Lesson #10, “Le Lezioni di Guida” by Beatrice Marchi is a journey of three Chapters – “Carnevale”, “Maschile/Femminile”, and “Senso di Colpa”. Set in the Italian countryside, the work is veiled as a layered critical exploration of the dichotomies of one’s self-identity.
The works, the title of which directly translates to ‘Driving Lessons’, comes across as participatory as a narrator guides the viewer through a driving lesson which gets occasionally interrupted by performed anecdotes. Elements such as parades, theatre and carnivals are interpreted through the eye of childhood identity, desire, and expectation.
Reminiscent of the Italian ‘commedia dell’arte’ – a form of play characterised by different types of masked figures which began in Italy in the 16th century – the three videos follow the artist and her musical band, called “The Friends”, a group of both real and fictional characters. While roaming between a parking lot and a shopping mall in the Italian suburbs, their stories explore the dark Italian province in its most closed aspect. The unfolding of the scene reveals instead a custom of care and attentiveness in the gestures of the characters who take care of Andrea, the youngest of the group while learning to drive.
– CHAPTER I –
“All that she wanted every year at Carnival, was to wear something to underline her sensuality.
Every year during her childhood she awaited the carnival day as a chance for redemption”
Taking inspiration from the 16th century Italian Commedia dell’Arte Carnival explores, through the artist’s childhood memories, the Christian festivity of the same name and the expectations of freedom and expression which comes with it.
The festivity has a long trajectory.
Dionysia is related to the origin of Greek tragedy, that started as a dramatic competition during the celebration devoted to Dionysus in Athens in the 5th century BC. The minor religious festivity of the Lenaia, in honor to Dionysus and devoted to fertility, was distinguish to celebrate with a phallic processions: the jokes and laughter which arise from it, are related to the origin of Comedy (from “Kômos”, revel, carousing).
A similar connection is present in the Christian festivity of Carnival, in which parades of masks in the streets, celebrate with excesses and redundancy the day before the liturgical season of Lent. In the day of Carnival, theater could be experienced by everybody. In the XVI century, theater was mainly for the elite class and the day of Carnival allowed the working class to have access to spectacles on the streets with the characters of the Commedia dell’arte. The same characters, such as Harlequin, Pantalone and Pulcinella have always been represented during the day of Carnival, and throughout the ages they have been mixed with masks of cowboys, cows, dogs, pop stars, heroes, Addam’s family, washing machines, punks, hippies, women, clowns.
– CHAPTER II –
“The Masculine noun in Italian ends with “O”
The Feminine noun ends with “A”
Italian doesn’t have a neutral form.”
In this chapter, Marchi explores the Italian language and how binary it truly is. The video, the title of which directly translates to Male/Female, dissects the duality of Italianness by looking at the inherent sexism of the feminine and masculine form. Additionally the video explores a short history of theatre, self-identity and femininity. Marchi addresses how male-dominated theatre remained until the novel ‘invention’ of female actresses, which reflects our own contemporary social changes.
– CHAPTER III –
SENSO DI COLPA
“Whatever you do as you are driving, breathe. Stay calm.
Avoid dangers. Stay calm. Everybody gets to where they are going, everybody’s happy and it’s all good”
In this chapter, Beatrice Marchi explores individuality through the banality of driving, while contrasting it with the potential of death and danger. The video explores the passive and dissociative behaviours we often enter whilst driving. The protagonist, Andrea, is warned of these whilst taking part in a driving lesson where examples of the peril and mortality of driving are explained to him. A feeling of perpetual guilt is thrust onto him, as the narrator paradoxically explains ‘Every time a person feels guilty a tree falls down’. The video then looks at the limitations imposed on women in theatre and the constraints of language, themes sustained in the previous chapters. However, the narrator puts into evidence the possibilities offered by expression, such as laughter and crying, which are as much a declaration of sentiment as words.