Cinema & Performance by Silvia Bertocchi

Blurring boundaries between visual art and film, physical actions, and emotional memory in narrative construction. from performance to video production, expressing the artist’s vision to the final creation

by Silvia Bertocchi

This title conceals concepts that are dear to me and fundamentally underpin my work. I believe it’s crucial never to forget that being here today, discussing cinema, art, and performance is a fundamental privilege not everyone shares, now more than ever. It’s never rhetorical to say that freedom should always be linked to art and vice versa; now more than ever, it has a duty to reflect the times.

Being a 30-year-old artist today allows you to grasp various nuances of life and career, no matter how brief. The experiences acquired are beginning to transform and mature, assuming forms I didn’t think I was capable of embracing before. Thirty years is an age where you start to reap some fruits of your short life, filled with experiments. You witness changes in your thinking, gaining certainties you perhaps didn’t have before, and incorporating them consciously into your work, considering the risks.

I remember crying at the age of 10 for not being selected in a ballet audition, writing frantically like a madwoman for a magazine article at 20, only to rush off to theatre rehearsals, discovering performance art, auditions, ideas, the first attempts from the very beginning, the small successes, and what seemed like significant milestones until the partial awareness of being able to develop my ideas beyond everything. And the relative view and understanding of what it means to be a free artist.

Recalling my brief life as a ‘woman and artist’ makes me more aware than ever of the element of ‘time’ and its material and ideal disposition in work. Time, both in performance and cinema, is a fundamental element that marks a connection and, at the same time, enormous distance between the two expressive mediums. There are works that last seconds, and others that develop over years, but their significance in the art world perhaps remains unchanged. It doesn’t matter how much time you spent on research because time will always remain a relative element leading to something to discover.

When you’re very young, it’s effortless to overestimate your work, your specific weight in the world, and confuse the reality of art with what the art world tells you. Speaking of performance and cinema in terms of time and directly linking it to my age until now is because time and the duration of life, film, act, and performance are pivotal elements characterizing both the work I brought to Athens and my life.

So, how do the so-called cinema and performance art fundamentally differ? I would inevitably return to the concept of TIME. Human beings have always aimed to capture time, make themselves superior to time, and try to make it their own. This is very evident in cinema.

– I go to the cinema, buy my ticket, sit down, and watch a movie about ancient wars, superheroes, Romeo and Juliet, which will typically last 90 minutes. It’s my choice when and how to go to the cinema, whether in the morning, by bus, at night, watch the last show, or maybe stream it comfortably on my couch or Netflix, etc. In all these cases, I can estimate in my mind how long I will take to do all these actions, and I won’t have any surprises.

Performance, on the other hand, disrupts the rules of time. We cannot accurately determine how long a performance will last; I cannot be certain about what I will see or even if I will roughly like it. Certainly, I can gather as much information as possible about the action I am heading towards, but still, I won’t be able to watch a trailer of the reality unfolding before my eyes. Performance takes from reality and gives back, whereas cinema takes from reality, processes, and gives back. The experiment communicates everything.

Both film and visual art, as well as performance, can evoke profound emotions in the audience, and in all these cases, these emotions will be unpredictable. This commonality binds the entire world of art. But in traditional cinema, there is a tremendous effort to transmit emotions that goes beyond mere art. There are months of pre-production and production, writing, revision, choosing professionals to involve, fundraising, and grants. And in the end, there’s no guarantee that the work will even make it to the cinema. Certainly, behind a performance, there is immense creative work, and, above all, we haven’t talked about the fact that a performance can encompass many worlds and, in most cases, caters to a small audience present. Within a performance, in almost all cases, there are fewer people involved in its success, so its meaning is less influenced and reshaped by different minds. Cinema is eternal; live performance fades in the time of the performance. One cannot deny that even the most talented of directors in traditional cinema had to endure limitations to their creativity. This isn’t a criticism but an objective observation to understand that a massive machine presumably destined for commerce needs commercial adjustments, to which, sadly but realistically, art alone can’t contribute much.

And it’s precisely this sought, found, lost, and often narrated freedom that creates the conflict from which the story cinema tells emerges, sometimes in its own words, at times harsh, at times sad, often very amusing, entertaining – we can say we’ve seen it all. So, what do we need? The courage to translate it into everyone’s language, to find one’s key to the story, which for an artist may not always be the same. I find this one of the most fascinating aspects of the art world, the non-codification. The search for diverse languages that indeed translate changing ideas. The freedom to doubt and perhaps explore other paths.

It’s from the desire to depict immediate realities that experimental cinema is born, and then video art. They are perpetual means for fundamental immediate concepts that strike like blades. Experimental cinema has shed the glamor layer devoted to those who make ‘cinema’ in its most common sense, to become something ‘else,’ something different. Straddling the present and an individual’s mind, an expressive mode born from the poignant awareness of not being able to truly tell everything, and this ‘everything’ can’t reach all people in the same way.

So how can we represent open concepts that reach people deeply without falling into commercial mechanisms? Is it right to represent art? Can art be understood, internalized, and seldom is it right to represent it? This I say: what I say isn’t art, isn’t truth, but just a personal thought that in the universe holds no weight, no value, and often, not even meaning.

However, all this can be thrown into a pot of techniques, marking the point of union and a bridge between reality and art, leading to many experiments without prejudice. The artist, the director, the creator – the one who brings a project to life is no longer a sterile messenger but the heart of a project that must not, however, overshadow it but of which it remains the soul. For the creator, it’s crucial not to get trapped in something too defined, and this is precisely the goal of experimental cinema – to ask questions and provide answers even if these answers are NOT IMMEDIATE. We seek the experiment to continue questioning what we see, understanding that it’s not absolute and never will be. We’ll continue to draw from all the worlds around us without the presumption of wanting to explain them, giving only possible interpretations.

Finding a reading key for what I felt I had to do wasn’t easy, the art I felt devoted to isn’t just one. I’ve always felt a strong need to create my projects, but often when you have a theater diploma, the world you want to escape from pigeonholes you as a ‘cute actress who only knows how to memorize scripts.’ It’s complicated to be taken seriously, especially in a world where women represent less than 30% in the cinema world, and in Italy, where I live, they’re less than 10%. It was just a few days ago that the news broke that they cut a substantial 10 billion from cinema specifically this year.

The ability to experiment is what makes a difference; unique means are no longer needed, and with a mobile phone, we can reach anywhere. To tell reality as we see it in our minds, a lot of imagination is needed, and the means don’t always make a difference. Unfortunately, we still live in a society very closed to women in the art and cinema world, as we said, and in a society that is very slowly moving towards experimental products, even though we have witnessed epochal changes in recent years.

What I’ve learned so far is that it’s better not to cling to pre-established models we have set for ourselves but to let the creative path be free to assume all forms and, above all, meanings discovered along the way. Still, it’s also crucial never to lose sight of the initial objective, the project’s foundation, to remain faithful – it’s very challenging to do because at every moment, we are naturally inclined to discover, to be influenced by sounds, shots, colors, artists, works, etc., etc., and that’s okay.

But in the creative process, the initial project should never be abandoned but enriched where possible without fundamentally altering its initial structure. How much of life can we bring to the screen and the stage? My question is – can life be a performance? Can performance become life and film? Can film return to being a performance? If yes, how? How can we start from life and transform it into performance and from performance arrive at the film? We’ve said they are different means; the audience is often the element of union and separation between the two. It can be involved, becoming a performer. The audience in a film is merely a spectator of lives lived by others.

In recent years, I’ve developed a small creative production house in Milan, called ‘Issues Production,’ precisely trying to develop my research and combine the interests and work of multiple artists. So I am here to get to know you, and I would love to establish contacts to collaborate with as many people as possible who are interested in bringing their visions to life.

Silvia Bertocchi participate in the International Experimental Film Festival in Athens with her film Film Rosa in the program Queer Cinema – Gender Antinomies

Silvia Bertocchi was born in Cagliari (Sardinia) in 1993. She lives and works in Milan, Italy. She began studying ballet in her childhood, and she has never stopped writing stories and poems.
She moved to Milan where she studied drama at the ”Quelli di Grock” school.
Silvia has collaborated as an author with magazines such as GQ and
Rolling Stone. An actress, she appeared in the Independent films ”The Broken Key” with Geraldine Chaplin and Rutger Hauer, and in ”Credo in un solo padre” for which she also painted a cover for the movie.

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The Institute for Experimental Arts was founded in 2008 in Athens- Greece as a non-profit platform of creative expression and research in the fields of theater, performance art, digital media, installation, poetry and art theory. The Institute is committed to existing as an open meeting point for poets-writers, directors, actors, theater engineers/ technicians, performance artists, photographers, video artists and the writers who develop new analytical tools on contemporary art, media & communication.