Ugo Pitozzi, choreographer and video-artist, is one of the major personalities of ballet born during the ’80s. His background stems from his education: he studied idioms of visual arts at the Accademia di Brera in Milan, contemporary dance (he studied the Laban technique), contemporary technique with William Forsythe, Mary Wigman’s principles with Erika Thimey, and choreography dance composition with Gerhard Bohner. He also attended choreography dance composition and contemporary creation with Merce Cunningham, Meredith Monk, Simone Forti.
Between 1983 and 1984, Ugo Pitozzi met Steve Paxton and Lisa Nelson, and followed their creative dance lessons for almost a year. Interested in hybridization of contemporary dance with other artistic and philosophic forms of expression, human body in its extreme meaning, fragmentation and androgyny of human body, as well as employment of technological devices on the stage, he starts up the Ugo Pitozzi Company – Air Mail, founded in Rome in 1978/1984 on the occasion of the Spaziozero production.
In 1983, Ugo Pitozzi and Simonetta Cola gave birth to Teatrodanca Skené Bolzano-Roma. Pitozzi has been artistic director of Petralta contemporary art center (Rome, 1999-2001) and director of one of the three multicultural venues Regione Lazio/national pilot project. He has also been artistic director of important events dedicated to interaction between art and new technologies like “Transcodex 01” (2001), “Il corpo eccentrico” (2000), and “Transcodex 02” on the occasion of Genoa 2004 – World Capital of Culture.
His works include: Amnesia Hotel (1983-84), Kat ‘Exoken (1989), I Raccoglitori di Gesti Soavi (1991), Quella misura di luce…(1993), A terrific insularity of mind (1995), Fornication avec l’onde (1996), Epopteia (1999), A terrific Insularity of mind # 2 (2001), the first stage of Corpus Recombinant (2004-2006, whose creation is still in progress). During this conversation-manifesto, Pitozzi explains the outlines of his way to make art.
Enrico Pitozzi: Your works clearly show an epistemology organized on the idea of composition. I would just start from this aspect pervading all your creations, from the writing of the movement to the stage device.
Ugo Pitozzi: Basically, composition is the opposite of indulgence. Indulgence means to impose your one and only (superficial) point of view. In my creations, the primary gesture becomes prismatic material capable to separate different colours starting from only one light. Quoting Pierre Levy, my composition avails itself of a “cognitive and sensitive writing”, it is dynamic hydrography. Such aspect refers to the re-identification of a body as producer of otherness; at the same time, it means to work on inverse time, a time-flux. It is like constantly passing through the forms.
That’s the place where writing and composition become a real “geographization” of a corpus as a series of gestures defining a moving body. In other words, it is an immersion process in which several temporal spaces slide away and a variable flux of energy and geometry passes through the bodies. Composing means to make a choice, to find a balance on the edge of the unknown. Composition is a corpus employing every kind of expansion in order to produce a perspective of (“almost mineral”) amazement.
That’s not just an imposition of style or technique, it is rather something to discover, identify, alert besides what has just been created. So, all this does nor refer to a linear, one-dimensional, mechanical, temporal dimension, but it better refers to a journey with its qualitative perception. Such perception allows us to lose ourselves, which is a prerequisite to amazement, fear and happiness.
Enrico Pitozzi: Is it like tending to the form?
Ugo Pitozzi: Form that’s the matter, I try to find, and find back, an intricacy of non-hierarchical actions through the previously-mentioned epistemology an intricacy of non-binary relationships, a form made of connections, hazards, dangers, and stratifications of lines immersed in empty spaces and stillness. It deal with investing on the body projected in energies which are fluid and instable material recognizable only at the end of the composition.
Form starts in the moment it does not recognize itself as stable and complete. Such process allows the composition to go on, to remain non-hierarchical, or, at worst, to capsize, to be inevitably incomplete. Composing means drawing an interior dismay in which the perception of a present absence prevails. In all my interventions I head for a scrupulous (anti-analogical) writing; that’s why analogies tend to create sudden satisfaction and tiredness in an art work, composition has to lead us to a dizziness which is demonstration, not a representation. It is a situation giving us back a writing allowing time and its forms to challenge anesthetized times. Passing through such intricacy leads us to amazement.
Enrico Pitozzi: Composition is a poetry capable to show things. You often make reference to something Heidegger used to say. Could you repeat it and explain its implications on your way to create choreography, please?
Ugo Pitozzi: Do you mean that difficult Heidegger‘s sentence (he himself didn’t cherish it) about how poets risk the Being and so they venture in the region of Being, while others limit themselves to trade the being. The earlier venture in language (they speak), while the latter use language and limit themselves in using sayings; these ones need the language. They leave the road where a thinker talking about the Being meets a poet talking about the Sacred.
That’s where (in the regions of being) gestures-geographies take place and I like to intervene. We walk in such area with a rearrangement movement and era multiplied by gestures, in diagrams and flux and space mathematics; that’s where the elasticity of anatomy and the affectivity of bodies open on creation and destruction of time-wish. That’s the expression most similar to a composition of fragrances, an atmosphere pulverization of short “resonances” arranging in an uncertain map. A choreographer is a geographer of the present, creator of intimate atlases.
The moving body becomes ever-expanding, -contracting, and -evaporating material.. this is the way I approach composition: the creation of a geographical gesture made up of the bodies I choose to work with. I start from their periphery because the most interesting things happen at the borderline. I arrange (physical or electronic) bodies in the space in order to underline their relationship with time-atlas. Choreography composition belongs to epiphany of the moment.
Enrico Pitozzi: La pratica epistemologica si rovescia qui nella filosofia visiva di cui hai parlato altrove. Potresti sviluppare questo aspetto?
Ugo Pitozzi: Ballet with its complexity (like every art form) is the product of an independent thought, resulting in visual thought and visual philosophy. The word “philosophy” is not the stage representation of a philosophic idea, but a connection of thoughts resulting from the body-dance that becomes reflection. Today there are many misunderstandings, fake births, wills, forefathers and generations on ballet. The real need is to reaffirm the body as driving thought. It is a continuous hazard. It is an experiential wisdom intersected and parallel to other languages, capable to underline the way ballet leads to a new kind of knowledge about life.
fessura # 1
In my work I tend to define a “cold body”: I work on a withdrawal (from the body as a center) and restitution gesture, where the writing of a body becomes time, crosses every space, spaces of time included.
The cold body is: a body-flux, a body-fragment. Its writing is a secret sound. Superbly playing every single note of it is enough to paraphrase Arvo Part.
The cold body is: a body becoming beat of a molecular plurality without consideration for the volume: flowing material-time, the cold body almost finds itself in a situation of emptiness, kind of absence.
The cold body is: a body – in the quest for the end of its own vision – changes the idea of subjectivity as well as its own perception of time. My idea is that it would go back to the tradition of the dochakei ha-ketz, to the Franz Rosenzweig’s “accelerators of the end”.
Enrico Pitozzi: Here the body is conceived as a sequence of speed and slowness, rest and movement (Spinoza): a dynamic. To compose the body means making a map of its parts, to determine intense rhythms, or otherwise quietness. Atlas and geography are part of your vocabulary after all
Ugo Pitozzi: When you open an atlas in the sense of a collective creation, where individual knowledges join creating connections the first thing you clearly see in it is the difference of complex-asymmetric experiences. They live simultaneously in an information, a surface in a magmatic situation, without losing its features. I think that creating choreographies means: giving form to a place where knowledges join creating order, or otherwise disorder.
It is possible thanks to new logics: bodies with different stories, bodies which sometimes are poles apart, with different nationalities, physical features and mental connections, expectations, needs, and so on. Inevitably, it is a big geography of sensations not linked to a style or technique. Improvisation is not the consequence that’s why I often speak of new atlas and define my writing on and in the body as a map. I tend to a writing full of silent interruptions.
Map and atlas geography is the opposite of paralysis, lack of magnetic life; it is the opposite of own quotation tending to create only one geometrically symmetric order. Limiting complexity to its stereotype is the starting point to denial of gradations and sudden invasion of languages (which is magic reserve instead). The atlas-body I refer to is the dialogue between body and its inner landscape made of space, strengths, memory, wisdom, knowledge and non-knowledge: disharmonies.
The landscape of body-movement is the field, the huge space of physical natures, variable geometries, immersions, exciting apnoeas; the space of illusions, discoveries, evaporations. The atlas-body is not an expression of comfort, but solitude inexorable combination of power and powerlessness.
fessura # 2
It could sound strange but inside myself I would like my job to resemble more and more to Naoshima Island. I see the writing of a body as an echo of flux, the subsiding record of a place (an intimate space because also the body is a space), redefining the sense. What once was heimlich, recognizable and familiar, becomes unheimlich, alien to itself and to protagonist’s perception.
Enrico Pitozzi: Redoing the body looks like the concept of composition: it means that rearranging perception is necessary.
Ugo Pitozzi: It is necessary to re-think a body senses of a body-atlas feel: angles, shadows, endless lines crossing known times danger, challenge, multilayered coatings, heat and torpid cold, smells, separations. The gesture/movement kindly and lightly lives in such dimensions. It lives in the touch of the eyes. Whatever dialogue between body, gesture, and space begins with the awareness of being in a place; modifying oneself and the place through actions of addition and withdrawal. You can browse through an atlas, but you can travel along a body-atlas. The heart of a body-map-atlas is in its inexact and impermanent value, in a sovereign and hidden guerrilla with unveiling time.
Enrico Pitozzi: You are outlining an intimate relationship (of your activity of choreographer) dealing with gravity, and its magnetism.
Ugo Pitozzi: In my corpus of choreographies, the body is pushed through several limits. It is a body made up of porous material bearing the substantiality of instability, the certainty to adapt and resist to the environment hosting it, the hazard to try-find the balances necessary to all its fragments. It is a bended body, dangerously standing, peripheral, waiting: producing several simultaneous gestures continuously re-determining. It is also a body capable to lose. It is a body becoming flux of energy and discipline. A body-power: this is the key point to me. This is the prerequisite to begin working with gravity, the primary element of a body, weigh of the soul.
Intensity, emptying, wisdoms, representations, metamorphosis, shadows, exits, amazement, poetry of silence and stillness are equivalent to such force crossing us from the center to the sky, and then driven back, in order to give us the chance to live the way we are used to. when I compose, that’s one of the most important things for me: material body and soul body in only one body made of energy.
To change the ways we re-arrange ourselves respect to the gravity, balance, mass and symmetry, up and down, ground and jump, implies changing the codified perspective of the center, and placing ourselves in a germinating space, becoming sheer expression with no need to mime feelings. To alter in order to re-draw, to make anatomic what’s been altered in a mobile pass; that’s the process regulating the creation of video presences and sound stratifications of each work.
Enrico Pitozzi: You have been one of the first Italian artists to use video projections on stage (Amnesia Hotel in 1983/84). Ceremony of Innocence (2000-2001), first stage of the Corpus-Rekombinant series, is based on excess, the micro-macro relationship between physical body and video body of the dancer. Would you talk about such relationship?
Ugo Pitozzi: Amnesia Hotel, realized for Spaziozero-Roma, maybe was one of the first Italian ballet shows to use a video. It was a 10-by-9-meter, ever-changing projection that lasted until the end of the show. Since then, video images have always been a prerequisite of my creations.
Instead, Ceremony of Innocence is the accomplishment of a process. All the work is based on re-defining non-exact, non-synchronic times, the spaces between micro and macro, physical body and electronics: silent place between two thoughts. I am not interested in a still action but in a danced action which is meant to change. I don’t want a constant line of evolution, I want an intervention on transformations and chaotic fusions a myriad of times writing a myriad of spaces.
They do not synchronize with the desire of another speed. The choreographic gesture in Ceremony of Innocence is based inside the physical and electronic body through an endless dialogue with silences and visual paradoxes. It is a gesture establishing in the dance, it is hard and solid, creating its own rules and language. The whole writing materializes thanks to precipitations, withdrawals and unexpected events.
Enrico Pitozzi: The next question tries to lead you to another reflection; the concept of presence. From Fornication avec l’onde (1994) to Terrific Insularity of Mind (1995) and Epopteia (1999) to Midollo-Spalt (2004) and Ceremony of Innocence (2000-2001), which is the first part of the Corpus-Rekombinant series (2004-2006, its creation is not over), figurations and gradations of presence occur on stage: shadows, doubles, tracks of movement. Would you expand on that subject?
Ugo Pitozzi: The performative-installing section of my last creation, Corpus-Rekombinant is called Midollo-Spalt-Room #… (intimate atlas) and has been conceived for three spaces different from each other; every section implies an enquiry on amber as a gradation of presence.
The choreographic gesture becomes deposit of ruins that become amazing material, the audience and I detect as an addition a complex breath, remedy for a linguistic stupidity. Shadows, doubles, imperfect tracks, absences and turmoil: these are the primary figurations in relation with the traditional Wabi-Sabi of the ancient Japan.
Franca Bossalino writes in her book dedicated to the Estetica dell’imperfetto: “Everything unaccomplished, unfinished, imperfect is Wabi-Sabi; everything ambiguous and contradictory […] Wabi-Sabi is deep, multiform and elusive, it is the beauty of imperfection, of things not completely defined, temporary and unaccomplished […]”. [F. Bossalino, Wabi-Sabi e l’estetica dell’imperfetto, in “PPC Piano Progetto Città” n. 20-21, 2003, p. 52].
It is about composing with more and more essential forms. Such kind of composition is an expansion on an unstable edge in order to avoid arrogance and conquer decency. I try to tend to a world-body expressing its presence in a trembling of lost gestures. Such gestures attract each other producing emotion. That’s how my way to compose/write the body goes over my awareness which is one thing and a myriad of things at the same time.
I think that the only peculiarity of contemporary world is an eccentric relationship with the time we and the art work are living in: to be deracinè, free from the common sense. Most times, being compatible. I would like that we could use the same sudden words – almost a restricted Haiku of German rain – Wenders used in “The Sky over Berlin” “[…] un ange passé […]”, while watching and composing “dance”.
Enrico Pitozzi: Where will such quest lead you?
Ugo Pitozzi: If I will be able, to some kind of “presence of silence”, and gradation of emptiness