Beyond the threshold

Outside the door are the others. Yes, but for those outside the door, or behind other doors, we are the others. Beyond the hedge, beyond the border, are the neighbours, for whom it doesn’t take much to become unwieldy, dangerous, enemies. And we too, inside, or outside knocking to enter, are on the other side. The door, the hedge, the boundary multiply in the plural: gates, hedges, borders, ports, tolls, crossings, walls, hills, mountains, mountain ranges, rivers, horizons, curtains… And it is not certain that someone is behind one of those crossings. If there is someone, what are they like? Similar or different, friendly or threatening, cumbersome, annoying?

As always, Antonio Rezza and Flavia Mastrella’s latest show, HỲBRIS, is ontological and humorous, nonsensical and realist, psychoanalytical and lunar, moody. Enclosed in a rectangle whose edges are simply drawn on the ground and therefore forever crossable, it implies a refrigerated environment for the preservation of the species, equipped with some comforts for periods of long confinement, open to the infinite abjection, laughter, paradox, stratospheric and irrepressible acceleration, torment and the anthropological gaze.

Doors, doors, so many possible doors we see, represented by a single door and its frame that’s light and mobile, which the cruel puppet, the Artaud-esque Petrolini that Rezza moves through the space, imagining infinite interiors where we close ourselves off, protect ourselves, console ourselves, barricade ourselves, reassure ourselves, and likewise infinite exteriors where we disseminate ourselves, where we multiply life. “The door has lost its room and its meaning; it opens on nothing and closes on nothing,” we read in one of the authors’ writings. The door always makes us imagine other worlds; and occasionally we may even slam it in someone’s face.

In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare has the simpleton artisans intent on preparing a messy play for the rulers’ wedding, and they say that a wall can be created with an actor painted white: he will open two fingers to signify the hole through which the two ill-fated lovers Pyramus and Thisbe speak to each other. His entire play consists of a few places, which derive meaning through the actors’ words and spatial relationships.

Flavia Mastrella has always invented soft environments made of cloth or more resistant materials, such as the edicolette of Anelante, offering them as habitats for Antonio Rezza’s stage life. From time to time, he panders to those habitats or fights against them, deforming himself in the holes of the cloths, wiggling and running between slides, wrapping himself in canvases to split himself in two – on one side or the other – to represent two figures in one or the two souls of one figure.

Expressionist Cubism, with lots of theatre of cruelty, with naive, wicked, cynical, sadistic voices and stentors, depicting us as we are: ugly, dirty (despite abusing deodorants and perfumes), bad.

In HỲBRIS, anthropology dominates, in the exhilarating breakdown of parental relationships, in the bewilderment of friend or family visits, of being outside or being inside, to the denial of presence, saying simply: you have not walked through the door, and you are not there. “Opening the door on others’ uncertainties, ambiguity, insecurity of being and pettiness of being. Whoever stands in one spot dictates the law in that spot,” it reads.

Rezza is surrounded by as many presences as ever: a chorus that often indulges him without words or with few words, representing the tendency, the need to obey an overbearing figure. Rezza moves others with actions and overflowing words, making his stage companions uncomfortable, categorising them, refusing them, in a great amusement park or playground in which he, like a terrible child, a fierce child tyrant representing humanity in a nutshell, manipulates everything, authorising or denying, stimulating or restraining, until he makes others lose their minds, speeding them up as in a comical silent movie.

But doors, we know, are not only those we see in our homes, in buildings, offices, cars, places of gathering or absence. There are those of the mind and others that project us into unknown dimensions, turning us into shadows. They can plunge us into many a frightening beyond, from which we do not know if we can return. There may even be a coffin on stage or a cage or we don’t know what else: this show – long prepared and interrupted by an eviction from the place where Rezza and Mastrella traditionally rehearsed and then by the closed door that was pandemic – involves at the time of writing (early March) still a long process of work before its debut at Spoleto.

The creations of these two individuals, who have received the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale, have a gestation period of years. And then they explode like bombs as they perform the many miseries of our species, insane and tribal under hypermodern sequins. They create worlds with Flavia Mastrella’s habitats, seemingly simple but capable of creating endless possibilities through a metaphorical visual language and Antonio Rezza’s energetic, hyperkinetic and hyperverbal force. They make us laugh and drag us into abysses where loss can be a multiplication in obsessive, out-of-time, daily savage characters, as in that comical essay of human palaeoanthropology that is Pitecus. It can be egotistical concentration as in Io, mathematical delirium as in 7-14-21-28, existential and psychological bewilderment as in the broken one of Fratto_X, it can be a frantic race toward goals that can never be reached and are surely useless as in Anelante. It can become a mobilized, film-like ballet as in the shorts and features, most recently Samp, a killer against traditions in a brightly coloured videogame Puglia, presented at the Venice Days. It can be provocation with the camera wielded like a weapon as in the interviews in Troppolitani or Milan, via Padova. It can become a kaleidoscope of various broken selves as in the books, led by titles such as So(N)no, Credo in un solo oblivion, Clamori al vento and La noia incarnita.

Beyond the doors that you will see opening and closing on various spaces, so many that it gives you vertigo, to set in motion the fear of change, to plunge into a multiplicity that makes one fear the spread of nothingness, beyond the doors we glimpse a human sacrifice. It is that of all of us, after all, bourgeoisies in search of reassurance and distraction, and of the authors, the modelling artist and the wonderful cruel puppet, the deliberating Pinocchio poet, the actor and performer together. The splendour of the body in motion, hindered but never tamed, humbly offers itself to our beastly eye, unleashing torrents of laughter that often mean that we recognize ourselves too much in that lamb brought to the mental slaughter and always pretend to delude ourselves that it narrates not us but those others who stand there, beyond the threshold.

Massimo Marino