Romina de Novellis is presenting her latest exhibition at the Parisian Roynette gallery (October 16th – November 29th) entitled « To be or not to be », which will make her work dialogue with Bill Viola’s, who she met last year for his retrospective at the Grand Palais.
Romina de Novellis is a multidisciplinary artist who started as a professional dancer. Her performances questions the concept of body in procession and exposed in public space under the eyes of people passing by.
Artsper had the chance to ask her a few question on the diversity of her work and her upcoming exhibition in relation with Bill Viola.
Artsper : This year you are presenting an exhibition of your work confronted to you Bill Viola’s -who you had the chance to meet last year: can you tell about the connections between your performances and Bill Viola’s video art?
Romina de Novellis : The encounter of my work as a performance artist and Bill Viola’s video art revealed some common ground such as our influence of Renaissance Italian painting and the place of the individual in our approach and body of work.
Artsper : What kind of dialogue do you wish to install between « Silent Life », « Fase Rem » and « Augurii », the two performances that you will show at the Laure Roynette gallery? What do these three artworks have in common ?
Romina de Novellis :« Silent Life » refers to birth as an experience and trauma: the body imposes itself, it is the only thing that we are conscious of once expelled from our mother’s womb. “Fase Rem” refers to utopian life, the one we dream of and the symbol of social representation that we all project around us to be able to live our life. “Augurri” refers to the end of utopia, death, the moment when we return to being just bodies, without projections of ourselves.
Artsper : A taste for living painting is something that you share with Bill Viola, but your performances are more physical in the sense that they expose bodies more vulnerably, in the footsteps of Marina Abramovic: what do you owe to this great performer? Who are some of the artists who inspired your own practice?
Romina de Novellis : I admire Marina Abramovic for her patience! She waited long years before being recognized as the “grandmother of performance art”. Her art, her success, her person as a woman, have aged along with her body before becoming the great “Marina Abramovic”. Nude performance reveals the richness and frustration of time, a time that passes sometimes too fast, sometimes never. I feel very close to Pina Bausch, Pasolini, Fellini, Caravaggio and Giotto.
Artsper: Your path is incredibly diverse: dance, theatre, musicology, anthropology, sociology etc. You are the epitome of a multidisciplinary artist. Can you explain us how all these puzzle pieces fit together to shape the artist you are today?
Romina de Novellis : You gave me the answer, I am a real puzzle! And I recognize myself in every piece. When I order them, they fit perfectly together and the coherence of the whole become obvious.
Artsper : Your performances talk about the imprisonment of bodies, states of trance and vulnerability: why are these topics fundamental for you?
Romina de Novellis : We are all victims of our bodies in trance – through the intense pace of our daily life- and we are all imprisoned by our personal and professional choices. So those topics are not mine, they affect each and every one of us!
Artsper : The duration and slow pace of your performances induce a secondary state of mind for the spectator as well as the performing artist: how do you prepare yourself for that kind of experience? Spectators look at you, but you look at them too: what goes on in your mind?
Romina de Novellis : There is not even one second of trance on my side during my performances! I am a dancer so I train every day in order for my body to not suffer and for the spectator not to read my exhaustion. I am not victim of my actions, I am the actor of them. The spectator is actor too: he chooses the time he wants to give me and my performances. We are in a relationship, it is a dialogue.
Artsper : Can you tell us about the notion of « presence » in your performances : yours, spectators’… what happens from you to them ?
Romina de Novellis : I would rather talk about the « crisis of presence » in my performances. This argument is not new, since it was first introduced by the anthropologist Ernesto De Martino in his book on the “tarantismo” in South Italia. The crisis of presence is a state of fact, a common experience for the performer and the spectator. During a performance, we are the mirror of one another.
Artsper : You are naked, entirely or partly for a large number of your performances, you expose yourself entirely to spectators: what is nudity for you, as a woman and in your art ? Did you ever feel that it put you in danger?
Romina de Novellis : I would feel way more in danger with a luxury bag or shoes because I would fear to be stolen! I produced about 50-60 performances between 2006 and 2015 and I am naked for only about ten. So it is not that much… Nudity is important when one questions the body. In this case, it is not about being naked but unveiling yourself. It is not a problem to be naked per se, the problem is about whether spectators think it is one or not.
Pasolini said: refusing to be scandalized is a moral attitude. Moral determines if my body is naked or if I am simply unveiling myself. Our values shape our perception!
Artsper : Today internet is a critical tool for communication and sales on the art market. However performance art is hard to market online: how do you perceive the effects of this phenomenon on your practice?
Romina de Novellis : I do not have a website, only a Facebook page and an email address, to stay in touch with my faraway friends. There are a lot of “want to be” performers on social networks and I would support them a great deal if they stopped performing virtually to finally live the real life.
There is no impact on my practice. In the virtual society in which we are living, it is simply absurd to keep doing performance art, which is why I do it. Because it is incoherent.
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