valentina medda

2018

From : Bologna
To: Beirut

The Last Lamentation

Visual Arts

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How did this grant contribute to the realization of your project in regard to artistic exchange, local cultural development and/or the promotion of cultural diversity?

When I was granted the residency at BAR, and consequently the RCF mobility grant, I had been looking for opportunity to support my project “The last Lamentation” for almost 2 years. The Last Lamentation -a participatory performance/video on the subject of the people dying in the Mediterranean Sea- it’s meant to be performed in different cities along the mediterranean coast. Beginning the project in Beirut, among all other Mediterranean cities, proved to be essential not only for the project, but also for me as an artist and an individual. The cultural diversity that characterises Lebanon, with its 18 different religious sects and the complexity of its history and politic, bettered my understanding of the Lebanese and Middle Eastern culture; while the generosity, availability and openness of the local art community plaid a key role in making the project successful. Due to the multidisciplinary nature of my project, I had the chance to collaborate with several institutions, meet several other artists and journalists and work with several women and female performers, laying the ground for some future collaborations. The diverse origins of the women who took part of my performance -who happened to be Lebanese as well as Palestinian, Sirian and even Italian and American- created a temporary community in which we exchanged our art knowledge as well as our political thoughts and our life experiences. My quest for the stage customs led me to Creative Space Beirut -a not for profit fashion design school offering free education to unprivileged kids and refugees. CSB supported the project by lending me the dresses for the performance, and following that, we started planning a future collaboration with their students. My personal network of contacts helped me to navigate through the beautiful complexity of the city, to make new friends and to meet again people I had meet and known in other part of the world. Among them, artist fellow and American University of Beirut teacher Heather O’Brien -who invited me to give a lecture to her students and who’s getting me involved in an international project about the Mediterranean Sea. Beirut proved to be a place where the local and the global dimension meet affect and influence each other constantly, and reminded me of the importance to always value both perspectives in order to keep promoting a constant dialogue and a healthy community.

How does exchange, networking and international contacts contribute to the development of your artistic and cultural project?

My international network, one that I built thorough my years spent living and working abroad -in Europe, American and now Asia- proved to be essential during my time in Beirut. Although BAR staff was amazingly supportive, I wouldn't have been able to realise such an ambitious project in only 6 weeks, in a place that I did not know before, if I hadn’t had a lot of personal and professional contacts. From friends who helped looking for the performers to peers who introduced me to other local artists, all the way through friends of friends who helped taking pictures, borrowed me their cameras and showed me around the city, every contacts that I had proved to be essential and reminded how big and strong and amazing my network is, and how important it is to keep it that way in order to be able to do our projects everywhere. I am expecting this network to also work toward the further developing of the project, giving me the resources to bring The Last Lamentation abroad, and to exchange my experience and knowledge to other people.

Can you elaborate on the learning and knowledge you have gained and shared throughout this experience?

Although in ways I cannot fully explain nor understand yet, I know that the time I spent in Beirut was life changing. The last lamentation –the piece I have worked on while a resident a BAR– is a short video where a group of women are performing a series of gestures inspired by the ancient tradition of professional mourning, as a way to mourn the people who are dying in the Mediterranean. Due to the participatory nature of this project, the subject its focused on, and the ritual that inspired it, I happened to talk and meet with several local people, art professionals as well as students and journalists. Not only, in fact, I was looking for women who could participate to my video, but I was also looking for the professional mourners themselves, old women who are depositary of an ancient traditions that is common to all the Mediterranean countries. This quest gave me the amazing opportunity to have a grasp on the social and political complexity of the city, the country and the Middle East itself, with its millenary culture, its several religious sects, its perpetual conflicts. For my part, what I shared with the participants was my artistic experience, my research about the mourners, and my physical theatre knowledge. Participants to the project received a short physical training during a one day workshop where we worked on rhythm, synchronism, improvisation,but also leadership and listening. For most of them, who were not professionals, the workshop was their first opportunity to ever work with their bodies, and in general to collaborate with an artist. The intensity of the experience also create a bond in between the participants providing them with a new network that they will hopefully keep nourishing.

Please indicate a link to your current work (website/facebook page)

http://www.valentinamedda.com




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