Never before has the home been a place of protection where we can – and must – take refuge to stay safe. The historical period we are experiencing forces us under our roofs, making us rediscover a domestic dimension that seemed lost in the frenzy of global life. But for many women the shelter turns into a prison. Faced with the growth in violence against women, which occurred exponentially during the months of the first lockdown, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez launches the Mascarilla 19 campaign: a secret code that allows women victims of violence to go to the pharmacy and request a “19” to report the abuses suffered. Inspired by this SOS, the In Between Art Film foundation, founded by Beatrice Bulgari, launched the Mascarilla 19 – codes of domestic violence project: eight artists and three curators have been involved in the making of films on gender violence, presented during Schermo dell’Arte festival, which this year took place online from 10 to 14 November.
For the occasion, the artist Elena Mazzi, supported by curator and feminist activist Paola Ugolini, made the film Muse. In the spaces of Palazzo Grimani in Venice, Elena Mazzi sets the story of a mysterious woman, whom we will never see, but whose story metaphorically overlaps with classical mythology. As it is characteristic of her modus operandi, the artist starts from a space of which she does not give us a complete vision. The Muse film unfolds through details, visual and auditory juxtapositions: corners of a domus, a candid light, a tribune of statues and a narrative voice that guides us in the realization that “since the myths men and gods are hunters and girls prey”.
Muse stages the ancient roots of gender-based violence, narrating it through the words of the palace maid who discovers the archaic secrets kept by the ancient statues. These are imperfect statues, all of which have suffered visible damage on their white skin: they are scarred, worn, limbs amputated, crumbled. Danae, Callisto, Leda, Europa, Arethusa, Elettra, Cassandra, immortalized in marble and stone, perpetrate their stories of rats, violence and rape in the present. The loss of virginity is imposed by a god, who is often Zeus, father of all the gods, who does nothing but transform them into simple sexual objects, turning them into animals and taking away their humanity. While the nature of women is something that must be tamed, that of men is close to the divine and for this reason they lend themselves to a different destiny. As pointed out by the artist herself during the online conference held on November 14, the Grimani tribune, in its setting, shows this difference in an emblematic way: the only male rat present is that of Ganymede, but this is suspended, raised, becoming the central point of the grandstand itself. Are we facing a deconstruction of classicism? By creating a parallelism between past and present, mythology and reality, Elena Mazzi confronts us with the evidence of how gender-based violence is inherent in society, it is a cultural substratum that has its roots on an extremely male-dominated and patriarchal civilization such as that Greek.
The idea of showing domestic violence through the mythological metaphor joins the desire to broaden the imagination that is inevitably created when talking about the topic. Elena Mazzi thus decides to set the project in a wealthy context, highlighting how it is not a problem relegated only to the less well-off classes, but can affect any woman. With extreme visual delicacy, Muse abstracts pain making it invisible to the eye; but we can perceive it in the soul for the growing pathos in the music, in the excitement of the narrating voice and in the tension of the fast-paced shots that direct themselves to the sculptural gazes, incarnations of violence and fragility. Faced with a social and cultural plot embroidered with the thread of hatred (or fear?). Towards women, the responsibility of awakening consciences against such deep-rooted violence that seems normalized to the point of being, in some cases, denied. Elena Mazzi’s film breaks the rhetoric of art for art and, imposing itself with all the lyricism typical of artistic vehemence, shakes society.
For all the images: Elena Mazzi, Muse, 2020. Video 4K, 13’ 30’’. Courtesy l’artista, galleria Ex Elettrofonica e Fondazione In Between Art Film
Graduated from the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Enhancement of Cultural Heritage with a thesis on the relationship between art and the absence of sight, she is now attending the II level academic diploma course in Visual Cultures and Curatorial Practices. Accumulating experience thanks to the collaboration with various realities such as museums, F.A.I., academic activities, she is interested in the field of cultural journalism and pursues the desire to investigate contemporary art in all its forms.