, but we don’t care. The multitude starts to enter the crypt; people sitting everywhere. We decide to completely ignore the audience.

The action begins; we give our doubles orders. Our voices are supposed to guide the movements of the actors: They should be firm, decisive, and clearly audible, but you cannot hear a word. The audience is dazed, noisy at times, but they don’t exist, as we said, anyway.

The alter ego of Luigi P. carefully gets ready for the day, dressing with extreme attention to detail: shirt, tuxedo, white gloves, even a top hat. Finally there is a mirror in which to examine his reflection, but instead the surface bears a reproduction of the Origine du monde by Courbet.

The second Cesare walks, looking back. His attention is captured only by specimens of the female gender, who are slowly scrutinized from toe to head, with a vertical movement of the gaze that lingers over precise anatomical parts. He is obsessed with feet and,he hasn’t the slightest interest in any other objective.

Emilio’s substitute strips before going to bed, but he has to do it according to a particular procedure. After having made a triangular opening by slightly moving the sheet and blanket with a single leap then feet together, he has to land exactly in the space he has just created. If he fails in this attempt he makes on a nightly basis, his dreams will be dreadful.

The other Luigi N. has a marvelous pregnant female body, but that doesn’t matter; it’s better, actually. He grips a big bundle of wires and cords, attempting to untangle them, but the more he tries the more the snarl seems to take on a life of its own, twisting, muddling itself, eluding any attempt to restore order, any rule or any control, almost like a metaphor of life.

The fake Giancarlo has what we can assume is an intolerance, or an idiosyncrasy, regarding certain substances contained in foods. He reads and re-reads the ingredients listed on a box of cookies before eating them. He keeps on reading as he chews, and at times seems to raise his voice as if to summon other possible unstated ingredients, as if to unmask a deception, acting out an archaic ritual that seems endless and contains both disbelief and enchantment.

The five actions described above continue, repeating, for over two hours. In spite of the fact that they are clearly bizarre, as time passes they seem to become “real,” no longer staged enactments. Or maybe it is the audience, including the dozens of people who cannot enter and see almost nothing, that becomes unreal, just as the obsessions of the evening are unreal, of Cabaret Voltaire, of the centennial of the first apparition of the world of Dada. As you know, reality and its double are intertwined together, with strings.

Part 3: Coincidences

Fig. 1, Jean Cocteau portrayed by Man Ray, Paris 1928.

Fig. 2, Salvador Dalí photographed by Arnold Newman, New York 1951.

Fig. 3, Flavio Bonetti and Luigi Negro instagrammed by Giancarlo Norese, Zurich 2016.

Fig. 3, Flavio Bonetti and Luigi Negro instagrammed by Giancarlo Norese, Zurich 2016.

(translated from the Italian by Steve Piccolo)

Lu Cafausu

Lu Cafausu is a collaborative art project initiated by Emilio Fantin, Luigi Negro, Giancarlo Norese, and Cesare Pietroiusti in 2006, then joined by Luigi Presicce in 2010. Lu Cafausu, an old coffeehouse located in a small town in the south of Italy, has become the inspiration for stories, performances and actions in different European and American cities.

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