This project stems from the need to conceive a multimedia and multidisciplinary creation of video art and live music. Starting from the work of the painter Artemisia Gentileschi (Rome 1593 – Naples ca. 1656), it aims to analyze some features of the painting and music of the early Italian Baroque, highlighting their creative specificities and their emotional substrate.
Daughter of Orazio Gentileschi (one of the first Italian Caravaggesque painter), Artemisia was only remembered, until a few decades ago, for the scandal of the rape trial – filed against Agostino Tassi, one of her father artistic partners, who raped her when she was seventeen – and she had to wait over three hundred years to see her value as a painter fully recognized.
The high quality of Artemisia as an artist was revalued by Roberto Longhi for the first time, followed by various studies and exhibitions since 1991. The big exhibition (perhaps the most complete to date) held in Milan at Palazzo Reale from 22nd September 22nd 2011 to January 29th 2012, and then in Paris (Musée Maillol), has given back to the artist full dignity.
The duration of the performance is 1 h. 15 mn. On stage, a group of 13 musicians (playing on period instruments) and a singer performs music by Monteverdi, Luigi Rossi, B. Strozzi, Kapsberger, Trabaci, Merula, Landi, Castello, Fontana. The 13 pieces performed correspond to the 13 chapters of the video, running on a 6 m. by 3.3 m. screen. Spellbinding music, images and telling blend into an indissoluble theatrical plot of great emotional impact.
To evoke through images such an emblematic figure, whose iconographic production, already of extreme power and originality by itself, was immediately linked in the collective imagination to the wild scenarios of a stormy and violent life, is a challenge. To conceive a visual device able to create dialogue with early music, trying to strike a balance without imposing itself as dominant medium is another challenge. Anagoor, in tight collaboration with Accademia d’Arcadia, collects these challenges and designs a device that gives off a great vision in concert with the music. Thirteen chapters, as thirteen frames of a lifetime, embrace musical pieces by Monteverdi, Merula, Strozzi, Landi, Rossi, Falconieri, Fontana, Trabaci, and translate their melancholic, violent or buoyant mood, inextricably linking them to Gentileschi’s pictorial themes and to an artistic gesture, set on fire by an angry power, whose echo remains as a ghost after many centuries.
While celebrating the importance of Artemisia as a painter, now emancipated from the scandalous aspects of her life and independent from the artistic influence of her father, Anagoor chooses, as usual in its production, not to separate art from life, trying not to force the artistic act in aseptic corners. Instead it prefers to tune itself to the keynote that lies beneath and ties together the choice of the compositions, the themes and the colours: a downright thunder that, even though not necessarily linked to the traumatic event, tells about human sorrow which often pervades an artistic gesture. Anagoor’s aim is to create a maze of images that reveals, in the tangle, the power of a blossoming flower born from mourning, coercion and blood.
Excellent lutenist, fond of music, Artemisia Gentileschi had relationships with famous musicians of her time. The music program follows Artemisia’s life through her stays in the major Italian cities (Rome, Florence, Venice and Naples) and features pieces by composers who were working in those cities in the same years. The most representative composers and pieces had been selected in order to better present an aesthetic and emotional path, which is also evoked by the narration of the video installation.
The first three decades of the century, gradually turning from the late Renaissance aesthetics, develop a whole new language and therefore represent one of the most important period for music, a period in which Italian music creates new forms, far from the classical aesthetics and its old rules (the birth of monody and opera, the use of open forms, the development of instrumental music, the theory of affetti, the attention to the declamated text, the dramatization, the development of a new harmonic language, the opening of the first public theatres are all examples of a musical world plunged into an huge whirl of deep aesthetical and linguistic changes, which, altough resulting in large part from the development and practices of the previous period, mark in many ways the beginning of the modern era, in the belief that music can “move the affections” and excite emotions).
The aesthetics of the early XXVII century Baroque elaborates the very refusal of rules and certainties, looking for their asymmetry, seeking contradiction, astonishment and surprise: music and art shape the Infinite and its quest through the principle of wonder, an abundant use of the metaphor and symbols, the illusion of dream and the prospect of a universal metamorphosis of reality. This kind of music often prefers the bizarre and the “extravagant”, alternating contrasts and dissonances within a free form which rejects symmetry: this art wants to amaze, intimidate, move, arouse passions and asks for partecipation.
It is a music in perpetual tension, which often represents a transgressive and extreme culture, thus displaying features that inextricably tie it to Artemisia’s aesthetic themes.
Accademia d’Arcadia – Anagoor