Between person and figure
Daria Deflorian and Antonio Tagliarini in conversation with Umberto Angelini, Artistic Director of Triennale Milano Teatro, talk about the creative process at the core of their work, their relationship with time and distance, the function of the theatre, and the directions that live performances may take in the near future.
Daria Deflorian e Antonio Tagliarini, Reality, photo by Silvia Gelli
“[Deflorian and Tagliarini are] Among the most original and interesting artists on the Italian and international scene, and among the most performed abroad. They’re artists with whom we’ve always loved working, and we hosted them at the Triennale last year, dedicating them a retrospective. This significant encounter started a journey that this year would have led to the debut of a co-production, where for the first time Daria and Antonio would have tackled a text not authored by them, but taken from Who Killed My Father, a book by young author Édouard Louis, which caused an uproar in France. The author is one of the most in vogue French intellectuals due to his radical positions that question social oppositions between the dominant and the dominated, which relate to the theme of class struggle. This is an issue that does not only concern the art world, but delves deeply into social dynamics, which are not just about a geographical contrast – between centre and periphery – but about a different way of approaching social relations. We will probably see it more in the coming months when the effects of the coronavirus will be more evident in terms of social inequalities. [...] Daria and Antonio's work is special, unique in the way they conceive being on stage, the relationship with the actors, and the spatiality of the stage.”
"We were considering how important it would be for Antonio and me to slow down, and the current situation made the thought even more relevant. To be involved in all our productions also as actors, being a largely independent company, has become more than a full-time job. We were wondering how to slow down without stopping. As I thought about this, I remembered and I started reading to Antonio some passages from Qui a tué mon père in French. [...] It was important for us to understand how to interweave our authorial habit into a process whose end we could already see, since we had decided to be faithful to the book. We discovered an interesting triangulation: I come from a poor family background, which reminded us of the same absence and hunger for culture; Francesco Alberici, the interpreter, shared the same age, anger and need to emerge, and Antonio shared the process of coming out to society and his family. Only by triangulating our experiences could the figure emerge".
"Meeting Édouard was beautiful. It was one of those encounters where formalities are quickly cast aside, and you start talking and getting to know each other. There was a mutual empathy among us."
"Édouard is an intellectual, a writer, but also a 30-year-old man open to the world, politically active, with very clear ideas. Because of this openness, he was happy to come see our work; he was curious, but also glad that his work could reach Italy. Édouard believes that culture and political action can really change people's lives".
"A feature of our creative process is to start from the encounter with another art object. The first one for us was Pina Bausch's show. Daria thinks of certain issues, then we mull them over among ourselves, and when we decide to work on something it must definitely be something that galvanises us. Beyond that object we intuit a space of investigation and deep exploration. Having an object in common helps us also to position ourselves according to our differences".
"It was very interesting when we came out of a purely dyadic relationship. They used to tell us, and we almost believed it too, that the immediacy of our way of being together was because of our friendship, our complicity, the uniqueness of the personal and working relationship between Antonio and me. When, in 2013, we did Ce ne andiamo per non darvi altre preoccupazioni [We're leaving so as not to worry you further] with Monica Piseddu and Valentino Villa we understood that we hadn’t stopped searching and building – with all the anomalies of the situation, since it's through the anomalies that new things are created. Even though Antonio and I are still the leaders, we have taken a further step towards an effortless way of proceeding and building a show. This presupposes something productively complex, a long stretch of time shared with everyone. [...] It's no longer just Antonio and me, and yet it's still Antonio and me."
"The relationship between figure and person changes with plans and, fortunately, sometimes it approaches the theatre lovingly, with open arms. We welcome the fact that we don’t always have to present ourselves on stage as Daria and Antonio, because what starts out as a freedom must itself become liberated, or it becomes another prison. Being able to finally cast off Daria and Antonio, and slide further into a dynamic relationship with figures that are not us, is a process of discovery. [..] We continue to work on this boundary, without ideology. Yet, moving towards the embracing of a figure other than myself, I can go back to being Daria. The work I do to distance myself falls back deeply into me."
"The moment of transformation of the inner, implicit dimension through the encounter with the audience is magical, complex, and entails suffering. We went on a journey, and at some point we have to share part of that journey with the someone, the audience, for whom we travelled. It's never just about tidying up, getting rid of some parts and choosing the most beautiful ones, but it's another creative moment, just like the first one. First you choose, then you have to concretise that vision."
Daria Deflorian e Antonio Tagliarini, Ce ne andiamo per non darvi altre preoccupazioni, photo by Claudia Pajewski
On the dynamics of theatre’s recovery as an art form that needs, more than others, the presence of the audience, Daria Deflorian argues: "It is not about giving a single answer, because theatre is made of many things, beyond the performance and the opening to the audience. This period could be the continuation of pre-existing plans that saw theatres as places where the performance is only one of the many forms of work they do in relation to their territory, their country and internationally. Then, there’s the matter of languages; what might work for the theatre that Antonio and I make might not be necessarily work for people who use other languages. This is a great poetic freedom, with dynamics that may involve other types of encounters – from digital ones to those with a single spectator, to any transformation of these limitations into forms of expression. We’re simply trying not to propose a single discourse, because that’s when discourse becomes paralysing. As Daria and Antonio we are choosing to take time, to make use of this slowing down in absolute terms, to wait before reopening any form of encounter. We need to bask in this time, because the kind of theatre we make is a theatre of presence, where the audience is a piece of the dramaturgy. It is difficult for us to go into an almost empty theatre: today, it is unimaginable. If this situation goes on much longer, it will become imaginable, but let's give ourselves time. Let's not pre-empt imagination."
"The theatre is a community place, and it should become even more so. Lately, I miss being within a place and experiencing it. The current situation has eliminated the encounter, which is the very essence of theatre. All this is making us reconsider the notion of time. [...] When we begin a project, we enter an unknown space, and it takes time to begin to understand. I compare it to the current situation: we don't know it, we have to give it time, and in the meanwhile keep acting. We need a balance."
Daria Deflorian and Antonio Tagliarini are authors, directors and performers. The first pièce born from their collaboration is from 2008: Rewind, omaggio a Cafè Muller [A homage to Cafè Müller] by Pina Bausch. Between 2010 and 2011 they worked on “Progetto Reality” [Project Reality], which led to two works: the performance czeczy/cose (2011) and the show Reality (2012), for which Daria Deflorian won the 2012 Ubu Award for Best Actress. Their Ce ne andiamo per non darvi altre preoccupazioni (2013) won the 2014 Ubu Prize for the best new Italian show, and the 2016 Critics' Award for the best foreign show in Québec, Canada. In 2018 they debuted two projects based on the film Deserto Rosso [Red Desert] by Michelangelo Antonioni: the performance Scavi [Excavations] and the show Quasi niente [Almost nothing], for which Gianni Staropoli won another Ubu for lighting design. In 2019 they won the Premio Riccione for playwriting.