© Andrea Macchia
Tracking the Darkness: A Conversation with Annamaria Ajmone
April 5 2022
A conversation between the scholar Giada Cipollone and artist Annamaria Ajmone, an associate artist of Triennale Milano Teatro.
Out of the darkness a scene emerges. Visual uncertainty activates our other senses and our imagination’s ability to relate differently. This article will attempt to explore the subject of darkness, along the path set by La notte è il mio giorno preferito (Night is my favorite day) by Annamaria Ajmone, on stage at FOG Triennale Milano Performing Arts on April 6 and 7. Between tracks and encounters, attempts and failures, this stage play explores the relationship with otherness, be it animal, plant, or non-human. A hidden ecosystem that becomes inhabited and leaves traces, especially at night.
Darkness, the condition for the emerging of the scene, is a space where the perceptive system can venture and experiment. Darkness demands a break, a suspension, redefining the hierarchy of the senses: the withdrawal of sight prescribes a new configuration of space, which removed from the control of the eye is associated with uncertainty, fear, but also with dreams, transformations and inversions. Inside the theatre, the absence of light sets a threshold, a transition from everyday reality to a hidden and possible world taking shape on stage. Imitating the appearance of the night, darkness nullifies information and sets the scene for other – different – encounters that our daytime habits make inaccessible.
Two forces, those of day and night, that compensate and face each other, in an unequal way, with conflicting weapons and strategies: on the one hand, the intrusive and blinding forces of light, of “Ego”, of doing, of activity; on the other, the marginal and resistant forces of darkness, of otherness, of silence and waiting. What would happen if, in a counter-offensive, the balance of power were to be inverted?
© Andrea Macchia
“Night is my favorite day” are words from a letter by Emily Dickinson, written in the silence and solitude of the dark room where she had decided to withdraw due to her photophobia condition. If light is a pathogenic agent, darkness becomes a safe and welcoming place, which activates – when the ticking of the world stops – other poetic forms to pronounce itself, to create, to intercept new forms of relationship and desire.
Referencing Dickinson, La notte è il mio giorno preferito (The night is my favorite day) is the title of Annamaria Ajmone’s new work, on stage at FOG Triennale Milano Performing Arts on April 6 and 7. Written and produced with Natália Trejbalová (visual artist), Stella Succi (researcher), Giulia Pastore (light designer), Jules Goldsmith (costume designer), and Flora Yin-Wong (sound artist), this project stems from the desire to explore the relationship with otherness; with a non-human animal or botanical other looked at not as a landscape to conquer and photograph with a tourist mindset, but as a hidden ecosystem open to cohabitation.
To prepare the show, the team organized a residency in Val d’Illiez and Jura, in Switzerland: in order to connect to the environment, their research activity was not along the lines of a Sunday logic outing, but ventured into nocturnal tracking. As described by Baptiste Morizot in On the Animal Trail, tracking is a practice to “activate in oneself the powers of a different body”, to cross the territory, borrowing in a non-appropriative way the body and perspective of another being, who configures the world differently. In the same way, tempted by some of these tracks, this article attempts to follow (with no spoilers) a few subtle traces of La notte è il mio giorno preferito, freely and partially losing its way among the readings and the words donated in the dialogue by Annamaria Ajmone and the visual and sound documents that on the artist’s website create an interactive and moving archive.
"If light is a pathogenic agent, darkness becomes a safe and welcoming place, which activates other poetic forms to pronounce itself, to create, to intercept new forms of relationship and desire."
© Andrea Pizzalis
As part of another project, a night call practice is established during lockdown: on a full moon, a group of people look out the window of a dark room and howl. Finding number one: a howl – the hypothesis of an encounter with the other that is not mediated by classic codes of communication but by other, no less relational, signs. Finding number two: Jean-Christophe Bailly’s Le parti pris des animaux invites us to consider not the portion of the night world outside the window as a visible image, but as a vibration, to which we can gain access by putting aside the human way of looking and listening. Confusing the senses, the visible and the invisible: animals do not lend themselves to regimes of integral and unconditional visibility, as they would be forced to do in a zoo, but linger in the intimacy of the hidden. Remain waiting for a prolonged time, to lurk, to wait for sounds and noises, movements and minimal touches: a footprint, whether clear or latent, in any case opens up a viable path.
A pause, a break, total darkness that splits the space in half. Finding number one: a red pointer. Parks at night are watched by cameras, which detect body heat variations, recording the contrasts; an object that is also used in tracking and originally intended for military purposes, it is used for border control. These images detecting heat are a reminder that there is nothing innocent or romantic about tracking. Nature is not a classical ideal. Finding number two: the eyes of the wolf. Tracking implies being trackable. Tracking is in fact a non-hierarchic, symmetrical practice. Wolf pups respond to howls as to a childish seduction, they follow the sound whereas adults do not. And they can draw close, even much closer: wolves, writes Morizot, master “the conjuring art of misdirection, of diversion”, they are not afraid to get closer because, at any moment, they can disappear leaving no trace. If the encounter does happen, the wolf like other animals spontaneously looks into the eyes of the other, and not by chance: the eyes in the dark are just holes, tangible elements common to all animals that look. Then some run away or disappear.
The beam of red light activates escape, dance, body work. Every movement is an attempt to become, try and quit. How to become the other without representing it, without imitating it, without reconstructing it with the imagination, in a gap between practice and imitation is a technical matter. The happy art of failure. The attempt lasts for a set time, then it comes to a halt and then begins again. Tracking first and foremost is a trial-and-error process, tracking is not an exact science, it does not have the desire to come to an end but to seek further. There is no beginning and there is no end, only an interruption: the body becomes nothing but itself.
One single finding: the tongue. A material sign but also a symbol of language, a poking-out tongue. A limit, a physical constraint that organizes the thought of body and movement, dictates without speaking a way of building. The tongue is the tactile organ of the woodpecker, who perceives the tree trunk with a simple touch: this memory becomes an activation expedient. A technology that triggers the desire for mutation. And this is the last trace.
© Andrea Pizzalis
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