Francesca Fini is an interdisciplinary artist living and working in Rome, Italy. Her live works often address social and political issues, and are a mixture of lo-fi technology, homemade interaction design devices, and live audio and video. Primarily interested in video and live art, she also creates artworks assembling performance art ‘relics’.
“I am basically a performer. The action of a body, generally mine, in space and time is essential in my work. My videos and my tangible works are the chapters of a never-ending story of which I am the protagonist. I believe that all art should be “gesamtkunstwerk”. My body, the ship on which I make this long exploration, has always been a battlefield. Former anorexic, eternal feminist, still and always a lone wolf in search of the moon between the branches of the trees.” ~Francesca Fini
Francesca Fini’s performance space is a theatrical set. Her props and environment impeccably arranged, dramatically lit. Red, white and pink are the scene’s characteristic colours. There is a bandaged white face on a table, a red suspended platform dripping a red popsicle over a fishbowl, an apron riddled with Eva Hesse-like protrusions. Fini monitors us as we enter. Although her hands are cuffed, her presence is commanding.
“They say cold preserves beauty,” Fini tells us, as she massages her face, neck and chest against an ice-replica of a face. She smashes it on the floor almost immediately. Inside the block of ice is the weight for a metronome, which she sets ticking. It cues a video composed of spliced 60s ad footage, top a livestream from a smartphone which looks down from the suspended platform. When Fini begins her frenzied licking of the popsicle suspended below the camera, her desperate and furious sucking motions and the bobbing of her tits in her pink party dress are streamed behind the distorted rhythmic clips (and, I later learn, broadcast online).
Inside the popsicle are keys to her cuffs. The progression unfolds. Slowly but surely, the tools of Fini’s performance become available to her.
Cue another projection: a red-lipped face on the white-bandaged head in the centre of the table, intoning a story as the clips behind play. A young girl (named Marley). Just like you. Dreaming of a fairy prince. He’s rich. They run away together. Big white horses with silver bridles. Elves (maybe owls?) carry her wedding train. The story repeats, distorts. She marries a big white horse. She wants to grow up to be a fairy prince. There was a big white girl. The words take on an eeriness, play backwards, get garbled.
Fini cuts into the top of the head, which is a cake. Shovels some mouthfuls. The projection becomes frenetic behind her. As she serves the cake to a few guests, she asks a series of questions: do you like it? do you like me? do you love me? do you want to marry me?
She downs milk with her cake, acquires a wedding ring at the bottom. she writes love in popsicle-melt and cake-goo on the series of protruding tampons (of course they’re tampons!) which adorn the apron. Putting it on, she flicks on a series of fairy lights. She stands in front, asks us to put on our 3-D goggles and watch as the haze of ad-clips, the fairy-tale story, and new animations of microbes, fish, and monsters grow to populate the film-decoupage, descending into a bitter discord.
At a basic level, I wrestle with the relevance of work like this—work which relies on the visual conventions of second wave feminism and on media images from the 1950s and 60s. This critique of a vintage lexicon of visual images can lack urgency and currency for me, drifting into the nostalgic territory and becoming the stuff of rockabilly culture and Mad Men-themed dinner parties. These images of housewives, little girls who dream of marrying rich, of tampons, party dresses, blenders, hair curlers, tinned food… none of them reveal. Rather than point to a way of re-imagining women’s contemporary roles, Fini’s video shows us a swirling hallucinatory pile of images we already know to be oppressive.
For Fini, this is entirely the point. Vintage pinups and the language of the second wave persist in contemporary consciousness. Whether or not we are bored with them (and whether or not we care to see them), they maintain a steady march through our collective white-bread history. Unlike before, though, they now operate at a level which straddles repulsion, nostalgia, camp, desire, homage, and politics.
Alison Cooley is a writer, curator, and educator based in Toronto. Her work deals with the intersection of natural history and visual culture, socially engaged artistic practice, craft histories, and experiential modes of art criticism. She is the 2014 co-recipient of the Middlebrook Prize for Young Curators, and her critical writing has recently appeared in FUSE, Canadian Art, and KAPSULA. She is also the host and producer of What It Looks Like, a podcast about art in Canada.
This article originally appeared on the 2014 7a*11d Festival blog. It is re-posted here with permission of the author.
Curated and presented by FADO Performance Art Centre in the context of the 7a11d International Festival of Performance Art. Supported by the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Toronto.
I was there, because I’m here now. I was there, even before being and idea in my mother’s head.
I was there is a live art project where the traditional languages of documentary and “mockumentary” are subverted and updated, while blending with the surrealism of live media performance. In the performance the artist approaches the past of western civilization – and the one of my her own family – by digitally and lively inserting herself into historical pictures and movies. Fini sabotages the past in a metaphysical scenario that integrates live media, video projections and chroma key technology, and ends up loosing herself while becoming “part of the picture.” It’s an impossible encounter with the past, with culture, and with family, in which space and time collapse into the ideal dimension of performance art.
The Toronto Performance Art Collective (TPAC) is a not-for-profit, artist-driven collective that curates and produces the 7a11d International Festival of Performance Art—English Canada’s oldest ongoing biennial of performance art. 7a11d was established in 1997 by a group of performance artists, collectives, and organizers, eager to develop a forum for performance art in Toronto. The first 7a11d International Festival of Performance Art took place in August 1997 and presented the work of 60 local, national and international artists. The 10th edition takes place from October 29–November 2, 2014.
This fragrance opens us to the question, has the show started? It's winter, the theatre is colder than the street and the room is filled with people and all their winter smells: wet faux leather, down, too much shampoo, and beer breath. The atmosphere is a trickster. Am I late, am I early?