dialogue with nicola pianzola on his project megalopolis

Nicola Pianzola is driven by his passion for experiments in theatre & performer’s techniques. He is a physical theatre artist & lives in Bologna, Italy. Nicola along with Anna Dora Dorno, are the founder of Instabili Vaganti, an experimental theatre group which they started in 2004. Since then Instabili Vaganti have gone on to become one of the most appreciated physical theatre  groups in Europe, South America and Asia.

Instabili’s first visit to India was in the year 2015, as they collaborated with Culture Monks (The Arshinagar Project), for a series of performances of Made in ILVA, in the major Indian cities & a work session at Shanitniketan, West Bengal.

MEGALOPOLIS, is one of Instabili Vaganti’s, most interesting interdisciplinary and cross cultural projects, largely with the student community in universities across the globe,  which deals with the emerging cultural  crisis in cities, as they are immersed in the meta-narrative of globalization. The void is evident, as individuals and communities come to terms with the ethical, philosophical and creative chasms caused by shifting paradigms, and which an artist & performer needs to confront, in order  to create anew. Perhaps an incident or event may act as the catalyst or opportunity to express & in this MEGALOPOLIS project equips the performer to express, in the language of MEGALOPOLIS – a statement of possibilities.

Here we are in a dialogue with Nicola Pianzola, on the various aspects of the MEGALOPOLIS project and his views of the current state of physical theatre practice in India.

Sudipta : What inspired you to start the MEGALOPOLIS project ?

Nicola : In the last 10 years with our theatre company we have travelled a lot, crossing different countries but moreover huge cities in Asia, South America, Middle East. These enormous urban landscapes started to melt in our memories in a unique multicultural and globalized MEGALOPOLIS. It’s from our personal experience indeed, from the people we met in these cities and the interaction with some suggestive urban spaces that the research carried on within the international project MEGALOPOLIS was born. From the sensation to be part of this Global city in good and bad. Is meaningful that the first step of this project was developed for the first time in a city which is a sort of symbol of the metropolis: Mexico City.

Sudipta : What is the significance of MEGALOPOLIS project in current situate of global politics & culture ?

Nicola : MEGALOPOLIS focuses its research on different themes that express the nowadays’ crisis of the contemporary society, developing performances, video, work in progress characterized by a strong presence of the actor’s body, by contemporary texts written and interpreted by the performers in different languages, by the interaction of music, media and visual arts.
The project refers to the current situation of economical and cultural crisis of the Western world which are leading to the collapse of capitalism and to the following crisis of its values, by letting weaknesses and contradictions appear, and at the same time new possibilities of reaction and change.
A research on the relation between tradition and contemporary, interculturalism and globalization that starts from the exploration of the memory of places and of the people belonging to the biggest metropolis of the globe.
A reflection around the new concept of “Global city” is born because of the effect of the globalization and of the constant increase of the phenomenon of urbanization, aiming to identify the common and standardized traits of the contemporary societies, and at the same time the ones hidden beyond the surface of the big urban areas, leaving out submerged cultural roots. The task is to explore both the positive and negative aspects of these changes and of their repercussions on culture, mass communication systems, on single individuals belonging to this global era.

Sudipta : Which cities have hosted the  MEGALOPOLIS project so far ? 

Nicola : Since 2012 the project has developed steps of work and site-specific performances production in: Mexico City and Tampico in Mexico, Teheran in Iran, Montevideo in Uruguay, Rome and Naples in Italy and other research steps in Seoul and Busan in S.Korea. In Mexico we have been twice, so that the project, which is an eye opened on the global problems of the globe, has started to investigate on a specific theme afflicting that country: The missing people. From this work we have created the performance DESAPARECIDOS#43 about the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa. Furthermore we have developed some artistic residency programs in our space in Italy, inviting international artists from Europe, Asia and South America to work on the themes of Megalopolis.

Sudipta : What has been the creative and philosophical outcome of the project ? Do you see any global trend emerging in the outcome of the project ?

Nicola : The project’s task is to create performances as the direct output of a research developed in some specific place of a metropolis but at the same time we have the aim to produce performances on some particular theme related to a City or a country and at the same time being global and pertinent to other cities and countries. With this logics we have created short site specific-performances, happening only one time in a specific place. A sort of global actions, happening, urban incursions in non conventional spaces. Every time these performances have a global and global title: MEGALOPOLIS # Ciudad de Mexico, MEGALOPOLIS # Rome, MEGALOPOLIS # Tampico…where MEGALOPOLIS is the global root and the name of the city is the global identity of a place. The hashtag in between is the global symbol bonding these two aspects and spreading the themes and the results of the project through the net, globalizing every image, sound, text, thought about the project.
In Mexico city we have worked in the square where in 1968 more than 300 students had been killed by the police, in Tampico we have been working in an abandoned airplane, in Naples in a subway station… Squares, airplanes, stations, non-places standardized, we are crossing everyday.

Sudipta : Can a non artists or a non physical theatre person and people from other art practices , like visual arts, music, dance, etc participate in MEGALOPOLIS ?

Nicola : MEGALOPOLIS project was born through collaborations with visual artists, live media experts, electronic music composers, so is absolutely opened to collaborations with various disciplines. We have been working a lot with dancers, especially on the interaction between human body and urban spaces.

Sudipta : Your impression on India and the physical theatre movement in India and how to do you see it the European practice context.

Nicola : India has an enormous heritage in physical practices: dances, martial arts etc. I think that a project as MEGALOPOLIS could help to reflect on the relationship between tradition and innovation, in order to bring precious elements coming from the past in this globalized future. Europe was the place where most of the innovative artistic trends where developed, so is a context full of experimentation and new trends where everything passes fast without leaving a trace. I think that places like India could be the perfect contexts to develop research projects such this in order to reflect on the fast change happening nowadays and on some dangerous dynamics we have already passed through in Europe.

Sudipta : Your advise for young physical theatre practitioners

Nicola : My advice is to get the advantage to work with foreign masters and to join international theatre projects in order to start to think global and act global. I mean to be open and to take impulses for your art all over the world, being able at the same time to create something for your place, your territory, your roots.

Sudipta : What are the future plans with MEGALOPOLIS ?

Nicola : We’ll be touring the production DESAPARECIDOS#43 and at the same time we’ll be investigating new Metropolis like Beijing and Shanghai in China in July. We hope to develop some steps of the project in India as well, as some cities are growing as monsters devouring everything, and I think i twill be an interesting aspect to work on within MEGALOPOLIS.

If you’re interested in MEGALOPOLIS project, please contact me at sudipta@culturemonks.in. 

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