The DEHORS/AUDELA project: theophany of the void

The DEHORS/AUDELA project: theophany of the void

Never as in the case of the DEHORS/AUDELA collective (Salvatore Insana and Elisa Turco Liveri) has the interview, as a dialogue form, been the most suitable means for correctly approaching the artistic work, overcoming the inevitable approximations of critical commentary and the curatorial constraints by which often artists are contrite. The level of awareness of the poetic gradient expressed by Salvatore Insana, videomaker, video artist and essayist, and by Elisa Turco Liveri, performer, dancer and choreographer, is so high that it does not require further critical details, except as an expression of personal emotions when we experience of their videos or experience their actions on stage firsthand. We cannot define DEHORS/AUDELA as a simple collective, rather a union between two artists who have made the movement an expressive and poetic paradigm. They explore every possibility intrinsic to the concept of movement whether it involves the dissolution of form or towards a rigid geometric and spatial relationship. Rather than drawing an impossible coherent line between the two dynamic phases of the movement, the artists simply observe the dichotomies suspended between the aesthetic and noetic plane, between emotional and sensorial solicitations on the one hand and architectural precision between inert and mobile volumes on the other.

DEHORS/AUDELA, “Municca”, 2017, video still, courtesy of the artists

Piero Deggiovanni: Movement, space, body. What are you looking for in the relationship between these elements?
DEHORS/AUDELA: We are looking for encounters, epiphanies, apparitions, the residual phantasmagoria that emerges in unexpected clashes/encounters between forms and volumes. We look for stumbles, temporary failures, flashes and unexpected revelations. We look for gaps, openings, the occasional and unrepeatable connection between pre-meditation, preparation and direct involvement. We are looking for collisions, erosion of boundaries, differences, examples of possible other cohabitation conditions, far from performance, from efficiency, from the author’s zenith dominion over nature. We look for surprises, but then we often find correspondences between human figures and architecture, between fields of vision and listening within which to interact on multiple levels. The body is always located in space and always in movement even in staticity. There are countless relationships between these three elements that constantly modify the state of presence. Perhaps the challenge we set ourselves is to grasp and bring out the most hidden layer. It is interesting to call them magnitudes, a term that indicates a measure, which as such can be calibrated and become smallness, invisibility. It is perhaps the invisible that we want to deal with and that we often look for in the configurations that we allow to emerge in the form of images or performative actions. An invisible that does not say, does not indicate, but holds together an ephemeral and lateral form albeit assertive in its indecipherability.

DEHORS/AUDELA, “Mezzanine Act 2”, 2020, video still, courtesy of the artists

You seem to move in an eternal oscillation between expressionist and conceptual gradients, between sensation and nous. In this way you insert an element of uncertainty and elusiveness into your work.
Preparing yourself to fully open your senses, as John Cage taught us, also means waiting for the unexpected, something that undermines the paradigm. There is a line of research within us that is closer to observational documentary, to visual anthropology. Then there is always an existential consequence, an investigation into our condition (current or non-current) which takes the form of wandering, urban drift and at the same time an analysis of the state of things (of devices, of words, of people, of their dynamics, of the transfer of biopolitics into an artistic research that is very clear about what to reject, even at the risk of marginalizing itself). But then sometimes there is also an intolerance towards the “real” as it is conventionally presented (as the tools at our disposal tend to standardize the aesthetic experience of reality) and then we make a discard, a displacement, a detournement, an incursion that corrupts the picture, that shatters the narrative, that stimulates the excellent nerve, that makes listening stumble, that invites disturbance, thinning, enigma. A militancy conducted through form. We live in the difference between wanting to live and wanting to understand.

I know you never talk about it, but in my opinion, your works often allude to something spiritual. I perceive respect for the ancient Mediterranean religions, for rites linked to the earth and nature. Is there any truth to it?
In Dehors/Audela there is a metaphorical and metaphysical push to literally go “outside/beyond”. Within this positioning (a posture of the soul that demands a certain rigor and that encourages us to think “beyond”) lies an anti-clerical, anti-sectarian and non-Catholic spiritualism. To find references in the art world, it’s a bit like putting together (and arguing) Andrej Tarkovskij and Stan Brakhage, Bill Viola and Werner Herzog, Jean-Luc Godard and James Benning, Nam June Paik and Mark Rothko, with an immense faith towards the ambiguity of images, between mysticism and iconoclasm, between ancestral drives and dematerialization tendencies, in a resolute and unresolved struggle for the survival of the uncanny. Ritual as a mechanism of movement and search for a perceptive elsewhere is a central point in our work, but never understood as dogma, rather as an attitude to observation, attention to signs, to writing the landscape which always indicates escape routes from reality.

DEHORS/AUDELA, “Sogno più non ricordo”, 2023, video still, courtesy of the artists

What about the interstices between montage and gesture?
There is a strange relationship between the gesture of the physical body and the gesture of the visual body. They are two wills, two languages that enter into a relationship with the form, with its contours and its consistency. It is therefore a matter of trying to understand the third language generated in the fusion between the two and the whole process consists of trying to understand this new language which holds the pieces together, but is not able to translate everything, and therefore, as you suggest, it gets lost in drifts, gets jammed and opens holes to see another image that we had not foreseen. If sometimes the continuity of the body’s action suggests longer times, for us it is above all in the interval that the “truth” emerges. In that moment, which is precisely threshold, interstice and lack. On the one hand there is the obsession with not losing anything, not even what dies. On the other hand there is the irresistible and enigmatic charm of that “outside” (from time, from the frame, from history) that the editing technique produces and induces, in the re-combination, in the cutting, in the intervention by accumulation or by subtraction of elements, sometimes isolating a gesture to enhance its significance. The gesture is linked to iconology, to painting, to photography, to the ability to fix through symbolic elements, but it is increasingly stripped of rhetoric, expression, intention. The editing also responds to a logic of sensation and an invitation to perception, rather than the need to develop a plot.

DEHORS/AUDELA, “La loro presente assenza”, 2020, video still, courtesy of the artists

The formalism implicit in the minimal gestures placed in relation to the geometries of the environments that inspired you renews the concept of perceptible and interpretable orthogonality precisely through action. Is this also a form of “disappearance” of the subject or does it place it at the center of the sense of space and movement?
In the beginning there is an exploration of the landscape, the habitat, the history and time of that given context, an anthropological attitude, but also an attention to the plasticity of the forms and their metamorphic relationship. There are architectures of bodies that are sometimes inserted into those environments, living bodies that pulsate, with a certain compositional restlessness compared to the immobility of the buildings. Exalting movement, amplifying it, placing it within a system of motionless, cold, static objects. Temporary housing solutions sometimes arise from the meeting, capable of renewing the relationship between the living and the non-living. Between verbal and oxymorons of meaning, a game of space-time paradoxes is somehow activated, managed by the point of view (the shot) and the position and posture of the body within this “picture”… symbiosis rather than mimicry, but also a game of the infrasubtle, of stimulating attention towards the “I don’t know what” or towards the “almost nothing”.

Elisa, how do your environmental choreographies, set in forests and abandoned industrial buildings, come about?
Over the years I have experimented and gone through different types of physical “training”, that is, very different workouts. In my works I make use of different tools to direct and question the body, to then relocate that type of thrust into the space that welcomes me and into the idea of permeability, in the elimination between inside and outside. These practices include the space and elements that surround me, because my body does not end with my skin, but continues into the earth, leaves and buildings. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I listen and wait, without imposing my will. Then during the editing phase I take back the reins and implement a choreographic choice, then a writing one.

DEHORS/AUDELA, “Vacuum”, 2018, video still, courtesy of the artists

In those of your works in which editing does not play a main expressive role – therefore fixed camera works, which give everything to action and nothing to expression – are verifications of the space-body relationship illustrated as an art of behavior, or is it a simple process imitative of conceptual alignment with the geometries present in the environment, perhaps even with an ironic spirit?
There is, as already mentioned, a desire to test what a body can do in a given habitat, or how it can be inhabited or uninhabited outside the rules of efficiency and spectacle. Somehow some of our works indicate ways, attitudes, postures. They signal gaps, suggest paths. Sometimes these are attempts to exhaust a given space (see Georges Perec, but also Bruce Nauman, or, ironically, Ugo La Pietra), in which the temporal and sound dimensions become protagonists. Irony is certainly there, as a weapon of Duchampian displacement, an opening of the senses, as a dismantling of certainties, as incompatibility and disbelief with respect to dominant aesthetic standards. We declare ourselves far from glossy progressivism and disguised careerism, we are neither trend riders nor overriders of principles, nor direct affirmers, nor counterintuitive provocateurs, but lateral. In recent days, on the occasion of a performative restaging, we have rediscovered and faced again the work of Claude Cahun with which we had confronted almost ten years ago. In one of his pamphlets (the poem keeps its secret), at a certain point he says, in reference to indirect action, the only one he says is effective: «It’s about giving the initial push and letting go. This forces the reader to do it himself, more than he would have liked. All exit routes have been carefully closed, but they are left with the task of opening the front door».

DEHORS/AUDELA, “Aporia”, 2019, video still, courtesy of the artists

Among your most recent works, Voragine (2024) stands out, which particularly intrigued me because, unlike the geometric “rigidity” of other works, here the gestures suggest a “sluggishness”, a tiredness of the body amplified by the placid viriditas of the countryside near Rome, which however hides a danger: a gash in the ground similar to a secondary entrance to the underworld. A classical philologist, according to my imagination, secretly photographs the scene of a listless goddess. Has something changed in your relationship with the external environments or is it a simple interpretation of the landscape?
In the case of Voragine, perhaps more than previously, we let the spirit of the place pass through us. Here the levels have become more brittle, more rounded. Working within a fracture of the earth, in addition to numerous metaphorical connotations, brings with it an energy of rare intensity. Dealing with the sublime cannot leave one indifferent. It can cause hallucinations, delusions, a reduction in one’s position in the world. More than tiredness, it was always a predisposition to listening through the body. By placing the body directly in relation with the geological stratifications, in some way, we tried to approach another era, jump into another dimension, at once archaic, bucolic, ancestral, but also so constantly alive and present.

In addition to video and video performance, you bring bodies and devices to the stage in order to create theatrical works. I find this natural and consequential. However, in that context, the “expressionist” part or the dissolution of forms and environments is not possible without the aid of a screen on which to project a video. How do you deal with similar problems and how do you plan to overcome them in a real space?
In addition to video, the element capable of transforming the scene is light, a lighting technique that reveals and hides, which enhances details and postures and hides stories. In a project like Aporie, even the temporal element, expressed in a cyclical form (All my loops for you) or in an extremely dilated form (Aptica), contributes to a remanipulation of the forms. Due to a progressive convergence of factors drastically adverse to a high-level technological system, live entertainment increasingly puts us to the test, pushing us towards a subtraction of elements that leads research towards the essential. Subtracting elements then becomes a Bressonian exercise to concentrate on bodies alone, on the thrill of doing things in that moment.

DEHORS/AUDELA, “CC – Claude Cahun Contre Culture”, 2016, video still, courtesy of the artists

The researcher, critic and curator Silvia Grandi, observing the current trends in the creative use of the body, has formulated the apt definition “clothed performance” in relation to the fact that body artists now act wearing clothes that perform a symbolic function, exactly like sacred religious or shamanic vestments. It seems to me that, at least in some cases, especially in Elisa’s live performative actions, you are in line with this definition. Is it correct?
In the video works, always starting from the idea of ​​a symbiotic body with respect to the environment, the clothes are chosen in relation to the colors and textures of the surrounding elements. In particular, the chromatic choice aims to maintain a certain balance or contrast of the action with respect to the space. In performative actions the choice of dress changes depending on the project. In any case, functionality always takes over. As far as I’m concerned, I prefer the sensorial, tactile aspect to which the fabrics refer, for example in Aptica we used a series of checked shirts, which refer to a certain idea of ​​rural America, but also of nineties grunge, in any case something modest, but at the same time warm and reassuring, capable of generating very interesting geometric patterns on a visual level. The dress allows you to condense the concept into aesthetics.

DEHORS/AUDELA, “Voragine”, 2024, video still, courtesy of the artists

With the monographic exhibition dedicated to the DEHORS/AUDELA project held in CAOS museum in Terni, curated by Pasquale Fameli, you had to relate to the installation, that is, to a use of space that is not really up your alley. It seems interesting to me, therefore, to know how you lived that experience and whether it will be an incentive for other installation adventures in the future.
Installation is certainly a further verification of the expressive possibilities of our production. Building habitats, “inhabiting” the environments and making them come alive through our images, our sounds, our visions, should perhaps be the most appropriate destination for some of our projects, those that most interact with the temporal dimension and with plastic and spatial volumes. Even some of the performative projects often veer towards a possible installation quality. So certainly the will is there, what is missing are the spaces that want to give us trust, resources and the time to experiment with objects and devices in this field too.



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