On the 24th and 25th of January 2020 the research project The Independent, celebrated its 5th anniversary at MAXXI, National Museum of 21st Century Art in Rome. The project identifies and promotes social spaces for independent thinking and invites artists and creatives to reflect on the issues around this concept. This year, coinciding with the museum’s 10th anniversary, a summit has been called to mark this occasion by exploring the power of friendship, solidarity and alliances through a series of artistic interventions, lectures, performances and screenings.
Current BSR Fine Arts Award-Holders Bea Bonafini and Max Fletcher took part in the project with two different but complementary works.
Inspired by the work of PierPaolo Pasolini, Max, in collaboration with artists Cole Denyer and Andrea Celeste La Forgia, presented a multimedia project, including performance, painting and sculpture. Bea, in collaboration with artist Cecilia Granara, proposed a participatory workshop-performance, which aimed to actively engage with the public.
We are living through an era of environmental, cultural, economical and political crisis and now, more than ever, we might need to re-define our notion of cooperation. Within the context of The Independent project, Max and Bea’s works provided an original answer to this call and opened a fertile dialogue around the concepts of friendship, solidarity and alliances.
Now, let’s take a closer look at each of their work:
There are no painters but only people who engage in painting among other activities by Max Fletcher in collaboration with Cole Denyer and Andrea Celeste La Forgia
A painter works on three large canvasses that hang on the wall, serving as a backdrop to the performance. Above the paintings sits a crow, a left wing intellectual, and subject of Pasolini’s 1966 film Uccellacci e uccellini. In the film, a talking crow tells the tale of two friars, Fra Ciccillo and Fra Ninetto’s, attempt to preach themes of friendship and solidarity to the hawks and the sparrows. Yet, there are complications. The friars are able to preach love to each species on an individual level, but the hawks and sparrows can never learn to love one another. The friar’s task is a thankless one, and ultimately the crow’s fate, eaten by Totò and Ninetto tells us of the difficulty in forming such alliances.
Uccellacci e uccellini serves as one of a number of sources coming from film and literature that frame a performance at Maxxi involving Max Fletcher, Cole Denyer, and Andrea Celeste La Forgia.
Max Fletcher is a Sainsbury Scholar in Painting & Sculpture
Exercises in Friendship a participatory workshop-performance by Bea Bonafini and Cecilia Granara
In ‘Exercises in Friendship’, Bea presented a four-part workshop-performance aimed at pairs of friends. Through a series of exercises, she looked at friendship in a more conscious way, practicing gratitude and communication in friendships, and engaging in positions of empathy and shared experiences with other participants.
Below you can read the instructions of the workshop, kindly provided by the artists.
We want to invite you to do a series of exercises we devised to look at friendship in a more conscious, maybe a little playful, and ultimately grateful way.
The exercises in friendship will be divided into four parts:
- First we will ask you to do some short physical actions.
- We will then ask you to sit down in pairs with your friend, and take turns to tell them things you like about them. You will have two minutes each, and we will ring a bell to let you know when to swap and when to end.
- In the third part we will ask you to write a letter to your friend.
- In the last part we will ask everyone to swap seats with a new, unknown friend. You will then take turns reading out to each other the letters you wrote.
The aim of these exercises is to enjoy yourselves, practice gratitude and communication with your friends and put you in a position of empathy with someone you don’t know, but who may have shared a similar experience to you.
- Physical exercises in friendship
(5 minutes total)
Here we highlight the basic friendship rituals of touch.
ARM IN ARM
Stand in pairs in front of your friend.
Walk around with your friend, arm in arm, with one person leading the direction. Make eye contact with the other pairs that pass by you. At the sound of the bell, swap who leads and who follows.
KISS AND HAND SHAKE
Kiss your friend on each cheek, as you do when you greet each other, cheek on cheek. Then walk around the space to shake hands with everyone in the group, keep going until we ring the bell, even if it means greeting the same person more than once.
Get back in your friendship pairs.
Approach your friend and hug them, but without touching. Hold the pose until we ring the bell.
Now, hug each other as fast as you can, repeatedly.
- Verbal compliments (expression of love)
(4 minutes total)
This exercise asks you to verbally express the qualities of your friend
Everyone take a seat in your friendship pairs, facing each other and looking each other in the eyes.
One person will talk, the other will listen, and you will swap when we ring the bell. You will have a couple of minutes each.
The person listening must not speak or interrupt at any moment, this is a purely listening exercise on their behalf.
It is natural that sometimes you will have moments of silence to think about what to say. There is no pressure to fill those silences. It is not a competition for who can say the most amount of nice things, but an opportunity to verbalise things you think already.
- Letter of gratitude
(6 minutes total)
For friends who know each other very well:
This exercise can act as a reminder of the importance of expressing gratitude, and that friendship is also a relationship of love. Think of a moment or several moments to thank your friend for. It could be a simple moment of having fun, something difficult they helped you overcome, or even how much you appreciate them listening to you.
Please address the letter in the second person.
A short example:
I remember when I was really upset about my creative block and you reminded me of the times I overcame similar situations. Or that time I was ill and you took care of me in your home in Paris.
Thank you for supporting me.
For those who have become friends recently:
Write a letter to your new friend recounting the story of how you met, the qualities you have in common, and/or an interesting conversation you had.
Dear New Friend,
We first met at a party that you gave. It was David and Bea who introduced us. I feel that what we have in common is an interest in art. We talked about everything you do in the artworld. Thanks for inviting me to your party! I’m excited to see what you get up to.
- Exercise in empathy
Listening to someone’s letter is like entering a very personal story. It is connected to a friend of theirs: this should create a new bond between two strangers, as the listener can imagine being the very friend that is being spoken about.
You can now read your letter out loud to your friend, stand up when you’re finished.
Swap seats and sit in pairs with somebody you don’t know yet. Sit beside each other, facing one another.
Swap your letters, and take turns reading them out loud to each other, while the other listens in silence.
Thank you all for taking part in our Exercises in Friendship, we welcome you to thank your new unknown friend and your to either give your letters to your friends or keep them for yourself.
Bea Bonafini is an Abbey Scholar in Painting
Photos by Gianfranco Fortuna, Courtsey Fondazione MAXXI